Sunday, 19 December 2010
4th Sunday Advent, Year A, Shaftesbury
There are just five shopping days left before Christmas and, like many people, I have a slight feeling of panic. I still haven't sent all my Christmas cards. I fear that the light sabres I have bought for my nephews, while they be good enough for them to hit each other with, may not be quite the right brand of light sabres they were supposed to be. And as for my 2½ year old niece's doll, well, getting that right would be anybody's guess. And that's not to begin to start thinking about my Christmas PRIESTLY duties: there is much to worry about!
And I know that I'm not alone in thinking that this last week before Christmas is a time to worry. So, I'd like to point out how the figure of St Joseph that the Church gives us this year on this last Sunday of Advent teaches us a number of things to help us not worry, and to help us properly focus ourselves to celebrate Christ's birth.
As our gospel passage indicated, St Joseph had much to worry about, because "before they came to live together [Our Lady] was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit". Now, that's not a very normal thing to happen in a marriage, it's not a very normal problem for a husband-to-be to face, and the gospel does not tell us much detail about how St Joseph FELT about all this.
The gospel does tell us, however, that, "the angel of the Lord appeared to [ St Joseph] in a dream", appeared to him, explained to him who this child would be, and told St Joseph "do not be afraid".
The key point to learn from this is not what the angel said to him but rather how he RESPONDED to what the angel said to him. He responded with faith; he believed what the angel told him; he didn't even ask "how" this was to happen, he just got on with doing what he had to do, he got on with doing what was his part, and he left the details to God's care.
We, of course, can see with hindsight how right he was to trust in God's care because in the difficulties that unfolded before him in the years that lay ahead God continued to guide him through them: for example, when Herod sought to kill the child Jesus, St Joseph was warned in a dream to flee to Egypt.
Faith consists of our response to what God has told us, and for us today, that means that faith consists in believing what God has revealed to us in Jesus Christ: in His Bible, and in the teaching of His Catholic Church.
A person of faith is a person who listens more to the promises of God than he does to the things of this world. In contrast, there are many things this week that are not of faith that we can listen to: we can listen to the television, we can listen to the cravings of our belly yearning for the food luxuries that abound at Christmas, and, we can listen to the worries and panic of the next week.
If we take St Joseph is our role model then we will spend this next week not focusing on our worries, not focusing on the distracting peripherals, but focusing on the things of faith, focusing on what God has made known to us and what God has promised to us:
He has made known to us his love and care by coming among us born as a little child;
He has promised to remain forever in hearts that will receive Him.
Let us, like St Joseph, be people of faith who listen not to our worries but to the words of God, and entrust the details of the outcome to Him.