Sunday, December 18, 2016

CONSIDER JUST WHAT HE HAS DONE FOR US: a homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent year A (Matthew 1:18–24)

Unfortunately I did not record this homily!
Who would you pick to look after your child?  Who would God the Father pick?  If you could know everything about them wouldn’t you pick the best of the best?  This is Joseph.   This is the man that God picked to care for His Son and His Son’s Mother.  Joseph is a most extraordinary man – humble, obedient and silent – not one word he said is recorded yet this is the man that the Father chose to be foster father to Christ – God made flesh for us.  Some wits have said he is the perfect model for a good husband – he knew to keep his mouth shut.  Yet as the only sinner with a perfect wife and a perfect son if anything was wrong he knew it was his fault!  In his response to Gabriel Joseph showed both his humility and his obedience for he was not just righteous in exterior matters but in his very heart.
Jewish marriage was a two part process.  Mary and Joseph had entered into the first part but not the second.  They were actually married.  Yet Christ is not Joseph’s son, He has only one Father, the first Person of the Most Holy Trinity.  Christ is the work of God the Holy Trinity, by the Father’s will through the power of the Holy Spirit, the Son of the Father became truly human for us in the womb of the Virgin.
Some suggest that Joseph believed Mary had committed a sin in conceiving Jesus but out of compassion was covering up for her.  As a righteous Jew though, obedient to the Law, he was bound to uphold God’s revealed will and expose Mary to justice, and to stoning, yet he did not.  The fathers of the Church say that Joseph was concerned because, knowing her to be holy and pure, he discerned that this was the work of God and he felt himself unworthy to be her husband and a father to her child. Joseph is of the line of David and his adoption of Jesus makes Jesus legally a descendent of King David so that the King of Heaven could also be the King of Israel. 
Now in Joseph’s dream there is a lesson for us.  Most of our dreams are merely our brains sorting out our day and usually it is a waste of time to pay any attention to them! Sometimes, though, the Lord uses them to speak to us, often through our deceased loved ones (as I have myself experienced) and when He speaks YOU WILL KNOW IT, THERE WILL BE NO DOUBT.  ‘Do not be afraid’ is a very common theme in the Gospels and therefore we ought to pay attention.   We are to trust that God has everything worked out and that as long as we are humble and obedient all will be well for us.
Twice we are told that Christ’s conception is a work of the Holy Spirit.  Here is the heart of our Gospel: Jesus is the incarnate Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. Yet he is given the name ‘Jesus’.  ‘Jesus’ is a sacred name to us but although ‘Jesus’ or Yehoshua, means God saves – it was not an exceptional name but rather quite common.  Still for Him it was appropriate for He is the One who is save all mankind.  He is ‘God with us’.   God has not abandoned us.  He remembers His promises and His plan and He remains with us.  He came among us to fulfill His plan for our union with Him in Heaven.  Not only is God with us but God embraced death for us on the Cross, He has poured out His graces on us through the Cross and He remains with us in the Blessed Sacrament and we remain in union with Him through the Sacraments, especially Holy Communion, and our unity in the faith of the Church.
As we approach the celebration of the Birth of our Lord we need to keep this mystery central in our hearts and minds: God became truly man for us.  All our symbols we use at this time of year point to this.  The Christmas Tree stands both for the trees of paradise that bear fruit in all seasons and more for the Cross, the Tree of New Life, by which we are saved.  The baubles we hang on the Tree refer to the gifts and graces, His blessings that He has poured out upon us.   That our decorations are bright, colourful and sparkling refers to the glory of His grace and His Presence.  Even the Christmas dinner refers both to the feast of the Eucharist and to the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb in Heaven.  All these and more are present in our celebrations.
It is a tradition though to give gifts to the one whose birthday it is!  What will you give to Christ for His Birthday?  He says ‘Whatever you do to the least of these you do to me’.  If you want to offer a gift to Christ make it the gift of charity to the poor and needy.  Begin with your family and friends, making sure no one is alone at this time of year but also do not neglect the stranger.  Offer Christ too the gift of repentance and sincere confession of your faults.  Seek to be reconciled to those you are not at peace with and to forgive those who have hurt you.  Offer these sacrifices to Christ as gifts too and as a response to His immense generosity to you.  What is offered to Him He sanctifies and blesses, making them grow and baring fruit in due season for our healing.

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