Fourth Sunday of Advent
December 18, 2016
Reading 1IS 7:10-14
Responsorial PsalmPS 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
- (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Reading 2ROM 1:1-7
- Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MT 1:18-24
Homily— December 17 & 18, 2016
There are few Old Testament verses which have been given as much importance as Isaiah 7:14, “the virgin shall conceive and bear a son.” We find it quoted in the gospel today. Ahaz did not want to ask for a sign but this is the sign that God gave to Ahaz. Ahaz did not want to change his life and put God first but he is still given a sign.
Joseph seems to have gotten little attention in the early church. He did not make it into Eucharistic Prayer #1 until 1962 through a decision by Pope John XXIII. He did not make it into Eucharistic Prayers II, III, and IV until 2013 with a decision by Pope Francis.
While devotion to Joseph is not comparable to the reverence given to Mary, he holds an extraordinary place in the tradition, especially in light of how little is said of him in Scripture. Outside of Matthew and Luke’s infancy narratives, Joseph is mentioned only in the Gospel of John where nothing is said of him except that he was reputedly the father of Jesus.
Imagine that you are Joseph. You are in love with Mary and you have the greatest admiration and respect for her. In fact you have an important commitment to marry her but you have not yet lived together. Now you find out that she is pregnant and you know that you are not the father because you have not had this relationship with her. As a righteous man he knew that the law of the time declared that she can be stoned to death for having a sexual relationship with a man outside of marriage. He certainly struggled with how to respond but his love for her even in his disappointment was so great that he chose to treat her with mercy and to divorce her quietly. He knows that her life would still be very difficult as she tried to raise a child out of wedlock without a man to help her and protect her.
Now Joseph has a vivid dream of an angel who tells him “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus”. This must have been both a relief for Joseph to know that Mary had not been unfaithful to him and yet a confusing moment to make sense of the Holy Spirit, a child, and a name to give to the child.
Scripture states that Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home”. Joseph did not know what this was going to mean in his life but he said yes to the plan of God.
I suspect this commitment of his is not unlike the commitment that you who are married make when you find yourself in love with someone and are willing to make a life commitment with them even though you have no idea what that is going to mean in the life events that occur in the next 10, 20 or 50 years.
We are all called to say yes to the plan of God in our lives. Take time this week to ponder what God has in store for you and how you can say yes to God.