Gospel Reflections

4th Sunday of Advent

Matthew 1:18-24

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Barbara Thiella

Published: December 18, 2016


As you ready yourself for prayer before Christmas, ask for the grace to listen carefully and to respond freely to Yahweh. May you find yourself with Joseph in the gospel story.

Living the event, Joseph finds strength in prayer as he begs for the grace to trust God’s presence in his struggle.

Fear not, O Zion, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior.” (Zephaniah 3:16b)

Like us, now and again, Joseph is tackling a troubling decision. As a man of deep faith, he pleads for wisdom from Yahweh to proceed with kindness towards his betrothed Mary and with fidelity to the Torah. Finally, he decides on the one action that he believes will join both values. There is so much pain in his decision.

“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”

His prayer leads him to a difficult decision that he rests with overnight: he sees no other options. Then, because he remains trusting and open, new understanding breaks through in a dream.

“Such was his intention when, behold,  the angel of the Lord appeared to in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, 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, because he will save his people from their sins.’” Shaped by prayer, Joseph hears afresh an insight from the Torah:

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us.'”

Hearing is never enough. It takes great courage to make words “active and effective in our lives.” (Hebrews 4:12). By reflecting on the Scriptures, Joseph and we join other faithful women and men who have taken God's Word to heart and put it into action in their lives.

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

How did Joseph arrive at a new decision? His is marked by several different stages akin to ours:

• Do not be afraid. (How do I face fear then act?)

• God is with us. (How am I aware of God’s presence in my life? How do I make God present to others in good times and bad?)

• He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.  (What steps can I take to help me follow the Lord more closely?)

As we approach rejoicing in Emmanuel this year, may we make our own the bold prayer of all who trust in our good God. May we remember Joseph who remained open and so knew most intimately the love of Emmanuel.

Fear not, O beloved, be not discouraged! The Lord, your God, is in your midst, a mighty savior. He will rejoice over you with gladness, and renew you in his love. He will sing joyfully because of you.  (Zephaniah 3:16b-17)

 

 

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