May we always say ‘Yes’ to God’s will

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Mt 1:18-24) tells the story of how Joseph of Nazareth responded to the news that Mary, his bride to be, was “with child through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18).

Dec 16, 2022

                        Reflecting on our Sunday Readings with the HERALD team

4th Sunday of Advent (A)

Readings: Isaiah 7:10-14;
Romans 1:1-7;
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

The Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Mt 1:18-24) tells the story of how Joseph of Nazareth responded to the news that Mary, his bride to be, was “with child through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18). Imagine his surprise, his anger, but above all his deep concern for the woman he loved, when he first discovered that Mary was pregnant. Joseph’s decision to “divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19) was made unselfishly in order to protect her from the gossip and shame that would inevitably come from her unacceptable status as an unwed mother.

Matthew describes Joseph as “a righteous man”. We call someone righteous when he or she is honest, trustworthy, faithful and unwavering in fulfilling commitments. Joseph was certainly all these things. We never hear Joseph speak, but we watch as he listens attentively to God’s messengers and responds immediately to God’s will for him and for his family.

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel tells him, “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” (Mt 1:20-21).

There is no way that Joseph could have understood what the angel was saying to him. At best, the appearance of an angel in a dream made him aware that something extraordinary was taking place here, and that this incredible miracle was God’s work. Joseph’s ready acceptance of the role assigned to him as a custos, or steward, of the child Jesus speaks for him.

He was a righteous man who must have had his doubts and fears, but who never let them prevent him from keeping his commitments as a husband, father and a faith-filled Jew, a “son of David.” He didn’t protest or ask questions. He simply did as the angel commanded him, and took Mary and her unborn child into his home.

St Joseph bears witness to the fact that God is with us, even when we don’t understand how or why. The Gospels tell us that every time Joseph was tested, he responded positively. He did what God asked him to do. He didn’t resist or complain. He accepted what he could not understand, and he trusted that God was present and active in his world, no matter how confusing or dangerous things appeared to be.

Imagine how hard it must have been to “take Mary into his home” when the details of her pregnancy were a complete mystery to him. The angel’s assurance that the child was conceived in her “through the Holy Spirit” can’t have been very satisfying. But the questions he must have had — and the conflicting emotions he surely felt — never interfered with his love for Mary and her child, or with his fidelity to God’s will.

At Christmas time, we celebrate Mary’s “yes” to the incarnation of God’s Word in her womb. Without Mary’s free acceptance of God’s action in her life, Christ would not have come into our world more than 2,000 years ago.

But Joseph’s “yes” is also important to the Christmas mystery. He did not have to accept the strange situation he found himself in. Except for his profound respect for God’s will, and his devotion to the woman he loved, Joseph might easily have gone through with their quiet divorce and saved himself a lot of future trouble and uncertainty.

We can all admire Joseph’s strength and his courage and pray that we can demonstrate something of the same fidelity to God’s will in whatever work we do and in whichever ministry we are called to serve.

St Joseph’s acceptance of God’s will in his life was a participation in God’s plan “to save His people from their sins.”

Through the intercession of this good man, Joseph of Nazareth, may we all say “yes” to God’s will — now and always!

As we begin the final days of Advent and prepare to celebrate once more the birth of Christ, let’s pray for the patience and the quiet faithfulness of St Joseph. Through his intercession, may we listen attentively to God’s Word. May we respond with joyful and generous hearts when our Lord comes again.

Above all, may we acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ — here and now — even as we wait for Him eagerly, with joyful hearts!

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