Advent is finding our mission anew

The Lord Is My Chef Sunday Recipe, Advent IV-A, 22 December 2019

Isaiah 7:10-14 ><}}}*> Romans 1:1-7 ><}}}*> Matthew 1:18-24

Dome of the Malolos Cathedral Basilica, Advent 2019. Photo by author.

We are now at the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the final week of preparations for Christmas happening in about three days. And we go back to the gospel of Matthew to reflect anew on the annunciation of Christ’s birth to Joseph.

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 name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

Matthew 1:18-21,24

As we look toward the coming Christmas Day, the story of the annunciation to Joseph invites us to examine ourselves, to look inside and look back through the years what have we done to bring Jesus Christ into the world like him.

Though Advent celebrates God’s fidelity and constancy in fulfilling his plan of salvation for us through Jesus Christ, this coming involves a human setting among us in the present time to realize its fulfillment.

Dream of St. Joseph (oil on canvas) by Spanish painter Francisco Goya via Google.

St. Joseph’s mission, our mission too

When the angel appeared to Joseph in his dream, it was not so much to explain to him about Mary’s virginal conception but to reveal to him his mission. Very clearly, Mary’s conception of Jesus is absolutely extraordinary, a mystery directly from God himself.

And that is how it is with life: there are certain things we simply have to let ourselves be wrapped by mystery than to unravel or explain it.

Like the Blessed Virgin Mary whom he loves so much, Joseph believed in God, agreeing to what was asked of him that upon waking up, he obediently did everything the angel had instructed him.

Joseph’s acceptance of Mary and of his role in giving name to Jesus brings to an end the genealogy of “Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham” because in the Jewish society, it is the father who bears much weight in recognizing one’s child.

Here we find the crucial and critical importance of Joseph’s mission in giving name to Jesus, in taking Mary as wife: it is through his “fatherhood” that Christ comes into the world as a person, and most of all, as fulfillment of God’s promise made to Abraham and David.

Last Tuesday we have reflected how through Jesus Christ’s coming we now trace our genealogy and roots with God in faith. As children of our loving Father, we too are now entrusted with the same mission like Joseph to bring Jesus Christ into the world in our own time and history.

Altar of the Chapel of St. Joseph beside the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Below the chapel are the ancient ruins of the home and shop of St. Joseph where he took care of Mary and Jesus. Photo by author May 2017.

Called to obedient faith

Salvation history continues and it is our duty to find our proper place in God’s plan like Joseph. The story of Christmas continues to our time that is why we have this Advent Season of preparation.

God has not diminished that great honor and privilege given to Joseph then and to us now of having an irreplaceable role in bringing Jesus into the world but this time, not through dream or voice of an angel. God continues to call us like Joseph to bring his plan of salvation in Jesus into fulfillment through our obedient faith through the Sacred Scriptures, the Church in her teachings and most of all, through the many situations and people we encounter in life.

We have to believe and accept this reality that “God needs us”, that the “baby Jesus” wants us to care for him, to give him a name so that “his glory would be eventually revealed for mankind to see the saving power of God” (communion antiphon of Christmas Eve).

St. Paul beautifully tells us in the second reading a very basic profession of faith affirming Jesus Christ as the Son of God descended from David through Joseph according to the flesh (Rom.1:1-4).

Through Jesus, we are called to “bring about obedience of faith” to spread this “good news to all Gentiles” or peoples of the world that they may honor and worship the Lord.

And the good news is this: despite or many flaws and weaknesses, all he needs is our complete faith and surrender to him like St. Joseph. It is Jesus Christ who shall provide us with the strength to fulfill this mission just like what he did to St. Joseph.

From Aleteia, 18 December 2019.

Hail to the fathers and men too

Last December 17 as the whole Church was proclaiming the gospel from Matthew on the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Pope Francis celebrated his 83rd birthday when he was presented with a unique Nativity scene called “Let Mum Rest” with St. Joseph taking care of the infant Jesus while Mary slept.

It went viral, and again, another unique imagery of the beloved St. Joseph courtesy of Pope Francis, a devotee of the Lord’s foster father. When he came to visit the Philippines in 2015, he narrated how he would pray to the sleeping St. Joseph and it became viral in the country.

And now this new image of St. Jospeh babysitting.

It is a very timely image at this time when there is a crisis in fatherhood, when many fathers have to make the difficult choice of leaving their families behind to work in distant places, often foreign countries just to earn decent living.

A crisis when fathers forget caring and loving their families because of the many demands of a high cost of living that along the way, they fall into many traps that sometimes make them forget their vows of marriage.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men. They too are blessed by God like St. Joseph.

We need to pray hard for fathers and men to help them remain upright like St. Joseph.

When Jesus began his ministry, he taught us the “Our Father” to show us that God is like a father because life comes from him. It is from the father that we receive the seeds of life with that genetic code called “DNA”. This is the reason why it is the father who gives name to the child at baptism like St. Joseph to Jesus.

Secondly, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who protects and keeps life from dangers. He must have experienced this from St. Joseph who brought them to Egypt when Herod ordered the massacre of Holy Innocents after the visit by the Magi in Bethlehem. Fathers are often strict with children because he wants to ensure their safety.

Most of all, Jesus called God “our Father” because he is the one who brings back life to those who have lost it like the merciful father to his prodigal son (Lk.15).

How many times did our father saved us from scolding and punishment by our mother, from the simple misdemeanors to grave offenses like going wayward in life? It is often the father, ironically, despite his being strict and disciplinarian, who also has the softest heart for the prodigal child.

May St. Joseph help us men to be man enough to be faithful to God and loved ones to make everyone feel the love and mercy of the Father in heaven as revealed to us by Jesus Christ. Amen.

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