The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Homily: Advent - December 18

Readings: Jer 23:5-8; Psalm 72; Mt 1:18-25

Don't you just love the language of Jeremiah?
"I will raise up a righteous shoot of David...This is the name they give him: 'The LORD our justice'" [Jer 23:5,6].
 And then the words of Psalm 72:
"He shall govern your people with justice and your afflicted ones with judgment... the lives of the poor he shall save... And blessed forever be his glorious name; may the whole earth be filled with his glory" [Ps 72:2,13].
These words, this Word of God, like the entirety of the Old Testament, point to one thing: the coming of a Savior. Yes, the revealed Word of God points to the incarnate Word of God, a revelation that is fulfilled in today's Gospel passage from Matthew.

St. Joseph's Dream
Matthew begins his Gospel with a genealogy tracing 2,000 years of the human ancestry of Jesus from Abraham to Mary. But then Matthew's focus changes. No longer does he look down on Israel through the long lens of history. Now, quite suddenly, Matthew entered the lives of two people in the little Galilean village of Nazareth. And just as suddenly, these two lives, the lives of Mary and Joseph, were changed by the Word of God, a Word that echoed throughout the entire created universe.

In Luke's Gospel the angel announces this Word to Mary, a Word she accepts into her very being. Indeed, her womb now becomes the center of that universe. But in Matthew we witness another annunciation, this time in a dream to Joseph, who responds in full obedience. Yes, Joseph, goes on to protect, to name, to decide, to renounce, to nurture, to accept all that God reveals to him...for Joseph is a man of deep faith.

But did you notice, in both annunciations, the angel's appearance begins with the words, "Be not afraid"? The angel wouldn't have said those words unless fear was present. And its presence is understandable.

God was entering into these two lives in an incomprehensible, a fearful way, in a way that even today, after 2,000 years of theological study and speculation, we still don't fully understand. For the Incarnation is a mystery, the manifestation of the revelation to Joseph: "and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means 'God is with us'" [Mt 1:23]. But what a promise this is! Brothers and sisters, God is with us!

When we see the world shrouded in so much darkness, like Joseph we can trust completely in the light of Christ to guide us, for God is with us. When we experience deep discouragement in our lives, when we're overcome by fears or worries, when the challenges seem too great to face, we need only recall God is with us...for we are not alone.

Like Joseph, we need only accept God's presence. Turn to Jesus today and let Him enter your heart. Push aside the obstacles that you and world place in His path. 

Pope Francis wrote that many today act as if God doesn't exist.  A "practical relativism", he called it, "a lifestyle which leads to an attachment to financial security, or to a desire for power or human glory at all cost." 

Say no to selfishness. Avoid the pragmatism that transforms us into mummy-like creatures - lifeless beings who deny the reality and the hope of Jesus Christ.

In the pope's words: "Our faith is challenged to discern how wine can come from water and how wheat can grow in the midst of weeds...Say yes to a new relationship with Jesus."

This is our Advent call: to open our hearts to Jesus' coming today, in the midst of our darkness, often a very personal darkness. If I let him love me, forgive me, tell me I'm not alone, then I can face any challenge with hope, even when our union with Jesus leads us to the Cross, we are with him on the path to eternal life.

"Come, Lord Jesus," into our hearts today.

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