Thứ Bảy, 17 tháng 12, 2016

DECEMBER 18, 2016 : FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 10

Reading 1IS 7:10-14
The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: 
Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; 
let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!
But Ahaz answered,
“I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”
Then Isaiah said:
Listen, O house of David!
Is it not enough for you to weary people, 
must you also weary my God?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: 
the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, 
and shall name him Emmanuel.
Responsorial PsalmPS 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
R. (7c and 10b) Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
The LORD’s are the earth and its fullness;
the world and those who dwell in it.
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless, whose heart is clean,
who desires not what is vain.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.
He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,
a reward from God his savior.
Such is the race that seeks for him,
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob.
R. Let the Lord enter; he is king of glory.

Reading 2ROM 1:1-7
Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,
called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,
which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures,
the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, 
but established as Son of God in power 
according to the Spirit of holiness 
through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, 
to bring about the obedience of faith,
for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles,
among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;
to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father
and the Lord Jesus Christ.

AlleluiaMT 1:23
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The virgin shall conceive, and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.
GospelMT 1:18-24
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.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him 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.”
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.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him 
and took his wife into his home.


4th Sunday of Advent – Cycle A 

Note: Where a Scripture text is underlined in the body of this discussion, it is recommended that the reader look up and read that passage. 

Introduction 

Anticipation and preparedness are the watchwords for Advent. Anticipation of the celebration of the birth of our Lord some 2000 years ago and the festivities, gifts, parties and family get-togethers which accompany that celebration. Preparedness because we are reminded that Jesus will come at the end of the world (the parousia) and all will be judged – not just on whether they believed or not, but how they have lived out their belief. Are the end times near? No one knows but the Father. We must always be ready because our personal parousia can come at any time.

1st Reading - Isaiah 7:10-14 

The attack of Syria and Israel on Judah was an attempt to force Judah into an anti-Assyrian coalition. Ahaz, king of Judah, resolved his difficulty, against the urging of Isaiah, by submitting as vassal to Assyria, whose king moved against Syria and Israel. The time is around 721 B.C. Judah is about to succumb politically and spiritually to the Assyrians and Isaiah has been warning Ahaz against this; while Ahaz’s advisors have been urging him to give in. The Lord has been speaking to Ahaz through Isaiah and has said: “7:7b This shall not stand, it shall not be! 8 Damascus is the capital of Aram, and Rezin the head of Damascus; Samaria is the capital of Ephraim, and Remaliah’s son the head of Samaria. 9 But within sixty years and five, Ephraim shall be crushed, no longer a nation. Unless your faith is firm you shall not be firm!” 

10 [T]he LORD spoke to Ahaz: 11 Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the nether world, or high as the sky!

This need not mean something miraculous (see Isaiah 37:30), but it should be something which will convince Ahaz that it is from God. Ahaz is to ask for confirmation of God’s promise through Isaiah; something which will prove God’s firm will to save the House of David from its oppressors. 

12 But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!”

Ahaz’s refusal was undoubtedly motivated by his unwillingness to follow Isaiah’s advice; he will depend upon the might of Assyria rather than upon God. 

13 Then he said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary men, must you also weary my God? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign:

The sign to be given is no longer to persuade Ahaz but will, in the future, confirm the truth of what the prophet has spoken. 

the virgin shall be with child, and bear a son,

The Hebrew term used here (almah) is not the technical term for virgin, but may also be translated as “young woman”; a woman of marriageable age, whether a virgin or not.  The oracles of prophets were usually fulfilled within the lifetime of the hearer, otherwise the prophet would have no credibility within his community. This does not preclude a secondary fulfillment later, but both aspects must be explored. 
 and shall name him Immanuel.

