4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT, A JOSEPH, THE RIGHTEOUS AND FAITHFUL ONE

“When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord told him to do, he took

his wife to his home” (Matthew 1: 24).

For the past two Sundays we have been preparing for the Birth of Christ through
the figure of John the Baptist, who came to prepare a “people fit for the Lord”
(Luke 1: 17). He called us to true repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 3: 3);
and asked us to “prepare a way for the Lord, make His path straight” (Mathew 3:
3). We learnt from his humility and submission as he turned the attention of his
disciples from himself to Jesus, whom he described as “Someone who comes after
me, who is mightier than I am; and I am not fit to undo the straps of His sandals”
(Matthew 3: 11). He is The One “who will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and
fire” (Matthew 3: 11); “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3: 30). With
John the Baptist, we should be fully ready to take in the message of the mystery
of the Incarnation of our Lord, having repented of our sins and made a way for
the Lord into our hearts and waiting eagerly to receive Him into our inn with
humility and gratitude.
And therefore, the Church turns our attention directly to the story of the Birth of
Jesus as presented by Matthew: “This is how Jesus Christ came to be born …”
(Luke1: 18). From the Readings provided I love us to reflect on the challenge of
faith zeroed on the figure of Joseph within the context of the Birth of Christ, The
Immanuel – God with us. The Letter to the Hebrews (11: 1) defines faith as “the
guarantee of the things hoped for, and the certainty of things we do not see.” The
description of faith here reveals even more about the complexities of faith; and
perhaps makes us understand why the Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard
understood faith as “a blind leapt into the unknown.” In faith nothing is certain
yet one is to believe in what he hopes for as guaranteed. The implication here,
which is very essential is that, within the Christian milieu, the one who has faith
believes in the power of Him Who is “able to do all things” (Ephesians 3: 20), for
in Him “nothing is impossible” (Matthew 19: 26; Luke 1: 37). Faith is therefore an
expression of that profound relationship between an inferior being (man) and His
God, the Superior Being. Faith inexplicably allows man to trust God and believe all

He says, either directly or indirectly, as in the case of Joseph here. Faith carries in
its sack, humility and submission to the Will of God. This plays out perfectly in our
beautiful Christmas story through the person of Joseph, foster father of Jesus.

Let us state categorically that the story of the Birth of Christ is not just a story
beautifully constructed for moral lessons; it is not some off-shoot of any pagan
mythology; it is certainly a fact of history that Jesus Christ was born to a virgin
named Mary who was betrothed to Joseph of the royal household of David.
We are presented with the post-conception encounter in the Gospel of today
(Matthew 1: 18-24): Mary had received the message from the Angel Gabriel,
given her consent; and now, Joseph, without any intimate experience with her,
has found Mary “to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1: 18). So he
was certain that he was not the father of the child in Mary’s womb. What would
you do here, if you were Joseph? Here is a man of honour, who loved his wife,
respected her, and willingly decided to “spare her publicity”; but more than that,
to spare her life. It was the custom that such a girl found to be with child from
another man was to be stoned to death. So Mary’s life was on the line. Joseph
had the option to follow the law and custom of the land or to follow his heart that
was full of love. He chose to follow his heart. In life, dear friends, we have
situations and options before us: what guides our dealings and choices? Joseph
presents himself to us as a model to always choose on the side of empathy, love
and personal conviction.
Joseph’s decision was to send Mary away but then “an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a dream and said: ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as
your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and will bear a Son, whom you
shall call Jesus for He will save His people from their sins’” (Matthew 1: 20-21). It
could have got more complicated afterwards, for this was not a reality but a
“dream”! Who believes in a dream to such an extent? This is where the faith of
Joseph comes into action. He believed this dream, accepted the word of the angel
hook, line and sinker and did as the angel told him. Without any doubts, he was
not afraid to take Mary as his wife. Matthew tells us: “When Joseph woke up, he
did what the angel of the Lord told him to do, he took his wife to his home”
(Matthew 1: 24). He loved her, cared for her through her pregnancy and together

they nurtured the growing embryo to His delivery. Then the Child was born; He
was named Immanuel, which means God-with-us; and called Jesus, which means
God saves.
One man’s faith in God has led to the salvation of the whole human race. Through
the faith of one man, God comes down to be with us to save us all. As we prepare
for the Birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us seek the intercession of St. Joseph,
the foster father of Jesus, to grant us the grace to recognise the voice of God, be
attentive to Him and act according to His dictates.