Friday of the Third Week of Advent

Reading 1 Jer 23:5-8

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; As king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The LORD our justice.”Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD, when they shall no longer say, “As the LORD lives, who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt”; but rather, “As the LORD lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north”– and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land.

 

Gospel Mt 1:18-25

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 be with child 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. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Reflection
There will be at least one feminist listening in, and it will be a testament to her if she can do so without protest. On the Feast (The Feast!) of the Immaculate Conception, we have Mary’s experience of the Annunciation – that is, the announcement of the birth of Christ. On Friday of the third week of Advent – no small thing, to be sure – we have Joseph’s.  But men are often willing to lift up their wives.  Just watch this man work. First, recall – in the time of Joseph and Mary, fornication was highly stigmatized.  It is less so now – make of that what you will.  But in their time, his very honor… Shall we say, how he identified? …was under threat by Mary’s pregnancy.  In other words, because he was righteous, this state of affairs was unacceptable to him.  He would only marry a virgin. But he had mercy on his betrothed, and decided to quietly divorce her. Think of that.  By all appearances, she had disgraced him as completely as she could; but because …well, because he loved her, I think, he would not hold her out for punishment.  He would let her go quietly back to her family, and there would be no castigation, no calumniation, no abandonment. We are so shameless in our age that there is not a parallel.  If you do not already understand Joseph’s predicament, you cannot.  We are diametrically opposed on this matter. Be that as it may… The Lord, God Almighty, chose not only Mary, but He chose Joseph as well.  Here was the man who would shepherd His son.  Here was the man – listen now – who would teach God incarnate how to be a man. We could not stretch our foreheads high enough to comprehend this.  Any man listening – would you sign up for this? I could not.  But quickly learn:  No mogul or king qualified for the job.  No muscleman, no pretty man, no self-righteous man was chosen.  A small-town carpenter was chosen. What do you do for a living? Now here are the angel’s words:
“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.”
See, he is not afraid of the angel.  He is afraid of breaking God’s commands.  This is why he is a Saint.  This is a man who would stare down the dragon in the Garden of Eden, and not bite the apple.  Or so I think. But anyway, listen further:
“‘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 be with child 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. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
Now, we may imagine that a great deal of deliberation and discussion took place.  Perhaps it did.  Perhaps he rushed to Mary, and either apologized for disbelieving her, or wept for joy that her story was true.  Perhaps he had no idea, because Mary did not tell him the “why” of her pregnancy. What is told to us, though, is fidelity and obedience.  The human spirit has always rebelled against such things.  It is remarkable when we can embrace them.   Angel:  “Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home” Joseph:  “[he] took his wife into his home.”   Angel:  “You are to name him Jesus.” Joseph:  “And he named him Jesus.”   See, he did not even reply to the angel!  These were his actions, observed by Matthew:  he heard and obeyed. Notice what might be missed…Joseph knew his Scripture.
Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us.'”
I asked any men reading whether they would sign up for Joseph’s job.  It is a sifting question, one that might find all of us wanting for virtue.  But it is worth noting that, in order to pass through the eye of the needle, a man needs to know what God has proclaimed.