Reflections for the 4th Sunday of Advent Yr. A- December 18, 2022.
(Isaiah 7: 10-14; Romans 1: 1-7; Matt. 1: 18-24)
APOSTLES OF THE OBEDIENCE OF FAITH by Fr KCK
At the beginning of Paul’s letter to the Romans (today’s 2nd reading), he wrote of the mission to preach the obedience of faith to the pagan nations. He is preaching obedience of faith by declaring a piece of good news that has been promised long ago through the prophets. Paul’s mission was in the tradition of the prophets and holy men and women, whose mission it was to announce Immanuel. But they all were subjects of the obedience of faith themselves.
Obedience of faith can be expressed in another way as obedience arising out of faith. The promise of God took such a long time in human reckoning. Many upheavals caused many to lose hope and turned to anything socially expedient. Yet each prophet of Immanuel remained different. Characteristically they were called to obedience in ways that would seem irrational. Abraham had that kind of faith. Out of his faith, he obeyed and set out into unknown territories. Out of the same faith, he was willing to obey to sacrifice Isaac. That would be irrational for us today. In the first reading, Ahaz king of Judah was frightened because the kings of Aram and Israel were advancing against them. They were capable of annihilating them. Ahaz wanted to recourse to the king of Assyria for protection. Isaiah saw differently and warned Ahaz not to. Ahaz was weak and faint of heart, and would not even ask for a sign because he was determined to place Judah under Assyria instead of under Yahweh. Only the power of obedience of faith that looked irrational could have saved Judah then. But the people and their king did not have it. Yet Isaiah gave them the sign of Immanuel. Only a prophet of obedience of faith could have seen differently how God would be able to save a nation amid such a threat just as we face today.
In today’s gospel, Joseph demonstrated the obedience of faith. It can only be a man of strong faith that can obey what Joseph obeyed – to take Mary as his wife. Even under the pretext of being told that Mary conceived in the power of the Holy Spirit, it was still not easy for Joseph because it was unprecedented to hear that a woman was pregnant without the natural process. Joseph had no obligation to obey what was surely irrational. Only a different faith could inspire such obedience. And we do not know how many men today can obey like Joseph amid such hard evidence.
In our society today, we are facing lots of unnameable ills. Families and marriages are under undue stress as has never been witnessed before. Young people are into such forms of debased life as far as eating human flesh perhaps in search of money. Leaders have long abandoned the leader, and corruption has covered society as water covers a sea. There is confusion and fear. And people continue to do all things that seem to conform to the prevalent standards in society just to stay alive. Society looks hopeless. Only people with a different form of obedience to the will of God arising from their faith can make a difference in our society today. But who is ready to pick up the gauntlet or bell the cat?
Can we see Christian fathers or husbands who are willing out of their faith in the Christian marriage and family, to take their wives as Joseph took Mary even when every piece of evidence is against the woman? And so also for the wives to take their husbands? Can we see young people who refuse to follow what everyone seems to be doing because of their faith, even when thought foolish? Can we see Christian priests and pastors who are like Isaiah ready to insist on faith and obedience in God and act so in their own lives rather than follow what everyone is doing in society – especially the craze for wealth? Where are the crazy-looking John the Baptist of the wilderness, where are the Josephs of honour and integrity, where are the believing Mary and where are the hopeful Zacharias and Elizabeths? Where are the pious obedient people of faith?
This kind of obedience may be a tall order for our time. Yet the scriptures testify that such obedience of faith has been what made the difference in history. No matter how hopeless the situations and society can be, the faithful God of promises continues to prove to his faithful apostles that their choice of obedience to him out of their faith remains the solution for history.
May God continue to hold our “thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor 10:5) so that we will be used as an apostle of obedience of faith for our own time.
THEME: A FAVOURABLE GROUND FOR THE ARRIVAL OF THE EMMANUELBY:
by REV. FR. JUSTIN ADIELE
The last Sunday of Advent already echoes the arrival of Emmanuel, the son of God and the Christ who will bring God’s salvation upon the world. All these while, the readings have been calling us to prepare the way/path for his arrival, levelling every rugged/crooked ground in our life. The Emmanuel can be very selective as to where He will first arrive and where He will begin his saving mission and reign of righteousness, justice, peace and joy. He chose the lineage of David for a reason; that reason becomes the scorecard for our Advent preparations.
THE FIRST READING (IS. 7: 10 – 14)
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah prophesied to the house of David who has been the least to weary God or the least to offend God. Among you, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call his name Emmanuel. The house of David became a hint for us to know where God would certainly love and choose to arrive; a man/house after God’s own heart; a house that readily repents after offending God’s commands; a house that readily recalls all the Lord has done for them with thanksgiving; a house that readily chooses God’s promises, terms, conditions and even punishments over that of the world.
THE SECOND READING (ROM. 1: 1 – 7)
In the second reading, St. Paul also confirmed the descent of the Son of God from the house of David from where we all now share/receive the grace of apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among all nations; and now called to belong to the house of Jesus Christ. To belong to the house of David and consequently to Christ, we must trust and obey the words and promises of God.
