Homily for the fourth Sunday of the Advent  -  Year A

Mt. 1:18-24


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.  But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, «Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.»  All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: «Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel» (Is. 7:14) - which means, God with us.  When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife."



Homily:


"Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly."

Each year, for the last Sunday of Advent, the Church proposes to us a gospel reading that directly prepares us for the Mystery of the Birth of our Savior.  Today, this reading concerns the announcement addressed to Joseph by the angel of the Lord.

Why did the angel of the Lord appear to Joseph?  Because he "was a just man"!  Indeed, being a just man, a man who lived according to the law of God and who fully respected natural law, Joseph didn't want to accept a woman, who was pregnant before having been married, as his wife.  Joseph was a just man, and he didn't want to act like many of our contemporaries, who no longer respect the laws of marriage and who freely disregard the conjugal union!  Joseph was not merely acting in accordance with the moral conceptions of his time: he wanted to respect, as we should, all of God's law!  This is the reason why the Lord encouraged him with this apparition!

"But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, «Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.»"

Joseph thought about Mary's pregnancy, the true meaning of which he didn't understand.  Is this not the proper consequence of the coming of the Lord into our world?  Didn't he come to make us think about our acts?  Indeed, Jesus came to accomplish all the Law:  he came in order that the Law, the law of Love, would be forever imprinted on our conscience by the water of baptism, so that this law would constantly reproach us for all our lapses and faults.  Joseph, who, by grace, already had this law in him, didn't do anything to smother or silence it.  On the contrary, he examined it constantly, and he represented it in his mind:  he thought about it!

Joseph thought!  He made use of his memory, because human thought takes some time, a necessary span of time during which we can compare and judge the different premises which we have retained from previous reflections.  Now, it is when we make use of our memory that the Holy Spirit, through the intermediary of "the angel of the Lord," comes to act in us in order to inspire such and such a thought.  This is what the Lord himself had said:  "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." (John 14:26)  This is why, as a very special favor, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph as he thought about the Law of God!

"All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:  «Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel» (Is. 7:14) - which means, God with us."

Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets!   What Isaiah had announced was now being fulfilled!  What the Holy Spirit can inspire in us is not new!  On the contrary!  He gives us what he himself received!  What he does is faithfully transmit the tradition received from the Lord:  "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:13-14)  This is why Saint Matthew wishes to demonstrate that what Joseph heard from the angel was not new:  it was the fulfilment of a prophecy!

"When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife."

Joseph obeys the angel's command!  What else are we to do, if not to obey the Law of God, the Law of Love which the Lord fully manifested in his obedience on the cross?  "Taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross." (Phil. 2:7-8)  On Christmas, Jesus came into our world, but it was not to enjoy a life of pleasure and delights!  The angel had said to Joseph:  "You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins."

Today is already Christmas!  Christmas was yesterday, it is today, it will be tomorrow!  For we can, every day, adore Jesus the Lord and receive him within us in the Eucharist!  Let us ask Mary and Joseph to prepare us, so that the grace of God, which can accomplish anything, will be our strength today and tomorrow!


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