This solemn oracle is spoken by Isaiah before a royal court which is fearful lest the Davidic dynasty be overthrown. Such a catastrophe would mean the cancellation of the great dynastic promise made to David’s house (2 Samuel 7:12-16). It was on the royal successor to David’s house that Judah pinned her hopes for the welfare of God’s people. The child to be born, therefore, may be the young Hezekiah in whose birth Judah would see the continuing presence of God among His people and another renewal of the promise made to David. Hezekiah’s mother, at the time Isaiah spoke, would have been an almah. Nevertheless, the solemnity of the oracle and the name Emmanuel (God is with us) lend credence to the opinion that Isaiah’s perspective does not stop at the birth of Hezekiah; it moves ahead to that ideal king of David’s line through whose coming God could finally be said to definitively be with His people. This does not mean that Isaiah foresaw the fulfillment of this prophecy in Christ but he expressed the hope that Christ perfectly realized. Matthew and the Church, looking backward through the lens of the resurrection, have seen in the birth of Christ from the Blessed Virgin Mother the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy. 

2nd Reading - Romans 1:1-7 

Paul wrote the Letter to the Romans to a congregation which he did not establish – he hadn’t even visited it yet. Paul was conscious that his apostolate in the Mediterranean area was over. Having preached “all the way from Jerusalem to Illyricum” (Romans 15:19), he looked westward to Spain. He planned to visit the Roman church en route, to fulfill a longstanding desire. Before heading west, he had to attend to one last matter: to carry personally to Jerusalem the collection taken up in Gentile churches that he had founded (Romans 15:25; 1 Corinthians 16:1) in order to manifest to the Jewish Christian mother church the solidarity existing between the “poor” of that community and the Gentile Christians of Galatia, Macedonia and Achaia. These Gentile Christians contributed to that collection, realizing that they had “shared in the spiritual blessings” of the mother church (Romans 15:27). So before he departed from Corinth for Jerusalem, Paul wrote to the Roman church to announce his coming visit. In Saint Paul’s letters the greeting follows a standard form, though he does use some variations. The three basic components are: name of sender, name of addressee; greeting. In identifying himself, Paul often adds phrases to describe his apostolic mission and our reading today contains one of the most eloquent of these descriptions. 

1 Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,

The first of three descriptions of himself. This description reflects not only the Old Testament custom of the pious calling themselves slaves (servants) in the sight of Yahweh (Psalm 27:9; 31:16; 89:50), but especially its Old Testament use to describe the great figures who served Yahweh in salvation history [Moses (2 Kings 18:12), Joshua (Judges 2:8), Abraham (Psalm 105:42)]. Paul, as a servant of Christ, belongs to the same line. For a Roman to become a slave is quite a change. 

called to be an apostle

This second description of himself emphasizes the divine origin of his apostolate. The event on the road to Damascus may be regarded as his call to the apostolate.

and set apart for the gospel of God,

This is the third description of himself. Galatians 1:5 explains that he was destined for this role before his birth. It is God’s gospel because its ultimate source is the Father (Romans 15:16; 2 Corinthians 11:7). 

2 which he promised previously

Promised long ago. From this very beginning of his letter to the Romans (which is where we are in today’s reading) Paul stresses that his gospel of salvation is part of a divine and ancient plan, in which even the Old Testament had a part. 

through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 

Not just the three major and twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament, but all the Old Testament persons whom the early church regarded as uttering statements regarding 
Christ. 

3 the gospel about his Son,

God’s gospel and the promises made by Him on the Old Testament refer to Jesus (according to Paul) who stands in a unique relation to God as His Son (Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Galatians 4:4). Paul is going to affirm two things about the risen Christ. 

descended from David according to the flesh, 

This first affirmation asserts that Jesus was a son of David in the order of natural physical descent. He was a royal son with a right to the sacral anointing of a messiah. 

4 but established as Son of God in power according to the spirit of holiness

This second affirmation contrasts with the first. Although Jesus was the son descended from David on the physical level, he was set up as the Son of God with power on the level of the Spirit (as of the resurrection). As “life giving spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45), Jesus is able to communicate the Spirit to those who believe in Him. 

“Christ is the son of David in weakness according to the flesh but Son of God in power according to the Spirit of sanctification. ... Weakness relates to David but life eternal to the power of God.” [Saint Augustine of Hippo (ca. A.D. 393), Explanation of Certain Passages from the Apostle’s Epistle to the Romans 5,7] 

through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. 

This designates the resurrection itself as an influence in Christ’s saving activity. 

