December 22, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A
Last Sunday, meeting the figure of the Baptist, we saw that accepting the Lord necessarily involves going through a difficult moment, a crisis. And this because welcoming Him it is necessary to open oneself to a radical newness, it’s necessary to make room for a God who goes beyond our expectations, who fulfills them in a way that is not what we would have thought.
We see the same thing today in another important person who guides our steps in Advent: Joseph.
Joseph also is in a difficult situation, in the apparent impossibility of piecing together all that is happening: his love for Mary, on the one hand, and that fact of her pregnancy, on the other. Besides the Law, which commanded that every adulterous woman be put to death.
The text unfolds this drama: on the one hand, Joseph was just, a righteous man (Mt. 1:19), observant of the Law, he could not keep an adulterous woman with him. On the other hand, he loved Mary, and so he did not want to accuse her publicly (Mt 1:19).
While Joseph is pondering all these things (Mt 1:20), an angel appeared to him in a dream, who speaks to him and takes him further beyond.
The first thing that appears important to note is that Joseph, at this dramatic moment, has the significant experience of being known. The angel reveals to him his own thoughts, shows him that his drama, his labor, his pain, are known to God. “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife…” (Mt 1:20). God is concerned primarily with Joseph, his suffering, concerned with untying the not in his heart: “Joseph… do not be afraid!” Joseph experiences that God has not abandoned him. Without this first step, the successive steps would not be possible.
The second important thing the angel does is that of giving Mary back to Joseph as wife: do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife (Mt 1:20). Mary is therefore not an adulteress and not even any woman. Mary is “your wife” and it is by the will of God: He calls her so.
Joseph is called by God to enter this story, to take on this responsibility, this paternity.
No righteous man could have done it without being called to it by God. It is not a matter of doing one’s work, as much as, on the contrary, what God gives you, what he gives you, personally, and you can only do it if you are called.
Then there is a third step: the angel reveals to Joseph the mystery that has enveloped Mary, the work that the Spirit of God has begotten in her.
And so, the situation changes radically, Joseph’s view changes. The very fact that first forced him to repudiate Mary although in secret, now calls him to accept here, to take her to himself. What first separated him from her, now unites him to her even more intimately.
At this point, Joseph, like Mary, like the Baptist, must choose. He heard a shocking announcement, something that surpasses his intelligence and powers. But since he is a just man, he chooses to trust God more than he trusts himself, his ideas and his fears.
Therefore, as soon as he awakens, Joseph obeys what he heard, and so make the fulfillment of God’s work possible, His desire of salvation for man.