THEME: CHALLENGES PRECEDING THE SAVIOUR’S BIRTH
READINGS: Isaiah 7:10-14/ Romans 1:1-7 / Matthew 1:18-24
4th Sunday of Advent
God so loved the world that He sent His only Son for our salvation (cf. John 3:16)! This is the greatest news ever! To accomplished this mission of salvation, God willed that the Blessed Virgin Mary would conceive and give birth to the Saviour (cf. gospel reading). His birth, which we joyfully celebrate at Christmas, was however not without challenges.
The first challenge: how can the divine and sinless Son of God become “flesh” in the womb of the Immaculate Virgin Mary without being affected by original sin? To remain sinless, the conception of Jesus had to occur without the contribution of the spouse of the sinless Mary. Hence, the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and she conceived by a unique divine miracle. This, however, created the second challenge.
Second challenge: Imagine very good Christian young man and woman preparing for Holy Matrimony. They had promised to remain faithful to each other for life and to desist from pre-marital sex. Then, two months to the scheduled date of the wedding the lady (in distress) informed the groom-to-be (who had had no relations with her) that she was pregnant. Probably the first thought that would come to the young man is that his lady had cheated on him. So, he would call off the wedding. St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary had a similar challenge.
Third challenge: Conflict between the Law of Moses and the fear of God. Whereas, under the Law of Moses, St. Joseph had the right to divorce his expectant spouse, whose pregnancy he was not responsible for, he was a God-fearing man who loved her. Yet if what he suspected was true, then he could not live with a spouse who had not been faithful. Hence, he decided to divorce her quietly. This, however, had the potential of raising eyebrows in the village.
Fourth challenge: The consequence of a possible divorce. Yes, the Virgin Mary trusted the message of Angel Gabriel that: “Hail … the Lord is with you! … With God nothing is impossible” (Lk. 1:28, 37), yet she had to deal with the possibility of being divorced, and the consequence of being stoned in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deut. 22:20-24). God had to intervene, otherwise the unimaginable would have happened: losing the Saviour even before His birth. Hence, St. Joseph was sent a message through a dream (cf. gospel reading).
Fifth challenge: Should the message of the dream be trusted? The Virgin Mary had the benefit of receiving her message directly from the angel. St. Joseph, however, did not have that privilege. His message came through a dream. Should he believe the message or take it as coming from an obsession of a young lady he loved so much? Yes, Joseph loved Mary a lot, but what aided him the more to take the right decision was his God-fearing faith. That is, he eventually believed that the Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Other challenges: there were other challenges (e.g., the arduous journey with the expectant Mother Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the fact that they found no room there, etc.).
Great news! Despite all the challenges, the great news (which has been repeated countless times in the past 2000 years) is that the birth of our Saviour eventually took place. This was so, because the divine interventions were more powerful than all the challenges – truly with God nothing is impossible! So beloved, whatever challenges we may experience – whether in marriage, family, business, studies, health, or faith – let us trust that with God nothing is impossible. Then, by the intervention of Emmanuel – God-with-us – smiles will eventually follow the storms of our lives. Amen!
By Very Rev. Fr. John K. Louis