December 18, 2016
4th Sunday of Advent
IS 7:10-14 PS 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 ROM 1:1-7 MT 1:18-24
Today’s Gospel illustrates how St. Joseph is a man of compassion, faith, and action. When he discovered Mary was pregnant, rather than do what the law prescribed – an action for which no one would have blamed him, had he done it – he decided to act with mercy, and divorce her quietly. Then, during the night, the angel Gabriel appeared to him in a dream, telling him that Mary’s child would be the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. St. Joseph knew the scriptures and believed in God’s promise, so while his acceptance of the angel’s message might seem strange by our 21st century standards, it’s a concrete example of his deep faith in God and His word. Finally, St. Joseph acted out of faith, trusting Gabriel’s word and taking Mary into his home. He lived his faith as a matter of course, in every aspect, and not as a fine idea or probable theory. Joseph’s faith permeated every cell of his being, and his faith in God is rewarded.
What does this mean for us? Granted, none of us will be asked to participate in the narrative of salvation history like Mary or St. Joseph. That being said, we can emulate their example. We, too, must live as St. Joseph did, with compassion, faith, and action. Knowing the law and the rules, as St Joseph did, is as important as having compassion and showing mercy to others – not at the expense of the truth, but with consideration towards the other and their circumstances. It’s what at the heart of “love thy neighbor”. Living one’s faith requires sacrifice and trust, which Joseph showed. Taking Mary into his home wasn’t the easier decision for him – it wasn’t even a choice he originally considered – as rumors and gossip could have possibly affected his reputation, or worse. But he trusted God nonetheless, that He would have provided for them no matter how impossible the situation might have been. And finally, we are to act as if our faith matters, as if we really do believe the things we profess. In Texas parlance, we can’t be all hat, no cattle. As St James wrote in his letter, our deeds prove our faith.
As we enter the final week of Advent, preparing our hearts and lives for the coming of Christ, let us look to St Joseph as our model. Let us be merciful to others. Let us be stay close to God, so that our hearts will always be open to what He calls us to do. Let us act with firm purpose and firm belief, trusting in His providence, thus bringing about His Kingdom in an ever more tangible and real way to family, friends, and neighbors. We too, then, will play our part to bring Emmanuel to the people among us, just as Joseph played his part two thousand years ago, making way for the Word made flesh – for Emmanuel, God with us – to dwell among His people.
Image source: Gabriel Sozzi, via Wikimedia [Creative Commons]