5 Through him we have received the grace of apostleship,

Paul’s charismatic role as the apostle to the Gentiles came to him through the Risen Christ (Acts 22:10). 

to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, 

The first (here) and last (Romans 16:26) mentions of faith in the Letter to the Romans are “obedience of faith”; this sets the context within which his use of the word “faith” is to be understood. Paul conceives of faith as a process that begins with hearing and ends with a personal commitment and obedient submission. 

6 among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; 7 to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. 

Literally, “called to be saints.” The Old Testament expression “holy gathering” was used of the Israelites at the Exodus (Exodus 12:16; Leviticus 23:2-4); it designated them as a people set apart and dedicated to Yahweh. Paul adapts the Old Testament expression and insinuates a new sense in which they are now “holy called ones (saints),” sanctified by baptism (Romans 6:22; 15:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11; Ephesians 5:26-27). Christians are called to be saints in that they are called to make their lives conform to the gift they have already received (1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 4:7). 

“See how often Paul uses the word called! ... And he does so not out of long-windedness but out of a desire to remind them of the benefit which calling brings. For since it was likely that among those who believed there would be some consuls and rulers as well as poor and common men, Paul casts aside inequality of rank and writes to them all under one common heading. But if in the most important and spiritual things everything is laid out as common to both slaves and free men, e.g., the love of God, the calling, the gospel, the adoption, the grace, the peace, the sanctification, etc., how could it be other than the utmost folly to divide those whom God had joined together and made to be of equal honor in the higher things, for the sake of things on earth. For this reason, I presume, from the very start this blessed apostle casts out this mischievous disease and then leads them to the mother of blessings – humility.” [Saint John Chrysostom (ca. A.D. 391), Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans 1,7] 

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 

Gospel - Matthew 1:18-24 

Having heard of the Annunciation as the gospel reading for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, we now hear about Joseph and his reaction to the news.

18 Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together,

Betrothed (espoused) was more than engaged, it was considered married; although the groom had not taken the bride into his house, an event that took place on the seventh day of the marriage feast. Once a couple was betrothed, any children born were considered to be the legitimate issue of the couple. 

she was found with child through the holy Spirit.

The virginal conception may be regarded as an outward physical sign of the invisible, inner reality, the birth of the Son of God. 

19 Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,

“Joseph” means “let him (God) add”. Some scholars suggest the original form of the name was “let him gather”. He is called righteous (upright) because of his desire to observe the Law. 

yet unwilling to expose her to shame,

Levitical law required stoning of an adulterous wife (Deuteronomy 22:21). 

decided to divorce her quietly.

Write a bill of divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1) as opposed to the trial by ordeal (Numbers 5:11-31). 

20 Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream

The angel of the Lord announces the birth of Samson (Judges 13:3) and here it announces the name of the child: Jesus (means “Yahweh is salvation”). 

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. 21 She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew here exploits the meaning of the name which can be popularly translated as “God saves”. The Hebrew name is “Joshua” which appears in Greek as Iesous which English transliterates as Jesus. 

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 

Fulfillment occurs eleven times in Matthew, more than the other three gospels combined. 

23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, 

Quotes Isaiah 7:14 (our first reading) according to the Septuagint except for “they shall call”. The Septuagint says “you shall call”. Matthew uses the text to affirm the virgin birth. His emphasis, however, seems to be more on the declaration of a savior who shall be called Emmanuel (God is with us), than on the word “virgin” (the Septuagint used the Greek word for “virgin” rather than the one for “young girl” as the Hebrew might have). The birth initiates the Messianic age of salvation to which the whole Old Testament looks forward. The age begins with the birth of a child. Jesus makes the presence of God among His people a physical reality. 

and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means “God is with us.”

This name is fulfilled in the Holy Eucharist and also is fulfilled in Matthew 28:20 where Jesus declares “And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age”. 

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

The next verse “He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus” has caused trouble since the early heresies of the Helvidians and the Jovians who concluded from it that Mary and Joseph had marital relations after the birth of Jesus. “Until” doesn’t always mean that something happens – I haven’t been a millionaire until today, but I don’t expect I’ll be one tomorrow either. The Jews didn’t believe the man had been born blind (John 9:18) until they summoned his parents; they didn’t believe after that either. 


