Saturday, December 18, 2010

In the end, and against all odds, God will prevail (Reflections on the Gospel of the 4th Sunday of Advent, Mt. 1:18-24: Joseph the Righteous Man)

Joseph, whom the Gospel calls a “righteous man”, discovers that Mary, his betrothed, is with child. The problem is they haven’t had any relations with each other. In Jewish Law, a man already had legal rights to a woman betrothed to him, even if they weren't married yet. If found pregnant by another man Mary could be put to death.

Joseph thus finds himself in a bind. Being a “righteous man”, he wanted to show loyalty and kindness to Mary, while at the same time obey the Law’s command not to approve adultery. And so he decides that in order not “to put Mary to shame”, he would just divorce her quietly.

However, Joseph’s human calculations, though sincere and just, are cut short by a sudden divine intervention. He dreams of an angel who tells him not to fear to take Mary as his wife, for it is all part of God’s plan of salvation. And Joseph, just man that we was, did as the angel told him.

The story of Joseph is our story as well. How many occasions have arisen in our lives, when in spite of our best efforts, we suddenly encounter seeming dead-ends, seemingly unresolvable dilemmas, insurmountable problems, sometimes even the absence of meaning? And these occasions arise even if, most of the time, we are “doing our best”.

Moreover, in our lives as Christians, and in the life of the church, there are moments when because of our convictions, we find ourselves holding the minority opinion, when because of our sincere efforts to live our faith, we find ourselves ridiculed, and we find ourselves witnessing silently to the values and principles we hold dear.

It is at such moments when the message of today’s readings becomes truly relevant, in Advent, and at every day of the year. In the first reading in fact, we hear of God’s promise of His continuing presence and concern for Abraham and David’s descendants.

It’s the very same promise we see operating in Joseph’s life. Joseph, a just man, faced with a serious difficulty, held on to his faith, and believed that God’s plan, mysterious as this can be at times, always eventually works out for the best—for those who trust. As Joseph, the “righteous man,” believed, so must we. For in the end, and against all odds, God will prevail; His plan will triumph, and He will never abandon one who has placed his trust completely in Him.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)