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The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Joseph’s dream


a_fourthsundayofadvent-josephs-dreamThe Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ December 18, 2016

We’re quite used to hearing St. Luke’s version of the Annunciation story. But we’re in the A-cycle of readings this year that features the Gospel of Matthew.

Matthew’s Annunciation story is less known, so I’ve placed the entire text here for us to look at, because it’s a bit convoluted for our western mindset. With the help of our Scripture-scholar William Barclay and others, I’ll try to help us unpack this for us.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel
,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

Here’s where the confusion lies.  

 First, the text says that “Mary was betrothed to Joseph but before they were living together she was found with child.”  Then it says, “since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Then after the angel makes his Announcement that Mary will bear a son and told him not to be afraid of taking Mary into his home.

 Barclay indicates that in Jewish marriage procedure there were three steps.

1) There was the engagement, which was often made when the couple were only children, usually through the parents or through a professional matchmaker.

2) There was the betrothal, or the ratification of the betrothal. Once the betrothal was entered into it was absolutely binding. It lasted for one year. During that year the couple were known as man and wife. It was at this stage that Mary and Joseph were. And Joseph wanted to end the betrothal, which could happen in no other way than by divorce.  Mary was legally known as his wife during that year.  

3) The third stage was the marriage proper.  

                                        Barclay/ The Gospel of Matthew – Volume 1 p.18

Now let’s take a deeper look at the meaning of Matthew’s Annunciation story.

Bishop Robert Baron offers a beautiful commentary for us . . . .

When Moses asked God for his name, the Lord enigmatically responds  I am who am.  Hebrew scholars tells us that the root sense of the [Hebrew word] is ” I will be with you.” God identifies himself as the one who had pledged his solidarity with his suffering people Israel.  

Writing during a time of particular trial in the history of the chosen people God will send a sign:

The virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and shall name him Emmanuel,

which carries the sense that God is with us.  

And has he wrestles with the terrible dilemma of what to do with his betrothed who had become pregnant, Joseph dreams of an angel who tells him to take Mary as his wife.

She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”  

God’s truest name and most distinctive quality is he will be with us. In good times and in bad, during periods of light and darkness, when we are rejoicing or grieving, God is stubbornly with us, EMMANUEL!  

And here’s one more thought for you about our dear St. Joseph . . . .

When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home. 

The word awoke has the greater meaning of “to arise, to get up.”  Gospel awakening / arising marks the beginning of a graced, personal transformation. One is struck by the rapid succession of these five verbs [he rosehe did, he took, he did not know, he called], indicating a sense of swiftness in everything Joseph did following his dream.

Joseph is the obedient man of action whose every move is attentive to the will of God.

He is the man called upon to love, cherish, nurture and protect the Mother and the Child while at the same time having to accomplish a profound renunciation of natural instincts.    

His vocation is to be the visible fatherhood of God on earth. 

O dear St. Joseph,  

how I’ve come to love you even more

in the four hours writing this blog.

Tears are forming in my eyes.

I seldom think of you or pray to you, dear St. Joseph.

What a wonderful story St. Matthew weaves for us!

Help us, then, prepare for Jesus coming into our hearts.

And help me to be more like you. 

Strong. Silent. Caring. Always there.  

Thank you for what I’ve learned tonight in these wee hours.  

What a grace! 

And what about you, dear friends?

What do you take away from this story?

We only have five more days to prepare our hearts to receive our Lord and Savior.  

Are you ready?

And now before you go, here’s the great Advent hymn, O Come, O Come Emmanuel. Click here.   

And here are today’s Mass readings. Click here.  

With love, 

Bob Traupman

contemplative writer 

Bishop Robert Baron is an auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and a regular contributor to the Magnificat  monthly liturgical magazine from which this article was selected for December 18th. p. 266

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One comment on “The Fourth Sunday of Advent ~ Joseph’s dream

  1. That God is with us always! That joseph must have been a holy man for God to choose him to father his son! That joseph trusted God at his word and had great faith! He protected Jesus while he was in his care! That joseph was a great role model for men to look to as what a father should be! Thank you father Bob for sharing your writings with me, I have enjoyed reading and pondering your messages of this advent! I feel closer to Jesus sorry for offending him daily trying to change to be more like him which is a challenge and do look foward to his coming, only hope he is compassionate as I hear in the readings. I love Jesus more than ever and know by his word that only true peace will come when he comes again! In the world there is so much evil and it will continue as long as man is in control, thats where my hope begins knowing God will have the last word! Love you fr. Bob

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