Homily for Sunday, 22 December 2013
4th Sunday of Advent: Is 7:10-14. Rom 1:1-7. Mt 1:18-24.
This is the final Sunday before Christmas.
An Angel of the Lord hasn't appeared to me or to you (I presume!), as happened to Joseph in a dream, but the Word of God has arrived down to us all through many centuries and through many lives that have given us good testimony of the love of God. There is a reality that is deeper than human wisdom, as requested by Isaiah today (Is 7:11), and that moves our hearts if we open to it - and the Love of God gets born in us. Mundane knowledge just can't grasp divine realities (as Isaiah says to Ahaz today) but the faith can, and Joseph received Mary into his house and Christ got born in Bethlehem. It's asking us to open up our lives to the faith and to allow Christ to be born anew in us this Christmas.
The second reading is of St Paul explaining that the realities of Christ simply go beyond our normal understanding, so he's justifying the fact that Joseph of Nazareth hadn't done 'the fathering' of Jesus with Mary.
Perhaps we've learnt quite a lot about our religion and we've been to many masses, but have we really opened our heart and minds to the presence of God? …listening to and reading his interesting Word with an attitude of gratefulness? Have we done so beginning each time with a humble “I need it, Lord”, and from there spending some time meditating his Word and arriving at a humble “Let it be done in me according to your word”? We live in a world that tries to suppress the Gospel (as Paul says to the Romans Rom 1:18) but that doesn't undo the eternal Good News.
Since a mother and father prepare before a birth so that the newborn will have a secure arrival into a clean house, we too should prepare for Christmas by cleaning up our hearts and cleaning up our world of selfish riches, honours and pleasures which impede that things be done 'according to his word'! Let's thank God for giving us the Good News and let's renew our determination to avoid things that sully it. The virgin will give birth. The world couldn't explain that - unless Mary were a mother bee undergoing parthenogenesis! We don't try to explain it. We celebrate it. And God really wants to be 'God with us' (as is meant by the name Immanuel).
I like the example of St Joseph. He decided to obey God's will, even though he had to face up to challenges and problems. He must have been very much in-love with Mary, and she was a perfect follower of Jewish morality, yet she became pregnant and it wasn't done by Joseph! When he woke from his dream, he probably had to struggle with some doubts. When they arrived in Bethlehem, there was no room available at the inn. The obstetric hospital that the Trinity were presenting for the most important birth in human history, was a stable for sheep and cows! Yet Joseph kept believing, and things turned out well. It makes me think of this young Irish doctor who left a luxurious style of life in order to become a missionary priest, and ends up in a wheelchair with multiple sclerosis! But I really think that it's just a small upset along the way to our true home. I'm far from St Joseph in sanctity, but I keep honestly believing that God organizes all things well. Thanks be to God the faith in Christ got born in me, and this Christmas I'm celebrating that! But do we offer ourselves to God so that the birth process can continue? We could join in the chain of people who give witness of love.
An 'angel of the Lord' hasn't appeared to us, but the Word of God has arrived down to us all. And it's very Good. Happy Christmas! Good tidings to you and your friends!