Reflection: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Chinese Mass:Every Sunday 2:15 p.m

Our Lady of the Assumption RC Church, Assumption Priory, Victoria Park Square, Bethnal Green E2 9PB (map)

 Mass is conducted in a mix of Cantonese and Mandarin

After Mass you are welcome to join the community for a tea gathering


[1st Reading – Is.7:10-14; Ps.23; 2nd Reading – Rom.1:1-7; Gospel – Mt.1:18-24]

Everyone agrees that the story of the birth of Jesus is extraordinary.  For a start, Mary is found to be already with child through the Holy Spirit.  Then Joseph, her betrothed husband, had already decided to divorce Mary informally upon discovering that she was already with child (he has yet to be made aware of God’s intentions) which according to Joseph, would save Mary’s face and his own face.  God, on the other hand, decided otherwise: God decided to send his angel to Joseph to explain what was really going on.  When the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, despite his already made decision, Joseph was ready to change his mind … because of what God said to him, through the angel!

It must have been difficult for both Joseph and Mary to accept what was really happening.  Everything that was happening was against the logics of nature … everything that was happening was not normal. Yet both Joseph and Mary, although they initially both showed some kind of doubt and confusion, when they understood that it was requested by God himself, they were ready to do whatever God willed.  Even though they did not understand the ‘how’, they both understood the ‘why’ … because of what God said!

On this particular Sunday of Advent, we are invited to meditate on the angel’s message to Joseph.  The angel did not just call Joseph by his proper name.  Instead, the angel indicated that God had a specific message for this particular ‘son of David’, Joseph.  This title “Son of David” is something that will later be used again for Jesus, Joseph’s “son”.  Jesus was therefore considered a descendant of King David, as was Joseph (Jesus’ “father”).  The angel addressed Joseph and told him “not to be afraid”.  Again, we will later find that after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus made use of the same phrase “do not be afraid” when talking to his disciples. In today’s Gospel, the angel continued to give Joseph some other information: he told Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife (someone whom he had already decided to divorce since they were betrothed) and explained that Mary has conceived through the Holy Spirit.  Now, it is anyone’s guess if and what Joseph really understood by this information… but even so, the angel continued to tell Joseph what is going to happen with the child i.e. that Joseph is to name him ‘Jesus’.  This is the sign that Joseph was to assume his paternity over the child.  The angel further explained to Joseph that the child is the one who is to save his people from their sins.  Once more, one could ask what Joseph really understood by these words … and yet the angel continued to say that the child was the Messiah who the prophet called the Emmanuel – the God-is-with-us.

We are told that when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do and took Mary as his wife to his home. Joseph believed what God was saying, even when everything he saw through his natural human eyes seemed impossible or at least highly unlikely.  But since God said so, Joseph accepted what was said … Both Joseph and Mary could not understand and yet they both believed what God told them …

God speaks to all of us as well.  But are we ready to listen to him and to do what he says?

“Lord, we constantly hear your word proclaimed to us.  You send ‘angels’ to show us your way and speak in your name.  Give us the faith that we need to believe and do what you say. Thank you Lord!”

Fr. Jesmond Pawley, OFM Conv.

(Permission to reproduce on this site by Fr. Jesmond, St. Patrick’s RC Church, Waterloo )

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