Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Silent Actor Of The Advent Drama

While there are four gospels, only two of them tell the story of Jesus’ birth.

The Gospel of Luke focuses on the role Mary played in being the mother of the Savior. Matthew, on the other hand, tells the story from Joseph’s perspective. Though Joseph never says a word in the Gospel of Matthew,  his obedience to God’s plan helps make the birth of Jesus possible.

When Joseph receives the news that Mary is pregnant, he must have felt devastated. How could such a thing happen? He thought he knew her. It was unimaginable to him that Mary would betray him. Naturally, he would have felt angry and hurt.

In light of this, what Joseph decides to do is incredible. If he were to accuse her of adultery, she and her child would have been ostracized and shunned for the rest of their lives. They would have lived as strangers in their own families. By deciding to divorce her quietly, on the other hand, Joseph would make it look as if he were the father of the child but that he was abandoning Mary and the baby. Instead of Mary being shunned, he would come to be despised by the community. He would become the outcast. So great was Saint Joseph’s love for Mary that, even though he felt betrayed by her, he was still willing to protect her from the scorn of the community.

The love that Joseph shows to Mary and her unborn child is much like the love God shows to us in sending His Son, Jesus, to suffer and die for us. Through our sinfulness, we have betrayed God. Again and again, we have turned away from Him and refused His love. We have ignored His commandments and offended Him through our actions. Yet His plan was not to condemn and punish us. Rather He came to earth to suffer the punishment that we deserved. Rather than expose us to shame, He took it upon Himself, nailing it to the cross.

That is why Christmas is so much more than a nice story about a baby being born. It is, rather, the story of a God who came to earth to share our life. It is the story of God with us. By becoming human, God shared every aspect of our life. He knew what it was to be tired and afraid. He knew what it was to be tempted and discouraged. He knew what it was to be rejected and made fun of. There is no experience that we have had that Jesus did not have. There is no sin that we have committed that Jesus did not feel tempted to commit in one way or another. Whatever we are going through, Jesus understands. We can carry our burdens to Him because He knows what we are going through. He is “God with us.”

Most importantly, we can go to Jesus with our sinfulness and receive forgiveness. We can go to Him with our weakness, and draw strength. We can go to Him with our shame, and find healing and wholeness. The one who went to such lengths to save us will never reject us if we come before Him humbly. Jesus is waiting for us with outstretched arms and an open heart. All we need to do is go to Him to find the peace our souls are craving.

Now that we have been told the story of Joseph in the gospels and learned of the compassion of a God who forgives us and takes our shame away, it is time for us to consider what our behavior in our own families has been like. Have we been holding grudges? Do we keep reminding our parents or children of the mistakes they have made in the past? Have we abandoned our families because we could not bear the responsibility? Have the demands of our jobs kept us from spending time with our children? How do we need to change so that our families can be true reflections of the love of God?

Because we are human, all of us have failed in one way or another in our role as parents and children. God understands and wants to help us to do better. The example of Saint Joseph is a great help to us. He is the patron saint of families, of workers and of unborn children. We can ask for his intercession so that we can become better protectors and providers for our families. Because he was obedient to God’s plan even when it was difficult, his prayers can help us to be more obedient to our parents and those who have authority over us. Strong families are vital to the health of our society and of our Church. They are essential to our psychological and spiritual well-being. No matter what state our family may be in, no matter what challenges it may be facing, God wants to give us the grace to make it work. He only asks that we turn to Him and trust Him.

Jesus is “God with us” at every moment of every day, during every difficult and every joy. God never abandons us. Therefore, we can live with confidence no matter how weak we are and no matter how difficult the road ahead of us seems. God is with us especially through the gift of the Eucharist. As we prepare to receive Him, let us offer our families up to Him for healing. Let us offer ourselves up so that we may be transformed into the likeness of Jesus. Then we will know the peace that only a God who is with us can give.

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