One would expect that the announcement of coming of the Messiah would be associated with the singing of angels, a blaring of trumpets, and crowds of people gathering to adore the one whom God promised. Matthew’s Gospel tells a very different story from the fanfare one would expect. Jesus, even before his birth, was to turn his parent’s world up-side-down. Joseph, to his dismay, discovered his betrothed, Mary, was with child before they lived together.
Now, Mary, after being visited by the angel Gabriel, knew that the Holy Spirit had caused her to conceive Jesus. But how could she explain this to Joseph? What person would believe that God would designate Mary to be the mother of the Son of God? Joseph, we thoroughly understand, would be hard-pressed to accept Mary’s story about her unexpected pregnancy. The only thing that Joseph could think about was how could have Mary be unfaithful to him?
Upon discovering that Mary was pregnant, Joseph felt he hand only two choices. He could have openly pointed out that Mary had been raped or had sexual relations with someone other than Joseph. If Joseph had made this choice, there Mary would have been stoned to death even if it was proven she was not at fault. This death sentence for Mary would have been the tale of the self-righteous man, who slighted by some other man, would exact retribution to maintain his worldly status.
Joseph’s second option and the one he chose was to divorce Mary quietly. While the community would have ostracized Mary for having a child outside of marriage, Joseph would not be the cause for any of her suffering. Joseph’s choice was that of a righteous man who, while troubled by Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness, remained concerned about her well-being. He had no desire to cause harm to her but knew that this unwanted pregnancy had forever changed their relationship.
However, the Lord, through the visit from an angel, presented Joseph with another option. The angel related to Joseph the truth of Mary’s story of her conception of Jesus while remaining a virgin. On awaking from the dream, Joseph responded with humility to the Lord because he was a man of faith. Joseph, a holy man, took Mary into his home. For his devotion to God, Joseph became the protector, provider, and teacher for the Son of God.
Jesus, at first unwanted, became the most beloved son of Joseph and Savior of the world. Mary, the woman that Joseph almost divorced, for unfaithfulness, became the model of motherhood. Joseph, a lowly carpenter, was blessed before all other men by being called father by Jesus, the Son of God.
How often are we listening to the voice of the angel calling us to higher achievement on behalf of the Lord? How often does the Lord present us with another choice? How do we live out our lives, in self-righteousness, righteousness or holiness when we encounter a threat to our dreams?
The Lord, in the stories of Joseph and Mary, suggests that we, too, can welcome Jesus into our lives. Initially, like Mary and Joseph, we may be challenged in our faith when we are called to the Lord’s plan. In allowing Jesus to guide our lives, we may know of suffering and distress as Joseph and Mary would experience in caring for their Son. Remember, in holiness, the result of that undying faith, as Mary and Joseph exhibited for Jesus, will reap for us one day the sweetest of fruits, the rewards of heaven.
This will be my last article for the bulletin for a month or so. As I mentioned earlier in the year, I will not be returning to Nebraska during the Christmas break. The Deacons from St. Meinrad will travel to Europe for a pilgrimage in January.
We will visit London from December 28th through January 6th. We will be visiting various historical sites, including many palaces, churches, museums, and portrait galleries. We will also have day trips to Oxford, Canterbury, Stonehenge, and Winsor.
From there, we move on to Rome from January 7th through January 18th. The schedule includes visiting the various Roman Churches and Basilicas and catacombs. We will take day trips to Florence, Subiaco, and Siena. Finally, we go to Einsiedeln, Switzerland, January 18th through January 24th.
Einsiedeln is the mother Abbey of St. Meinrad. Einsiedeln was founded in the year 835 in memory of the Benedictine hermit monk, Meinrad. We will be on Canonical Retreat for Ordination of the Priesthood while at Einsiedeln. Regular classes start again on January 27th, so not much time to catch up on sleep, which I am sure I will need after being on the go for that length of time.
So, while I will not be there to say it in person, Merry Christmas to each one of you. May each of you have a wonderful Christmas filled with many special blessings from the Lord at his birth.