Wednesday, December 14, 2016

December 18, 2016 - The Faith and Trust of Joseph and Mary

The Fourth Sunday of Advent - Year A

Reading 1: Isaiah 7:10-14
Response: Psalm 24
Reading 2: Romans 1:1-7
Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24

In today’s Gospel, we hear of the dilemmas of Joseph and Mary, as they face the circumstances around the conception of Jesus. Mary is pregnant, and Joseph to whom she is betrothed is not the father. In their society, a woman pregnant out of wedlock was to be stoned to death.

Joseph is torn because he is an observer of the law, yet he is too much in love with Mary to carry out the law. He very reluctantly decides to divorce her quietly. He knows Mary’s goodness, but doubts may have crept in. Did he ask Mary how she came to be with child? Did he question her answer? 

In the picture above, we see Joseph trying to sleep. The picture suggests that he is in emotional turmoil, probably unable to sleep. God sends an angel to reassure him that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit and that he is to take her to his home.

On Mary’s side, how heartbreaking to see the emotional pain of Joseph, and experience her own, as she senses the disdain of those who now consider her a sinful woman! How she must have been hurt by the contempt in the eyes of her neighbors! Was she anxious about her child? Would he be considered illegitimate? Would he be mistreated? How could she convince Joseph that she had been faithful to him?

God didn’t have to allow all this turbulence in the relationship between Mary and Joseph. Couldn’t He have spared them all that suffering? Surely, there would be another option. Then, why did God allow all this suffering? Could it be so that the relationship between Mary and Joseph could deepen? How grateful Mary must have been when Joseph took her to his home. How grateful Joseph must have felt when Mary still loved him in spite of his questioning her faithfulness. How tender their love must have become!

What about their relationships with God? Did that deepen as a result of the trials they had experienced? Their faith and trust had been sorely tested. However, by grace, they were able to be faithful to God, and to one another.

This seems to be one of the ways the Lord works with us humans. If the pain and suffering are accepted with His help and that of others, they can bring us closer to Him and to one another. On the other hand, there are those who become bitter instead of better with suffering. Let us ask the Lord to help us to become more holy, following the example of Joseph and Mary.

During this season of Advent, let us remember that God is our Fortress. He is our Strength. He is our Father who knows what is for our ultimate good. Let us deepen our faith and trust in Him, as did Joseph and Mary!

Spanish Translation of Reflection Above...

La fe y la confianza de José y María

En el Evangelio de hoy, oímos hablar de los dilemas de José y María, cuando enfrentan las circunstancias alrededor de la concepción de Jesús. María está embarazada, y José a quien está prometida no es el padre. En su sociedad, una mujer embarazada fuera del matrimonio iba a ser apedreada hasta la muerte.

José está desgarrado porque es un observador de la ley, pero está demasiado enamorado de María para llevar a cabo la ley. Él muy a regañadientes decide divorciarse de ella en silencio. Él conoce la bondad de María, pero es posible que haya habido dudas. ¿Le preguntó a María cómo había llegado a estar con su hijo? ¿Preguntó su respuesta?

En la foto de arriba, vemos a José tratando de dormir. El cuadro sugiere que él está en la agitación emocional, probablemente incapaz de dormir. Dios envía un ángel para tranquilizarle que el niño fue concebido por el Espíritu Santo y que él debe llevarla a su casa.

¡De parte de María, cuán desgarrador es ver el dolor emocional de José, y experimentar la suya, al sentir el desprecio de aquellos que ahora la consideran una mujer pecadora! ¡Cómo debió haber sido herida por el desprecio a los ojos de sus vecinos! ¿Estaba ansiosa por su hijo? ¿Sería considerado ilegítimo? ¿Sería maltratado? ¿Cómo podía convencer a José de que le había sido fiel?

Dios no tuvo que permitir toda esta turbulencia en la relación entre María y José. ¿No les habría podido ahorrar todo ese sufrimiento? Seguramente, habría otra opción. Entonces, ¿por qué Dios permitió todo este sufrimiento? ¿Podría ser para que la relación entre María y José pudiera profundizarse? Cuán agradecida María debe haber sido cuando José la llevó a su casa. ¡Cuán agradecido José debe haber sentido cuando María todavía lo amaba a pesar de su cuestionamiento de su fidelidad. ¡Qué tierna debe haber sido su amor!

¿Qué pasa con sus relaciones con Dios? ¿Esto se profundizó como resultado de las pruebas que habían experimentado? Su fe y su confianza habían sido muy probadas. Sin embargo, por gracia, fueron capaces de ser fieles a Dios, ya los unos a los otros.

