Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A
Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Mt. 1:18-24
Does doing God’s will and the messiness of life have anything in common? That is one question we need to think about seriously this Sunday. For the last two Sundays we have focused attention on John the Baptist. This Sunday, only days from Christmas, we change our focus from John the Baptist to Saint Joseph. The main reason for this shift is that Matthew writes his Gospel for the Jewish people. He wants to show that Jesus is the Messiah promised by the prophets in Sacred Scripture, and that He comes through the line of David. Joseph is a direct descendent of David. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph names the child. He gives his own spirit and all he is to the child – the carpenter’s son. The child is Son of God and Son of Mary, but also, through the action of naming the child by Joseph, He is Son of David. Paul, in the Second Reading argues that Jesus becomes the Son of God through the resurrection that fully manifests his divinity. The readings therefore place before us the mystery of the Incarnation foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and fulfilled in the New Testament. In the first reading, Isaiah offers a sign to king Ahaz confirming that the line of David would survive the attacks from neighboring nations. The sign is that “a maiden shall conceive and bear a son.” Very true to the prophecy, the young wife of Ahaz bears him a son, whose name would be “Emmanuel.” Matthew in the Gospel uses that story to show the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in Jesus the Messiah, out of the line of David.
That is why the Gospel begins by saying “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born.” He will be named Emmanuel, a name that means “God-is-with us.” Two persons are at the center of this mystery. First we have Mary who responds to God’s message through the angel with unconditional faith and trust. In so doing, Mary risks so much: her future marriage and family reputation, placing everything in the hands of God. Then we have Joseph who at first is confused and afraid. We often hear that Gospel passage, and perhaps we wonder what Joseph was afraid of. He must have thought of the messiness of his own situation. He must have thought of a greater mess if he went ahead with the marriage. He does not know what to make of Mary’s conception before their marriage, but then divine intervention comes. An Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and reveals the mystery of the conception. The angel advises him to proceed with the marriage, because Mary “has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.” Basically, Joseph is told to celebrate this unexpected birth. When he awakes from his dream, Joseph decides to follow his faith; to do God’s will and take Mary as his wife. In so doing, Joseph saves her reputation. The Gospel tells us that Jesus is born of Mary who was betrothed to Joseph son of David. In connecting Jesus to the line of David, Matthew wants to underline the fact that Jesus is fully human and is also the fulfillment of God’s promises to David. Jesus is also “Son of God”, a point explained by Paul in the second reading. The Gospel also gives us a model to follow in Mary and Joseph. Both faced a tremendous challenge to their faith when God asked them to open their hearts to welcome Jesus into their lives. So what message do we take home this Sunday? 1) Just as Mary and Joseph accepted to welcome Jesus into their lives with deep faith and trust, we too are challenged to do no less; 2) As we get to Christmas in a few days, let us open our hearts so that in doing God’s will like Mary and Joseph, Christ may be born in our lives this Christmas. 3) Both Mary and Joseph remind us that doing God’s will at times may lead us into the messiness of life; into situations or even countries we never dreamed of.
©2013 John S. Mbinda