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Thursday, December 17, 2020

Reflection 2020-12-18 Friday Third Week of Advent

Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72; Matthew 1:18-24
St Joseph
St Joseph
The First Reading has a phrase that is repeated twice: The days are surely coming. This means whatever days are prophesied, they will surely come. The first instance says: when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. The second instance is a conclusion, saying: Therefore, the days are surely coming, when it shall no longer be said, “As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up our of the land of Egypt”, but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had drive them” Then they shall live in their own land. This prophecy was given when Israel was in exile in a foreign land. Their return seemed impossible, yet, the promise is: the days are SURELY coming. God promised to bring his people back to their own land. Years later Persia allowed those exiled to go back to their land. While this was a physical coming home, they were still spiritually exiled because they were still under the rule of other empires. Their full liberation will come in the Person of Jesus Christ.
God fulfilled this through two human beings: Joseph and Mary. Many portray St Joseph as confused because he could not accept Mary’s pregnancy and the confusion in Joseph’s mind was how he could spare Mary from sure death, because of what people would do when a person is accused of adultery. But I am proposing a different perspective to this.
Matthew says Joseph was a righteous man and since the Law dictates that a woman caught in adultery should be punished, Joseph would not have second thoughts about this, since a righteous man obeys what the Law requires. But Joseph hesitated so there must be a reason for his hesitation. It could be that Joseph believed the child in Mary is of the Holy Spirit. If this is the case, Joseph cannot hand Mary over for punishment if she was not guilty of adultery? That would not be righteous. Joseph came to a decision to send Mary away quietly so he can take the blame and spare Mary of public disgrace. The Greek gives a better image that this was not an easy decision because the word translated as resolved denotes fierceness or passion in the thought. There was extreme conflict in Joseph, because sending Mary away was also not righteous. The angel appeared to Joseph in the dream and what the angel said can have a different meaning depending on how we read it. The more common reading is: Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. When read this way (the pause is in the comma), the angel was explaining that the child is from the Holy Spirit, implying the conflict Joseph had was adopting a child that was not his.
However, when we read this passage without the comma and changing the translated word for to a synonym: because, we read: Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife because the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. When read this way, Joseph was afraid of taking the child because of who the child is: conceived by the Holy Spirit. Joseph was probably thinking of how he can raise this child. Who was he to raise this child?
From this perspective, we can see why the angel called Joseph son of David, instead of his formal name: son of Jacob. The angel was saying Joseph is a son of David and as a son of David, Joseph has the right and duty to take Mary and raise the child to become THE Son of David.
We often forget who we are: children of God, so that when troubles come, when there is difficulty in our lives, when pandemic strikes, we become afraid and panic. But we need to remember, God is with us in the midst of the chaos of life! The Psalm tells us: he delivers the needy when they call, the poor and those who have no helper. He has pity on the weak and the needy and saves the lives of the needy. Blessed be the Lord, this God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.
Lord, here I am, a sinner. Yet, when I am overwhelmed, remind me that I am also your child, a child of the Almighty God, who cares for me and loves me. Come to my life and console me in my sorrows. Give me hope in my despair, and give me new life. St Joseph, pray that I may see who I am, a sinner, deeply loved by God my Father.

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