Meditation: "He will save his people from their sins"
Do you hold on to the promises of God at all times, especially when you are faced with uncertainty or adversity? The prophet Isaiah spoke words of hope in a hopeless situation for Israel. When Ahaz, the apostate king of Judah and heir to the throne of David (735 B.C.) was surrounded by forces that threatened to destroy him and his people, God offered him a sign to reassure him that God would not abandon the promise he made to David and his descendants. King Ahaz, however, had lost hope in God and refused to ask for a sign of favor. God, nonetheless, gave a sign to assure his people that he would indeed give them a Savior who would rule with peace and righteousness (Isaiah 7:11ff). Like the prophet Isaiah we are called “in hope to believe against hope” (Romans 4:18) that God can and will fulfill all his promises.
Mary was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit
Mary had to face an enormous challenge to her faith and trust in God and to the faith of her family and Joseph, the man she chose to marry. She was asked to assume a burden of tremendous responsibility. It had never been heard of before that a child could be born without a natural father. Mary was asked to accept this miraculous exception to the laws of nature. That required faith and trust in God and in his promises. Second, Mary was not yet married. Pregnancy outside of wedlock was not tolerated in those days. Mary was only espoused to Joseph, and such an engagement had to last for a whole year. She was asked to assume a great risk. She could have been rejected by Joseph, by her family, by all her own people. Mary knew that Joseph and her family would not understand without revelation from God. She nonetheless believed and trusted in God's promises.
Joseph believed the angel's message "that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit"
Joseph, a just and God-fearing man, did not wish to embarrass or punish his espoused wife, Mary when he discovered that she was pregnant. To all appearances she had broken their solemn pledge to be faithful and chaste to one another. Joseph, no doubt took this troubling matter to God in prayer. He was not hasty to judge or to react with hurt and anger. God rewarded him not only with guidance and consolation, but with the divine assurance that he had indeed called Joseph to be the husband of Mary and to assume a mission that would require the utmost faith, confidence, and trust in Almighty God. Joseph believed in the divine message to take Mary as his wife and to accept the child in her womb as the promised Messiah. 
A model of faith for us
Like Mary, Joseph is a model of faith for us. He is a faithful witness and servant of God's unfolding plan of redemption. Are you ready to believe in the promises of God, even when faced with perplexing circumstances and what seems like insurmountable problems? God has not left us alone, but has brought us his only begotten Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Let us celebrate Christmas, the feast of the Incarnation, with joyful hearts and let us renew our faith and hope in God and in his redeeming work.
"Lord Jesus, you came to save us from sin and the power of death. May I always rejoice in your salvation and trust in your divine plan for my life."
 Daily Quote from the early church fathersThe righteous branch of David is Christ, by Leo the Great, 400-461 A.D.
"There was only one remedy in the secret of the divine plan that could help the fallen living in the general ruin of the entire human race (Jeremiah 23:5-8). This remedy was that one of the sons of Adam should be born free and innocent of original transgression, to prevail for the rest by his example and by his merits. This was not permitted by natural generation. There could be no clean offspring from our faulty stock by this seed. The Scripture says, 'Who can make a clean thing conceived of an unclean seed? Isn't it you alone?' (Job 14:4) David's Lord was made David's Son, and from the fruit of the promised branch sprang. He is one without fault, the twofold nature coming together into one person. By this one and the same conception and birth sprung our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom was present both true Godhead for the performance of mighty works and true manhood for the endurance of sufferings." (excerpt from Sermon 28.3) 

FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 18, MATTHEW 1:18-24

(Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72)

KEY VERSE: "She is to have a son and you are to name him Jesus because he will save his people from their sins" (v 21).
TO KNOW: Luke's nativity narration was told from Mary's perspective, whereas Matthew's point of view was Joseph, to whom she was betrothed. Betrothal was a solemn commitment, which lasted a full year, and could only be terminated by divorce. Joseph was a righteous man who faithfully observed the Mosaic law, but when he discovered that Mary was with child, he was unwilling to publicly charge her with adultery as the penalty was death (Dt 22:20-24). In a dream, Joseph was told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because the child had been conceived through the Holy Spirit. With the Spirit's guidance there was nothing to fear. Joseph was instructed to name the child "Jesus" (Hebrew, Yeshua) meaning "Yahweh saves." In Jesus, God would save the people from their sins. Through Joseph's family line, Jesus bears the royal title "Son of David." Jesus is also "Emmanuel" ("God is with us," Matt 1:23; Is 7:14), the incarnate "Son of God" who would dwell among the people for eternity.
TO LOVE: Do I seek the Spirit's guidance when I have difficult decisions to make?
TO SERVE: St. Joseph, help me to follow your example of humble obedience.