THE GOSPEL READING (MT. 1: 18 – 24)
The gospel reading echoed the fulfilment of the prophecy of Jesus’ arrival through the lineage/house of David. Joseph was about 28 generations from David, preserving the line of righteousness and fidelity to God like his forefathers. Joseph has acclaimed a just man who listens to and obeys God’s words. The message is very clear: the favourable landing place for the coming Emmanuel is in a just, pure, and righteous house and heart. We must purify ourselves, our hearts, and our homes of all evils, sin, wickedness, injustice, infidelity and disobedience.
By faith, we have all been initiated into the line of David in waiting, echoing and welcoming the reign of the Emmanuel. Let righteousness, justice, tolerance, peace, love, holiness and true fidelity to God prevail in our homes, in our hearts and our lineage! Let the Lord, the king of glory enter through every home spreading his grace and blessings to all who seek him. May God find favour with our homes and grace them with the saving presence of his Son Jesus this coming Christmas!
Reflection on the GOSPEL READING (Matthew 1:18-24)
DREAMING OF CHRISTMAS by Rev Fr Julian O Ekeh
The celebration of the Nativity of the Lord draws nearer and nearer. Today is the last Sunday before the great solemnity. We are called to reflect on the way the holy birth came about. Our special interest will centre on two personalities: Mary and Joseph the dreamer of the New Testament.
Our dreams of Christmas can never be thought of without these two people. We think of Mary as the maiden through whom the Saviour will come to the world. We talk of Joseph on the other hand as the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus.
As we prepare for our Christmas, as we paint the image of what we want our Christmas this year to look like can we through the aid of the Gospel today keep before us the dream of the first Christmas dreamer, what triggered it and the angelic instruction that the dream generated?
*MARY FOUND TO BE WITH CHILD*
The Gospel of today without telling how Mary got pregnant simply said that she was found to be with the child outside the knowledge of the Man she was betrothed to. It throws every reader in suspense. As for Joseph who was the Man that initially experienced all these, he was plunged into deep thought. He must have wondered who was responsible, he must have felt disappointed with Mary, and he must have blamed himself for trusting so much.
In our day-to-day life, we are faced with such moments of misunderstanding. When we do not understand anything around us when we do not seem to comprehend why things happen the way they do to us and the people we care about.
At such moments, what do we do? Flame up or keep calm?
*MARY WAS CALM*
Let us place the silence of Mary before us for a while. Let’s visualize the young innocent girl who asked some questions in the account of Luke now keeping quiet before Joseph. She never spoke. Maybe she simply said what she experienced and just shut her mouth up. Why did she do this? She did not want quarrels. She must have put herself in the shoes of Joseph to understand that he was feeling what every other man in such a situation would feel. She kept silent to avoid raising voices, attracting a third party, spreading their linen outside and disrespecting her husband. What a rare decision! This is not what many women are known for.
Can we dream of a Christmas tree from family quarrels, filled with conflict resolutions, decorated with overlooking ills done in the past? Can we start seeking the face of God before taking any serious decision?
“Being a just man” is the phrase used to describe the person of Joseph generally and with particular respect to his attitude to Mary. Joseph was yet to receive the message of the angel when on his own he took a noble decision. What was the decision of Joseph? He decided never to follow the bad injunction that encourages putting a victim of such shame publicly. Let our dream for this Christmas include removing shame from people’s faces instead of dragging them to shame. You can forgive that person without embarrassing him or her. You can hold that person’s secret and help him or her out of ugly situations instead of destroying the person’s good name. Who knows, this may attract angelic visitation to you.
*BEHOLD AN ANGEL APPEARED TO JOSEPH IN THE DREAM*
With the whole trouble in his heart, Joseph was uncomfortable. He must have found it difficult to sleep that night. Imagine him walking up and down without any other solution rather than simply divorcing Mary privately. He goes on to ask himself if there’s no better solution to the problem. And suddenly sleep struck and subsequently dream. The dream here became a medium of communication, encounter, meditation and listening to the voice of God. I want to imagine that Joseph must have prayed fervently before his sleep not to make any mistakes. And the angel appeared with an interesting message: “Joseph son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife…” That became a response to the prayer of seeking God’s face. May God send you angels both human and spiritual to deliver you when you are tempted to make bad decisions. Endeavour to follow directives from above when they come.
*FOLLOW THE MESSAGES OF YOUR DREAM*
The success people record in life depends to a large extent on the instructions they were able to obey or not. Wake from your sleep and go about what God has planned for you. Dream to make this year’s Christmas a Christmas to be remembered by preparing to follow the commands of God. Let the law of love and of God guide every one of us as we endeavour to use this last week of advent to fine-tune our Christmas preparations.
May God bless His word in our hearts
*LET US PRAY*
Thank You, Lord God, for leading us thus far in our preparation for Your Son’s birth. We commit ourselves, our confusions, our discomforts and our plans into Your holy hands.
May our good dreams of Christmas come to pass and may we be spared from every misfortune this period and always through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Happy Sunday (Advent Week 4)