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)

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

Bible study/sharing every Saturday (2:00-4:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church, 5 Leicester Place WC2H 7BX (near See Woo Chinese Supermarket, Leicester Square tube station)

Talk and discussion meeting First Tuesday of every month (4:00-6:00 p.m.) at Notre Dame De France Church


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


I always stand back in amazement whenever I read this gospel text. Here, we have two people who found themselves in a really awkward situation with their “human” reputation at risk and on the brink of being jeopardised.

We are presented with Mary, betrothed but not yet married to Joseph, who finds herself pregnant before she even came to live with her man. It has never been heard of a woman to become pregnant without the intervention of a man … Still, strangely enough, she found herself with a child “through the Holy Spirit”. We are talking about a peasant woman, living at a time of about 2000 years ago (unlike today, maybe if something similar “happens”… it is much less surprising, if at all).  But 2000 years ago things were more complicated than one could imagine.

Besides Mary, we have another person, Joseph. We are told that Joseph was her husband who, knowing what happened (or not happened!) between him and his betrothed wife must have been even more confused than Mary. At least Mary knew what happened because what happened must have taken place in her… But Joseph was a stranger to what was going on in Mary’s life, and his surprise to Mary’s pregnancy suggests to us that Joseph knew he was not the biological father to the child that Mary was carrying. But we are told that he was a man of honour for “he wanted to spare her publicity” and to do so, Joseph decided to “divorce her informally” i.e. he wanted to save his own reputation, and, in a way, save hers as well. For if the divorce went ahead (formally), would anyone actually believe that Joseph did not do anything? And besides, even if they accept that Joseph didn’t do anything, Joseph would still lose reputation because the alternative conclusion, naturally, will be that Mary must have been with another man and became pregnant with child while being betrothed to Joseph, and Mary would be taken as a woman of mean and low reputation. Once he decided to leave her, things became even more complicated.  Like Mary (at the ‘Annunciation’), he had a vision, but unlike Mary, his vision was in a dream. It was in this dream that it was explained to Joseph what was happening around him. And it was in this dream that Joseph understood that what was said to him by Mary was true. It was when the angel of the Lord told him about what was written in the Prophets that he “accepted” to take Mary back as his wife to his home.

It is quite amazing how these two people managed to “survive” both morally and emotionally after what has happened to them, to their lives, and to their relationship. It is strange how, after all this, they did not lose their reputation, but are “hailed” and seen as models to follow. It is all because of their faith. It is understandable why they are both looked at with admiration and awe for despite these experiences, they believed that the word of God was true and it is never to be doubted! How is our faith in the coming of the Lord?

“Lord, give us the gift of faith so that we too can believe that what is happening in our lives during this festive season is because You want to be with us. 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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