Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Loving, responsive obedience to God as modeled for us by St. Joseph is the central theme of today’s readings, with special emphasis on the Virgin Birth of Jesus.
The first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives a sign from God to King Ahaz of Judah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). Matthew considers this prophecy as one of the most descriptive and definitive prophecies foretelling the future Messianic King, the Christ, to be born as a descendant of David. Today’s Gospel, from Matthew, focuses on the person and role of Joseph. For Jesus to fulfill the Messianic prophecy given by Isaiah, Joseph had to accept Jesus as his son, making Jesus a legal descendant of David because Joseph was a descendant of David. Hence, Matthew makes it clear that Jesus was not the biological child of Joseph. But because Joseph was the husband of Mary at the time Jesus was born, Jesus was legally the son of Joseph and thus a descendant of David.
We see an angel appeared to Joseph in the Gospel. This is the first of three occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. Joseph doesn’t have a speaking part. In this first instance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In the second, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. In the third, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. The angel begins by saying, “Joseph, son of David,” alerting us to Joseph’s lineage. It is through Joseph that Jesus will be of the house and lineage of David. Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name him. By naming him, Joseph makes Jesus his son and brings him into the house of David. After each of the three angelic apparitions in his dreams, Joseph obeys the angel’s commands without question or pause. His hallmark is obedience—prompt, simple, and unspectacular obedience. And in this sense, Joseph prefigures the Gospel of Matthew’s understanding of righteousness: to be righteous is simply to obey the Word of God. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s role that allows Jesus to be born Son of God. In the end, Joseph obediently took Mary as his wife, in spite of his fears, and he claimed her Son as his own by naming him. In spite of his earlier decision to divorce this woman quietly, Joseph nurtured, protected, watched over and loved both Mary and her Child.
Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful. Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, tensions in the family and health concerns, let us try to be like St. Joseph, trusting and faithful. Instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible. We need to experience Emmanuel in our lives and change the world: The Good News and the consoling message of Christmas is that the Child Jesus still waits today to step into our hearts—your heart and mine—and to change us and the world around us by the beauty of God’s love, kindness, mercy and compassion. Let us take some time to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts and lives this week, so that He may change our world of miseries with the beauty of that love. Let us be a Christmas gift to others: The greatest gift we can give to those we love, is to have faith in them, believe in their dreams and try to help them realize them.
God Bless You,