4th Sunday of Advent ~ 18 December 2022 ~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Responsorial: Psalm 24; I:: Romans 1: 1-7; Gospel: Matthew 1: 18-24
The final days of another season of Advent are here. As we prepare for the holy celebration of Christmas and the joyful season it brings we are challenged to keep our hearts and focus on Christ Jesus, God with us. The many worldly accents of this season can hide, with all the glow and go, the Presence and simple glory of God. As we listen to each segment of God’s Word for this Sunday we are reminded of the plans and the purposes of God for his people and for the world. We are also reminded that our Savior Jesus comes as a light in the midst of great darkness.
We watch the news and see the many people suffering from the war in Ukraine or fleeing from violence and poverty in their homeland here in the Americas. We are reminded that the uncertain journey of Mary and Joseph is expressed in thousands of refugees and victims of war and oppression today. We the faithful today struggle with seemingly endless news of alleged dark wrongs that strive to quench the Holy Spirit of Christ in the Church. And we wonder where is Christ our Light in this darkness?
As we quietly reflect on our Scriptures we can hear the Holy Spirit assuring, challenging, and making clear the promises of God. The darkness and powers of this world were very real and powerful in the times of Mary and Joseph. Those same powers would think they are powerful now. But the plans of God will not be thwarted. The promises of God will not be denied. Unless we choose not to trust and seek Jesus who is promised.
Yet these days before Christmas we are reminded of a distinctly different time in the seeking of Emmanuel, God with us. It is after the Epiphany we are brought to an understanding that we are each, and together, called to follow Christ. Yet in this season prior to celebrating the incarnation of God we are shown that God brings us his angels to prepare the way for our King who is to come. This is a message very relevant for Advent. But it is also a message very relevant as we are always called to prepare for his coming into our lives and particularly for others. This delightful message of participating in God’s grace is shared in our Gospel today.
Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus was carrying in her womb, her son. Joseph, her betrothed has learned of this apparently impossible development. Being a just and righteous man he had decided to divorce Mary privately. As should be, much of our focus should be on Mary, her faith, and her obedient love for God. But we must recognize the extraordinary challenge this brought to Joseph. He loves Mary. They are to wed. But the seeming scandal of her pregnancy is learned and he must figure out what to do. It is likely in the very human exhaustion of stress and worries Joseph fell asleep. God has brought Joseph beyond his abilities. It is there that the angel comes and tells him not to fear but to love, that is, to take Mary for his wife.
As the angel, Gabriel annunciated to Mary the desire and plans of God she was led to prepare for her son, Jesus. Fears were quenched, and faith was made strong. Mary said yes. So it was with Joseph. The angel of God did not deny the fears with which he struggled. He only said not to give and invest in them. And the angel showed Joseph the path he was to take: Trust and Love. It was and is the path, the way we are to prepare, to make way for the coming of Christ.
We cannot minimize the degree of the impossible of the incarnation of Jesus, especially in the very human lives of Mary and Joseph. What they were experiencing defied reason and all they understood of their faith. In every literal sense, they were challenged to look to God beyond the very laws of nature and life as they knew and understood it. But as the angel told Mary, WITH GOD, all things are possible. They were being called to prepare for the coming of the Messiah in their own lives and their little poor family. And they could only heed their deeply rooted faith in God and the leading of his angels. The way would be difficult, costly, and dangerous. So as they journey to Bethlehem they undoubtedly talked and trekked quietly with their own souls. But it is also likely they shared and kept in their hearts the simple litany to which they were being called to live. Trust and Love. Trust and Love. Trust and Love.
This holy quest of preparing hearts and homes for Jesus, Emmanuel, God with us has never changed. While thousands of years have come and gone and endless volumes of theology and moral theology have been written the basic way to prepare for Christ is still found in that simple litany to trust and love God and those we encounter in our lives.
Many today may feel they are facing lives and relationships that are impossible or don’t make sense. In the realm of family, the beautiful and timeless standard of a family with a father, mother, and children is as needed and real as ever. But life does not always follow such perfection. Homes are broken by sin, sickness, death, and poverty. For reasons that we must humbly acknowledge we need to admit that the graces of love may differ. One reality, however, is certain, this side of our Lord’s return, Life, love, and families are not always as may be expected or planned, or desired. Sometimes it may seem, as it was for Mary and Joseph, impossible. But, with God all things are possible.
So, this holy season of Advent may we share with Joseph, and with Mary the quest to prepare for the coming of Jesus, God with us in simple, holy trust and love. May we remember that our angels are with us to show us the way for our coming King, Trust and Love.
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