This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
The Gospel on the last Sunday of Advent draws us into the drama surrounding the formation of the human family into which Jesus Christ is born.
It is a family beset by cofusions and doubts, by tensions around trust, love, and virtue. But it proves to be a family ready to live obedient to the word of God.
- What doubts and uncertainties best you?
- What does the word of God call you too?
- How do you best assist your faithful listening and responding to God’s word?
8th C Roman mosaic of St Joseph. Pushkin Museum, Moscow. (c) 2015, Allen Morris.
The Second Reading at tomorrow’s Mass, the Mass of the 21st Sunday in Ordinary Time, challenges us about what we ‘know’ of God, and invites us to a certain humility, and to awe, respect and praise.
How rich are the depths of God – how deep his wisdom and knowledge – and how impossible to penetrate his motives or understand his methods! Who could ever know the mind of the Lord? Who could ever be his counsellor? Who could ever give him anything or lend him anything? All that exists comes from him; all is by him and for him. To him be glory for ever! Amen.
- What do you know of God?
- What evades your knowledge?
- What of yourself are willing to acknowledge before the Lord?
- What do you (to no avail) try to ‘hide’ from him?
Bring your answers to God in prayer…
Emily Dickinson, a great American poet, wrote:
Tell all the Truth but tell it slant—
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightening to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind—
The image above, of St Joseph, after the first appearance of the angel announcing the Incarnation, does not do justice to his fuller eventual service of the Church, and of Jesus and Mary. However the sculptor does seem to have captured something of his bewilderment and being overwhelmed by the astonishing, seemingly incomprehensible things asked by God. Something we can probably all empathise with.
Image of carving in the cloister of St Trophime, Arles. Photograph (c) Allen Morris, 2014