A Reading from the Holy Gospel According to Matthew (1:18-23)
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 be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Opening Prayer: O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption, look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters that those who believe in Christ may receive true freedom and an everlasting inheritance. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever. Amen.
Encountering Christ: Who better to teach us how to love and imitate Our Lady than her husband Joseph? It’s not difficult to imagine his confusion, sadness, or simple inability to grasp what was happening. We can also feel this way from time to time, right?
Joseph occupies a central place in this gospel. His decision is made. He will be kind and sensitive towards Mary, and divorce her in secret. A dream upturns his original decision. God intervenes, more is asked of Joseph. He is called to revisit and revise his original intentions. Lord, we thank you for Joseph’s generous, courageous risk-taking. He trusted completely in your words “do not be afraid” and allowed his carefully made plans to be unraveled. His sleep must have been restless that night as he continually sought to know what God was asking of him. May we too be open when you invite us to risk.
The Holy Spirit descended upon Mary so that Christ might become incarnate in her womb. The Holy Spirit came to St. Joseph in a dream to give him the grace he needed to discover God’s will in confusing circumstances. God does not leave us alone to make our way in the world and hope for the best. He comes out to meet us; he enters our lives (if we let him) and gives us what we need. He does not ask us to do the impossible, though he does the impossible himself through us.
The name given God was Emmanuel, God-with-us. It’s not god-against-us, or god-indifferent-to-us, or even god-watching-but-far-away-from-us. His name is Emmanuel. This name that God has given to himself doesn’t just tell us what he does; it tells us who he is, something of his essence.
He is a God who descends, who accompanies, and who unites. He brings us together, drawing all to him. (John 12:32). How the world changed when this truth entered it!
How the world of Mary and Joseph changed when they welcomed this truth into their hearts and let God make them a family. How would our life change if we welcomed this truth anew today?
Closing Prayer: Come, Holy Spirit. I trust you to give us what we need. Help us to be attentive to your voice, as both Joseph and Mary were. Help us to trust that even when we don’t understand, when our future seems hidden from us, or when we don’t know what decision to make, that you will give us the grace we need. We do trust in you, Lord, and we give you the enormous space in our heart.
Action: We are invited to take our challenging situations to the Lord in trust. God’s surprising ways are revealed to Mary and to Joseph. Joseph, the righteous man, gives us a message on how to accept Jesus as Savior? Lord, help us see the surprising ways in which you reveal yourself to us now?