Fourth Sunday of Advent 2010 Mass and Reflections

The last Sunday of Advent approaches and we will soon be slip- sliding into the dazzling panoply of Christmas and the Scripture this Sunday finally steers us toward the events surrounding Jesus' birth.

In his Gospel commentary here John J. Pilch  is clear on the cultural context of Mary's pregnancy when he says

"In an effort to contemporize the biblical record, some modern preachers speak of Mary as a pregnant, unwed, teenage girl and describe Jesus’ family as homeless.

These clever descriptions are ill-suited to Mediterranean culture and are unfair to Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. 

He also says : "Joseph betrothed to Mary may have been the last to find out that Mary was with child. The women of the village surmised it first when Mary stopped participating in the obligatory monthly purification rites (Pilch, John J. The Cultural World of Jesus: Sunday by Cycle A. Liturgical Press: Minnesota. 1996. 10-12. Print). 

When Joseph learned that Mary was with child, knowing that the child was not his, he would hesitate to take it as his own because Joseph also knew that there was a code of honor in the Mediterranean which demanded that one not take the property of another. Mary would be subject to the Law which would expose her to death. 

His decision about what to do was not an easy one. He only wished to do God's will, but what was God's will? Joseph must have looked back at the history of his people and how God had been faithful to his people throughout the millennia. 

As was probably his habit, he must have prayed asking God to know what to do. God answered Joseph in the form of a dream, and Joseph trusted his dream and risked the questions of his fatherhood in a close-knit community.

 Like Abraham, Joseph had to blindly trust that God would fulfill his promise. This is the same God who asks us to trust in Him."

  • The late John Kavanaugh's thoughts on what was going on in the mind of Joseph can be read here.

Gospel from Matthew 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.

My reflections

I realise the rest of this post is a little ahead of the story as we are still in Advent  but I thought I would put Joseph centre stage all in one place for a change ! 

Joseph, the forgotten Saint, is one of the most important people in the  Bible who doesn't have a single speaking line.  But not any more !

In this video Jesuit priest Fr. James Martin gives us an excellent summary of the "hidden life of Joseph." followed by Joseph's  song and finally" his own" poem .

The poet U.A. Fanthorpe provides some additional words for Joseph in her poem

I Am Joseph

I am Joseph, carpenter

Of David's kingly line,

I wanted an heir, discovered 

My wife's son wasn't mine.

I am an obstinate lover,

Loved Mary for better or worse.

Wouldn't stop loving when I found

Someone Else came first.

Mine was the likeness I hoped for

When the first- born man-child came.

But nothing of him was me. I couldn't 

Even choose his name.

I am Joseph, who wanted

To teach my own boy how to live.

My lesson for my foster son:

Endure.   Love.   Give.

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RJ said...

I was moved by this posting and strengthened by the contextual comments re: Mary and Joseph in the Mediterranean realm. Thank you and blessings to you as Advent draws to a close.

Philomena Ewing said...

Welcome and Thanks RJ.
I am delighted you found this post of value. I wish we knew more about Mary and Joseph ! Both of them must have been very resilient personalities to cope with the lives they had.
All blessings to you too for the week ahead.