O SACRED LORD, Sunday, December 18

Today's O Antiphon is "O Adonai" (O Sacred LORD). Adonai was the Hebrew word that the Jews used instead of the four-lettered word for God's name (YHWH), which they held to be too sacred to pronounce aloud. Christ is Lord of Creation. He is also Lord of the Covenant he made on Mount Sinai with the People He chose. O Leader of the House of Israel, giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai: come to rescue us with your mighty power!

O come, O come, Thou Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes on Sinai's height
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty, and awe.


Sunday 18 December 2016

Sun 18th. 4th Sunday of Advent. Isaiah 7:10-14. Let the Lord enter; he is king of gloryPs 23(24):1-6. Romans 1:1-7. Matthew 1:18-24.
Confidence in God's love.
Faithfulness to God's plan is often fraught with difficulty. Mary's 'yes' to God must have made life immediately uncomfortable for her. News would travel fast in a village like Nazareth, and a young girl found to be with child would surely set tongues wagging. Joseph too, is torn between the love of his betrothed and his faithfulness to the law that God has prescribed. Amid this uncertainty however, this couple prove that faith and love are never mutually exclusive. Mary trusted the angel's message that God would take care of her, while Joseph had faith in the authenticity of his dream. In doing so, they were able to acknowledge the gift of love that was even now being prepared for themselves and for the world. As his time draws closer, let us spend time in contemplation of this gift, that we might receive it readily into our hearts this Christmas.

LECTIO DIVINA: 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A)
Lectio Divina: 
 Sunday, December 18, 2016
The justice of Joseph saved Mary’s life
Matthew 1, 18-24


1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.

2. Reading
a) Key for reading:

The majority of the members of the Christian Communities in Palestine and in Syria, for whom Matthew wrote his Gospel, were converted Jews. They accepted Jesus as Messiah and believed in Him. They were persecuted because of their faith. Their brother Jews said to them: “You Christians are deceived! Jesus is not, nor can he be the Messiah!” In the text which we are meditating on this Sunday, the concern of Matthew is evident, he wants to confirm the faith of the communities. It is as if he wished to tell us: “You do not live deceived! Jesus is truly the Messiah! “The intention of Matthew in chapters one and two of his Gospel is to inform the readers concerning Jesus, whose activity will be described beginning in chapter three. In the first two chapters, Matthew presents the credentials of Jesus, the new Legislator, the new Moses. In the genealogy (Mt 1, 1-17), he had already shown that Jesus belongs to the race of David and of Abraham (Mt 1, 1). In these verses (Mt 1, 18-25) Matthew continues to present Jesus to us describing his birth. He says how Joseph received the news that Mary was with child and, the prophecies which will be realized with the birth of Jesus, showing that he is the expected Messiah. During the reading, it is well to pay attention to what the text tells us on the person of Jesus, especially in what concerns the significance of the two names that he receives.
b) A division of the text to help the reading:
Matthew 1, 18: A legal irregularity in Mary
Matthew 1, 19: The justice of Joseph
Matthew 1, 20-21: The explanation or elucidation by the Angel
Matthew 1, 21-23: The melody in Matthew’s Gospel
Matthew 1, 24-25: The obedience of Joseph.
c) The text:

 18 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. 19 Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. 20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly 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. 21 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.'
22 Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: 23 Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us'. 24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home; 25 he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.


4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
i) Which point of this text struck you the most? Why?
ii) According to the words of the Angel, who is the Son who will be born of Mary?
iii) According to the words of Matthew, which prophecy of the Old Testament is fulfilled in Jesus?
iv) Which are the two names which the Child receives and which is God’s project hidden in these names?
v) How is Joseph’s attitude to be understood? What does this attitude teach us?
vi) In what exactly does Joseph’s “justice” consist?
vii) Which is our justice, compared with that of Joseph?

