Is 7.10 to 14; Ps 24; Rom 1, 1-7; Mt 1.18 to 24
Is 62, 10-63,3b; Ps 71; Fil 4.4 to 9; Lk 1, 26-38
6th Sunday of Advent
Incarnation Sunday or of the Divine Maternity of the Blessed Virgin Mary
1) A model of waiting: Joseph
On the first Sunday of Advent, the liturgy invited us to live intensely the waiting of the Expected One as lived by the Virgin Mary, not letting our hearts become asleep because of our many concerns.
On the second Sunday of this waiting time, we have been invited to a constant conversion. For the Word to be accepted, we must listen to it and welcome it changing our mind and heart so that (conversion) is really possible.
The third Sunday, in making us reflect on the experience of the painful prison and the doubt of St. John the Baptist, has taught us that we must have faith in the Word. Otherwise, it remains a dead letter and certainly not Spirit and Life. This Word is Life and source of joy.
On the fourth Sunday of Advent, the liturgy, after having asked in the previous ones to live Advent as John the Baptist and the Virgin Mary have lived the waiting for Christ, offers us a third model of how to live Advent: the one of San Joseph.
Therefore, on this Sunday, the Church asks us to live the few days that separate us from Christmas as St. Joseph lived the days that have passed from the night full of fear, in which – in a dream – he received the announcement that in Mary, his betrothed, was growing the Life, to the night full of joy, when the Son of God was born in the stable of Bethlehem.
The journey that Joseph shows us is clear, from listening to the Word pronounced by an angel in a dream to the trusting abandonment to the will of God that asks him to be the guardian of the Redeemer who is about to be born.
Humanly speaking Giuseppe is great, because, knowing and truly loving Mary, he surrenders in front of the conception of Mary, does not discuss the causes of the unexplained pregnancy and chooses the way humanly more merciful. He defends the dignity of Mary, giving up a public rejection – the custom of the time that would have meant to condemn Mary to the contempt of all – and dismisses her ‘silently’.
Divinely speaking, Joseph is great because when God enlightens him about the true identity of the Son of Mary, born not by a man but by the Holy Spirit, Joseph returns to his decision (that is, he converts) and “takes her as his bride” . He converted changing his way of thinking. This conversion of the mind implied a change of life. To be the guardian of the Redeemer, he lived the waiting for his birth not waiting for an idea, but for a person. For him, Christmas meant to receive the visit by a person, an encounter that changed his life. He organized his life to guard the Life and donate it to the world.
Let’s humbly ask for the grace to be able to follow this legal father of Jesus. Let’s not forget, however, that the adjective “legal” is derived from the noun “law”, but it is the law of Charity. Let’s contemplate amazedly and imitate tenaciously the active faith of Saint Joseph and his total surrender to what the Lord asks him to do in front of the mystery of the conception and birth of Jesus: to be its “legal father.” This expression is more proper than that of “putative father.”. In fact, San Joseph is not a father just because the common opinion considers him so. He is a father indeed as Saint Augustine wrote: “Joseph is not the father by virtue of flesh but by virtue of charity.”
2) Yes, three times.
Let us now reflect on the final sentence of today’s Gospel: “When he awoke from sleep, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife with him” (Mt.1, 14). The husband of Mary said yes to God not talking but doing. In silence, the carpenter of Nazareth accepted and fulfilled the task of being the head of the family, who protects the growth of Christ in the world. He is the man to whom God the Father has entrusted His Son to be guarded and protected. He succeeded thanks to this simple logical and practical sequence that he always applied: he has always operated and embodied the word that he had heard.
He is the legal father of Christ because he lived a paternity that was expressed concretely fulfilling the task of “guardian of the Redeemer” (St. John Paul II) and making his life “a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; having used the legal authority, which was his, to make a total gift of himself, of his life, of his work; having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, of his heart and of any possibility in love put at the service of the Messiah germinated in his house” ( Pope Paull VI, Teachings , IV, 1966)
Thanks to the silent “yes” of Joseph, Mary, the woman of the total “yes” to God, had a home where the Word of God, who had said “yes”, became the Emmanuel, God with us, for us and in us. As St. Paul says, in Christ there was not ‘yes’ and ‘no’, but only ‘yes’ (see 2 Cor 1: 18-19). In Gethsemane we remember the act of entrustment of Jesus to the Father’s will: not my will but your will be done, Father (see. Lk 22, 42)). Psalm 39 makes us pray: “Sacrifice and offering you do not want; you opened my ears. Holocaust and sin-offering you do not request; so I said, “See; I come”. And in the letter to the Hebrews: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; holocausts and sin offerings you took no delight in. Then I said, ‘As is written of me in the scroll, Behold, I come to do your will, O God.“(10: 5-10)
3) The yes of the Virgins consecrated in the world: a yes inside the three.
