Homily for 18 December 2022 by Fr. Gerard Jonas
Fourth Week of Advent
Annunciation to Joseph
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 23; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24
In the Gospel according to Luke, the birth of Jesus was announced to Mary. Today, we hear in the version according to Matthew, the annunciation was to Joseph. There are similarities between the two accounts. Both were made by an angel who exhorted them to not be afraid. They were also both told that Mary conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Joseph found out that the woman he thought he had lost could still be his wife, although in a new way and not on the original terms that he might have imagined. Joseph learned that Mary had not been unfaithful and that his marriage could proceed. The message of the angel made that all clear. Though initially, when Joseph found out that Mary was with child, he certainly might have presumed that all was lost, that God might have been absent and unconcerned. But in time, in God’s time, Joseph learned that the woman that he was willing to let go of in love could indeed be his again and that in faith he was to become the foster father of the Messiah.
In the end, both Mary and Joseph accepted and assented to what was revealed to them. But both had to struggle through moments of crisis, so to say. And we all know that it was just the beginning. Until the end, life was difficult for the Holy Family of Nazareth.
We also experience and see hard times around us, which makes us wonder where God may be. Well, today we are consoled that God is indeed with us.
Joseph assumes foster fatherhood first by taking Mary as his wife and then by naming the child Jesus, meaning “God saves,” as instructed by the angel in his dream. But come to think of it, it was Joseph himself who first needed Jesus. He needed God’s saving act. He needed to be saved from doubt and fully trust in the Lord, from fear and be steadfast in faith, from thinking of leaving Mary who was with child, and legally taking her as his wife. Notice how fear hounds. Even in sleep, it pesters. See how even before his birth, Jesus had already started His saving action.
As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus shall be called Emmanuel, God with us. Indeed, God is with us, especially in difficult moments that sometimes even reach crisis level. And truly, we can leave the worrying with God. How else can we have Christmas had God not first worried for humanity’s salvation? The Good News in Joseph’s annunciation is that we need not worry. God is with us even before difficult moments arise so that He can be with us as we go through them.
Mathew’s account of Jesus’ birth surrounds us with all brokenness, not to ruin our Christmas, but to deepen it. Mathew calls us to have compassion for those who are distressed or afraid. Compassion can lead us to recognize people who struggle this time of year and call us to solidarity with them. Such compassion calls us to recognize how many people in the world have so much less than we do and see such people as our sisters and brothers.
As Matthew reminds that God is with us through Jesus, let us be heralds of this Good News to one another. Sometimes just a kindly smile suffices to give assurance that one is not alone and that God is indeed with us!
Be Joseph, realize that God is in control, that God is with us. Let us be Joseph and be sensitive to the promptings of God and take responsibility.
Reflecting on the O Antiphon, “O Adonai,” “O Lord of justice” by Fr. Stuhlmueller early this morning at Vigils: let us learn to be Joseph and be righteous in our relationship with God and with others. Let us be Joseph who relies not on human wisdom but is attentive to God and cooperates with his most holy will. Let us be Joseph and in faith take up our prophetic mission as heralds of God’s will in a world so distracted and replete with so much human standards. Let us be Joseph and lead others to God. Let us be Joseph with Mary in welcoming the Lord Jesus!