Esta parece ser una de las maneras en que el Señor trabaja con nosotros, los humanos. Si el dolor y el sufrimiento son aceptados con Su ayuda y la de otros, pueden acercarnos más a Él ya los demás. Por otro lado, hay quienes se vuelven amargos en vez de mejor con el sufrimiento. Pidamos al Señor que nos ayude a ser más santos, siguiendo el ejemplo de José y María.

Durante esta temporada de Adviento, recordemos que Dios es nuestra Fortaleza. Él es nuestra Fuerza. Él es nuestro Padre que sabe lo que es para nuestro bien supremo. ¡Aprofundemos nuestra fe y confianza en Él, como José y María!


  1. It is very consoling to remember that "God is our fortress. He is our strength." We all experience troubles and they often seem crucially serious. We urgently need divine help. Thank you, Sister.

    The Responsorial Psalm for this Sunday seems very appropriate. We are preparing in special ways at this time to celebrate the coming of the divine Infant, who is truly the "king of glory".

    The following quotations are from a General Audience by Pope John Paul II:

    "The ancient chant of the People of God that we just heard resounded in the temple of Jerusalem. To be able to grasp the main thrust of the prayer, we must keep in mind three basic affirmations.

    The first is the truth of creation: God has created the world and is its Lord. The second is the judgement to which he submits his creatures: we must appear before him and be questioned about what we have done. The third is the mystery of God's coming: he comes into the universe and into history and desires to be free to establish a relationship of intimate communion with human beings. A modern commentator said: "These are the three elementary forms of the experience of God and of our relationship with God; we live by the work of God, we live before God and we can live with God." (G. Ebeling, 'On the Psalms')"

    "The Lord is the creator who has all the stars of heaven as his army, that is, the creatures of the universe who obey him. In the book of the prophet Baruch we read: 'Before whom the stars at their posts shine and rejoice; when he calls them, they answer, 'Here we are!' - shining with joy for their creator' (Bar 3, 34-35). The infinite, almighty and eternal God adapts himself to the human creature, draws near to meet, listen and enter into communion with him. The liturgy is the expression of this coming together in faith, dialogue and love."

    Pope John Paul II
    Audience: June 20, 2001

  2. While waiting in the checkout line in the supermarket this evening I was reading the highlights of the magazines on display when I noticed the December Readers Digest. The theme of the edition was “Miracles, True Stories of Love…” Having read your blog at lunchtime, I thought that the story of Joseph and Mary belonged in that issue.
    The Gospel tells the story of a remarkable couple whose relationship withstood profound challenges as a result of their unshakeable faith, love, and trust in God and in one another.
    My first thought was of the depth of Mary’s trust in God. I always envisioned Mary as a young woman deeply rooted in her faith who enjoyed a personal relationship with God. Asked to participate in God’s miraculous plan, Mary was shaken, as evidenced by Angel Gabriel’s assurance that she need not be afraid. She knew the risks. To be able to respond “yes” to God’s momentous invitation, Mary had to trust that God would take care of all the consequences. Joseph might abandon her. The neighbors would surely gossip. Would her child bear the social stigma of illegitimacy throughout his life? She could be stoned to death for fornication. These were huge concerns, yet Mary chose submission to the will of God in spite of her fears.
    While confusion and conflict must have weighed heavily on Joseph’s mind, faith in God was rooted in his soul and he held deep love for Mary in his heart. Could he believe her story? My personal thought is that he took a “divine pause” to pray on his course of action. In that prayerful space Joseph was able to hear and trust the angel’s message that it was God’s will for him to take Mary as his wife, “for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.” In doing so, Joseph also chose to listen to the voice of God rather than the voice of fear.
    How sweet and tender their reunion must have been recognizing that God, indeed, brought them together to carry out His plan. As you suggest, the unrest resulting from the supernatural events that occurred served to deepen their love for one another and to strengthen their faith and trust in God.
    Looking back over my own life I can see that the challenges I experienced have made me a better person in that I recognize my dependency on God. It is through His grace that I am able to surrender to his will and release my need to be in control. There are times, however, when I struggle to surrender because I fear what might be asked of me. For me, trust is an ongoing process. The more I surrender, the more I trust and when I’m stuck I’ve learned that it is OK to ask the Lord to help me to trust Him.
    With only one more week of waiting and preparing for Christ to be born anew in my heart and soul, I hope to enter into that meditative prayerful space that Mary and Joseph entered into so that I can discern the will of God for my life at this time.