We all want to be like Mary and Joseph, and with them being the home of Christ. We are all called to be witnesses of the Word that not only affects the ears, but also the hearts opening them and living there permanently.
If you now ask which “utility” has the devotion to St. Joseph for consecrated virgins, who with their yes commit themselves to be special witnesses of the fruitfulness of the Word, I would answer that it helps to live in the humility of staying in the place chosen for them by the Father. Through his complete self-sacrifice, Joseph expressed his generous love for the Mother of God, making a spousal gift of self in a virginal way. Even if he had decided to withdraw, in order not to hinder the plan of God that was taking place in her, he obeys to the angelic orders, keeps her with him and respects her exclusive belonging to God.
Moreover, virginity is the imitation of the way in which Joseph lived his affection for Jesus and for the Virgin Mary and anticipates the complete way to live affections in the eternal life. From this, flows the way to live motherhood and fatherhood for those who consecrate themselves to God. But it should never be forgot that to generate we must have been generated and to be fathers and mothers we must not only have been, but still be children. Being generated by love makes us, in turn, able to transmit and to donate life. Hence the importance of living an actual membership of the Church, of which St. Joseph is the patron.
Following the example of Jesus, Mary and Joseph let’s say our ‘yes’. Then our lives will be transformed by God’s mercy.
Saint John Chrysostom
“So all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations, and from David until the carrying away into Babylon are fourteen generations, and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ are fourteen generations.”
He hath divided all the generations into three portions, to indicate that not even when their form of government was changed did they become better, but alike under an aristocracy, and under a king, and under an oligarchy, they were in the same evil ways, and whether popular leaders, or priests, or kings controlled them, it was no advantage to them in the way of virtue.
But wherefore hath he in the middle portion passed over three kings, and in the last, having set down twelve generations, affirmed them to be fourteen? The former question I leave for you to examine;1 for neither is it needful for me to explain all things to you, lest ye should grow indolent: but the second we will explain.2 To me then he seems in this place to be putting in the place of a generation, both the time of the captivity, and Christ Himself, by every means connecting Him with us. And full well doth he put us in mind of that captivity, making it manifest that not even when they went down thither, did they become more sober-minded; in order that from everything His coming may be shown to be necessary.
“Why then,” one may say, “doth not Mark do this, nor trace Christ’s genealogy, but utter everything briefly?” It seems to me that Matthew was before the rest in entering on the subject (wherefore he both sets down the genealogy with exactness, and stops at those things which require it): but that Mark came after him, which is why he took a short course, as putting his hand to what had been already spoken and made manifest.
How is it then that Luke not only traces the genealogy, but doth it through a greater number? As was natural, Matthew having led the way, he seeks to teach us somewhat in addition to former statements. And each too in like manner imitated his master; the one Paul, who flows fuller than any river; the other Peter, who studies brevity.
And what may be the reason that Matthew said not at the beginning, in the same way as the prophet, “the vision which I saw,” and “the word which came unto me”? Because he was writing unto men well disposed, and exceedingly attentive to him. For both the miracles that were done cried aloud, and they who received the word were exceeding faithful. But in the case of the prophets, there were neither so many miracles to proclaim them; and besides, the tribe of the false prophets, no small one, was riotously breaking in upon them: to whom the people of the Jews gave even more heed. This kind of opening therefore was necessary in their case.
And if ever miracles were done, they were done for the aliens’ sake, to increase the number of the proselytes; and for manifestation of God’s power, if haply their enemies having taken them captives, fancied they prevailed, because their own gods were mighty: like as in Egypt, out of which no small “mixed multitude”4 went up; and, after that, in Babylon, what befell touching the furnace and the dreams. And miracles were wrought also, when they were by themselves in the wilderness; as also in our case: for among us too, when we had just come out of error, many wonderful works were shown forth; but afterwards they stayed, when in all countries true religion had taken root.
And what took place at a later period5 were few and at intervals; for example, when the sun stood still in its course, and started back in the opposite direction. And this one may see to have occurred in our case also. For so even in our generation, in the instance of him who surpassed all in ungodliness, I mean Julian, many strange things happened. Thus when the Jews were attempting to raise up again the temple at Jerusalem, fire burst out from the foundations, and utterly hindered them all; and when both his treasurer,6 and his uncle and namesake, made the sacred vessels the subject of their open insolence, the one was “eaten with worms, and gave up the ghost,”7 the other “burst asunder in the midst.” Moreover, the fountains failing,8 when sacrifices were made there, and the entrance of the famine into the cities together with the emperor himself, was a very great sign. For it is usual with God to do such things; when evils are multiplied, and He sees His own people afflicted, and their adversaries greatly intoxicated with their dominion over them, then to display His own power; which he did also in Persia with respect to the Jews.