5. For those who desire to go deeper into the theme
a) Context of the evangelic text:
The genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1, 1-17) leaves us with a question. Next to the names of the forty-two paternal ancestors of Jesus (Mt 1, 17), Matthew gives the names of four maternal ancestors only: Tamar (Mt 1, 3), Rahab, Ruth (Mt 1, 4) and the wife of Uriah (Mt 1, 6). The four women conceived their sons outside the parameters of purity or of the legal justice of that time. Therefore, the state of these four women is irregular before the Law. The irregularity of these four ancestors is evident. It is sufficient to read the texts of the Old Testament where their story is described. And thus, at the end of the genealogy arises a question: “And Mary, the spouse of Joseph, from whom Jesus is born (Mt 1, 16), does she also incur in some irregularity of a legal type? The text on which we are meditating this Sunday speaks about this.
b) Commentary on the text:
Matthew 1, 18: A legal irregularity in Mary
Mary is with child before going to live with Joseph, her promised spouse. The one who looks at things from outside is aware of an irregularity and will say: “Mary, how horrible!” According to the law of Moses, these errors merited a death penalty (Dt 22, 20). To avoid this mistaken interpretation of facts, Matthew helps the reader to see the other aspect of Mary’s pregnancy: “She conceived by the Holy Spirit”. To human eyes this may seem a transgression of the Law, but in God’s eyes this was exactly the contrary!
Matthew 1, 19: The justice of Joseph
The pregnancy of Mary takes place before she went to live with Joseph, not because of a human deviation, but because of the divine will. God himself made fun of the law of legal purity in such a way as to make the Messiah be born among us! If Joseph had acted according to the requirements of the law of that time, he would have had to denounce Mary and possibly she would have been stoned. Pregnancy before marriage is irregular and according to the law of legal purity, she should be punished with the death penalty (Dt 22, 20). But Joseph, because he is just, does not obey the requirements of the law of purity. His justice is greater. Instead of denouncing, he prefers to respect the mystery which he does not understand and decides to abandon Mary in secret. The greatest justice of Joseph saves both the life of Mary and that of Jesus.
Thus, Matthew sends an important message to the communities of Palestine and Syria. It is as if said: “Behold, what would happen if the rigorous observance would be followed, which certain Pharisees demand from you! They would put the Messiah to death!” Later Jesus will say: “If your justice is not greater than that of the Scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter into the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 5, 20).
Matthew 1, 20-21: The explanation or elucidation of the Angel and the two names of the Son of Mary: Jesus and Immanuel.
“The Angel of the Lord” helps to discover the deepest dimension of life and of events. He helps to make an X-Ray of events and to perceive God’s call which with our human eyes alone we cannot perceive. The Angel makes Joseph understand that Mary’s pregnancy is the fruit of the action of the Holy Spirit. God himself, the day of creation, blew over the waters and filled with force the creating Word of God (Gen 1, 2). The new creation takes place in Mary. It is the beginning of the new heaven and the new earth, announced by Isaiah (Is 65, 17). The Son of Mary receives two names: Jesus and Immanuel. Jesus means “Yahweh saves”. Salvation does not come from what we do but from God, rather from what God does for us. Immanuel means “God with us”. In the Exodus, when getting out of Egypt, God goes down to be with the oppressed people (Ex 3, 8) and tells Moses: “I will be with you” (Ex 3, 12) and from that moment on he never abandons his people. The two names, Jesus and Immanuel, render concrete, and even go beyond the hope of the people.
Matthew 1, 22-23: The melody of Matthew’s Gospel
“All this took place in order that what had been said of the Lord by the prophet could be fulfilled”. This phrase or other similar ones are like a melody, words which are repeated many times in the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 1, 23; 2, 5.15.17.23; 4, 14; 8, 17; 12, 17; 13, 14.35; etc.). This reveals the purpose which the author had in mind: to confirm for his readers of Jewish origin the fact that Jesus is truly the promised Messiah. In him the promises of the prophets are fulfilled.
Here Matthew quotes the text of Isaiah: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7, 14). The title Immanuel more than a name reveals the meaning of Jesus for us. Jesus is the proof that God continues to be with us. The name itself of the Child is Jesus (Mt 1,25).
Matthew 1, 24-25: The obedience of Joseph
Waking up from sleep, Joseph does what the Angel told him and took Mary to his house. And he continues to say that he had no relation with Mary, to confirm that Jesus is born from the Holy Spirit.
c) Extending the information:
A key for the Gospel of Matthew - The Gospel of Matthew is addressed to a community of converted Jews, who live a deep crisis of identity in relation to their Jewish past. When in the year 65 AC the revolt broke out against Rome, the Jewish-Christians did not participate and they abandoned Jerusalem. The Pharisees did the same thing. After the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70, the Pharisees reorganized the people who had remained and they lined up, always in a more decisive way, against the Christians, who at the end were excommunicated. This excommunication made the problem of identity even worse. Now, officially excommunicated, they could no longer go to their Synagogue, to their rabbi. And the question arose among them: To whom do the promises belong: to the Synagogue or to the Church? Who is the true People of God, they or we? Is Jesus truly the Messiah? Matthew writes his Gospel for this community. The Gospel of Matthew can be defined by the three following words:
i) The Gospel of consolation for those excommunicated and persecuted by their brother Jews who do not accept Jesus as the Messiah (Christ); it helps to overcome the trauma or shock of the breaking.
ii) The Gospel of revelation: It shows Jesus as the true Messiah, the new Messiah, in whom is the summit of all the history of the Old Testament with its promises.
iii) The Gospel of the new practice: which describes the practice of Jesus, and shows how to attain a new justice, greater than that of the Pharisees.
This happened in order that it could be realized - by means of this phrase repeated many times in his Gospel, Matthew touches on the point of greatest tension between Christians and Jews. Starting from the Bible, they said: “Jesus is not and cannot be the Messiah!” Starting from the Bible itself, Matthew responds and affirms: “Jesus is truly the Messiah!”
The pregnancy of Mary - Matthew as well as Luke quote the text of Isaiah “A virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, whom she will call Immanuel” (Is 7, 14). But there is a difference. Luke places Mary in the centre and gives more importance to the sign of virginity (Lk 1, 31). Matthew places Joseph in the centre and gives more importance to the significance of the name Immanuel.
Joseph’s dream - the Angel appeared to Joseph in his sleep and helps him to understand. With the help of the Angel, Joseph succeeded in discovering God’s action in this event, which according to the opinion of the time, seemed to be only the fruit of deviation and of sin. Angel means messenger. He brings a message and a help to perceive God’s action in life. Today there are many Angels who guide us in life. Some times they act while we sleep, in our dreams, other times in our meetings, in conversations and in Biblical encounters, in facts, etc. So many Angels, so many Angels!.

