v We have reached the last Sunday before Christmas, we have made the journey of preparation for the celebration of the coming of the Lord among us.
v The readings present this reality announced in the Old Testament (First reading) fulfilled in the New Testament (Gospel) and continued in the Church (second reading)
FIRST READING Is 7:10-14
Ø The prophet in the name of God says to the king that he can ask for a sign from God.
Ø Let us see the meaning of this petition.
Ø The prophets look at the political, social and economic situation, and say to the those in leadership and to the people how they are unfaithful to the covenant by the way they live their life, and how to change their ways.
Ø Israel is already divided in two kingdoms Northern and Southern. Ahaz the king of the Southern Kingdom, Judah, is about to become a vassal of the king of Assyria in order to escape the destruction of his country.
Ø The prophet not knowing how to make the king understand that what he plans to do will lead all to ruin, tells the king to ask for a sign from God to know what to do.
Ø The king does not want to ask for a sign, apparently moved by reverence.
Ø But the answer of the prophet "do not tire my God" helps us to understand that the attitude of the king was not sincere.
Ø What is the sign that God will give? It is a sign of life, in spite of destruction and oppression God always creates and nurtures life
Ø It is the announcement of the birth of a child, the son of a young woman. This child is probably one of the sons of the king, son of one of his wives.
Ø What does that sign mean? We will find the answer on verse 16, do not be afraid Ahaz, and in your desperation do not make covenant with the oppressor, because within a few month, the time for a child to be formed in his mother's womb, the danger will be no more, these powers will no longer be a danger.
Ø History tells us that Ahaz made covenant with the foreign powers and it was a total ruin, but for us Christians of the 21st century, what does that mean?
Ø The child announced was born in the time of Ahaz, but the prophecies, since they come from God, transcend time and space, and have diverse levels of understanding, of interpretation of revelation. .
Ø Very soon the Church understood that this prophecy was the announcement of the coming of the true descendant of David, the Messiah, who was to be born from a virgin mother, a young woman, a young girl.
Ø And his name is Emmanuel, this was the name of the child of Ahaz, but the true Emmanuel, God-with-us is Jesus, the son of the true king, the Father God.
RESPONSORIAL PSALM Ps 24
LET THE LORD ENTER, HE IS THE KING OF GLORY
The Lord's are the earth and its fullness
the world and those who dwell in it
For he founded it upon the seas
and established it upon the rivers.
Who can ascend the mountain of the Lord?
or who may stand in his holy place?
One whose hands are sinless,
whose heart is clean
who desires not what is vain.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
a reward from God his savior
such is the race that seeks for him
that seeks the face of the God of Jacob
GOSPEL Mt 1:18-24
Today the liturgy of the church explains to us the conception and birth of Jesus, from the point of view of Joseph.
We are very used to think about the conception of Jesus according to what Luke narrates in his Gospel, that is the experience of Mary.
Matthew being a Jew sees the part of the man, Joseph, and sees also in the birth of Jesus the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah, which we have read in the first reading.
Like Luke, Matthew says that the name of the child's mother is Mary, and that she is betrothed to Joseph.
Before they lived together, that is before Joseph took Mary into his home, she became pregnant. Matthew as well as Luke tell us that this is by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Up to now this is the same story that Luke tells us, but Matthew is going to tell us the feelings and the reaction of Joseph
He says that Joseph is a just man, this is the greatest praise that a human being may receive from God, yes Joseph is just, his heart is in the image of God's heart.
Joseph does not understand, what he sees now is very different from what he knows of Mary. What has happened? A priest told me many years ago that Joseph, since he could not understand, and was afraid in front of the mystery, decided to leave.
He wanted to leave because he did not want to expose Mary to shame , and also to spare all the consequences that this situation could bring to her, even death.
That is why he decides to divorce her in secret, in this way the blame would fall on him.
And as always, when we do not know, when we reach the point of being in complete darkness, then God intervenes, and gives us the answer to all our questions:
ü Joseph do not fear to receive Mary, the child she carries is from God.
ü He is the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy.
ü It is God himself who comes to live among us, to be one like us, to be Emmanuel = God-is-with us
ü God says that to Joseph in a dream, because God speaks to us in the way each one can understands.
ü When Joseph woke up he took Mary into his home as the angel had told him in a dream.
ü His reaction is the same as the one of the young girl from Nazareth. He receives her into his home, Mary says to the angel "I am the handmaid of the Lord, be it done unto me according to your words."
Thus these two members of the human race welcome the son of God among us. They dedicate their lives to him, they will be father and mother for this child. They will accompany him in his human journey to become an adult member of the human race.
They participate in the mystery of the redemption accomplished by Jesus, son of God, known in his town as the son of the carpenter, and of Mary.
This makes me always realize that when we see someone, his or her attitudes, his or her life, truly we do not know what is going on in that person. The Lord Jesus has told us not to judge, because certainly we will be mistaken. We think that we know but in reality we do not know, each person is a mystery.
Those of Nazareth never knew the great mystery that was unfolding in front of their eyes, they only saw a young girl who had conceived not being married, and that Joseph the fiancé of Mary, was the father of this child.
SECOND READING: Rm 1:1-7
§ The letter to the Romans is the master piece of Paul's theology.
§ Paul says that the grace of the apostolate, of his mission, comes from Jesus, the Son of God, risen full of power and holiness.
§ This mission of being an apostle is given to lead the unbelievers to the obedience of faith.
§ And Paul says that we are among those unbelievers, and this is certainly true since we are descendants from pagan peoples, because we are not Jews.
§ And we have been called to belong to Christ, this is the grace we have received at Baptism when we were submerged in the life of Christ to become a new creature.
§ This is our call to holiness
§ Paul ends saying: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
She (Florentina) could not get over of her amazement seeing the residence that God had prepared for us so suited to our taste: even though we had to search for one whole year, it could not be more fitted to our purpose. Then, my companion (who was very good and the Lord had led her always by ways of comfort) said: “How good it is to throw oneself in the hands of the Divine providence! But how is it that the Lord hid this consolation He had prepared for us?” And, really, nobody can understand the call to religious life but he to whom the Lord had granted this grace. So a religious outside her beloved enclosure is to live apart from all conversation with creatures. God granted us this grace because of the love I had for the holy enclosure and having sacrificed it to fulfill His Divine Will. Venerable María Antonia París, Foundress of the Claretian Missionary Sisters, Autobiography 116.
In each of the towns I mentioned, one or more of these services had been held that year or some recent year and had always been quite fruitful. There had been conversions of all sorts everywhere--mass conversions, great and extraordinary conversions. At the beginning of the mission everyone would come to hear me: some in good faith, others out of curiosity, and others out of sheer malice, to see if they could trap me in my speech.
During the opening service I never made a frontal attack on the vices and errors of the town I was visiting. Instead I always talked to them about the Blessed Virgin, the love of God, etc. As the wicked and corrupt saw that I was not attacking them, but was all love, sweetness, and charity in my speech, they were interested and felt like coming again. As I started talking about the last things that pertain to all of us, they were not offended. Finally, they underwent a complete change of heart. During the last days of the mission I was able to speak with complete freedom about their predominant vices and failings. Saint Anthony Mary Claret, Founder of the Claretian Missionary Sisters, Autobiography 469-470.