6. Prayer: Psalm 72 (71)
His name endure for ever!
God, endow the king with your own fair judgement,
the son of the king with your own saving justice,
that he may rule your people with justice,
and your poor with fair judgement.

Mountains and hills,
bring peace to the people! With justice
he will judge the poor of the people,
he will save the children of the needy and crush their oppressors.
In the sight of the sun and the moon he will endure,
age after age.

He will come down like rain on mown grass,
like showers moistening the land.
In his days uprightness shall flourish,
and peace in plenty till the moon is no more.
His empire shall stretch from sea to sea,
from the river to the limits of the earth.

The Beast will cower before him,
his enemies lick the dust;
the kings of Tarshish and the islands will pay him tribute.
The kings of Sheba and Saba will offer gifts;
all kings will do him homage,
all nations become his servants.

For he rescues the needy who calls to him,
and the poor who has no one to help.
He has pity on the weak and the needy,
and saves the needy from death.
From oppression and violence he redeems their lives,
their blood is precious in his sight.

Long may he live;
may the gold of Sheba be given him!
Prayer will be offered for him constantly,
and blessings invoked on him all day.
May wheat abound in the land,
waving on the heights of the hills,
like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best,
like the grasses of the earth.

May his name be blessed for ever,
and endure in the sight of the sun.
In him shall be blessed every race in the world,
and all nations call him blessed.
Blessed be Yahweh,
the God of Israel,
who alone works wonders;
blessed for ever his glorious name.
May the whole world be filled with his glory!
Amen! Amen!

7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practise the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.