Friday, December 20, 2013

Homily (2) Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U. Udoekpo

Homily (2) Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A- Rev Michael U. Udoekpo
Readings: Isa 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-6; Rom 1:1-7 and Matt 1:18-24

  Mary and Joseph Models of Christmas

 Today we celebrate the last Sunday before Christmas. And all that we are asking for is the grace to prepare well in peace and joy for the forth coming Christmas. We pray for the grace to hope and believe all that were foretold by ancient prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Balaam, John the Baptist) and to take to heart the messages of the angels, particularly Gabriel, which we heard repeatedly during these past four weeks of Advent, and to imitate the reaction of Mary and Joseph  to this mystery of the incarnation.

A typical example is today’s first reading (Isa 7:10-14) where Isaiah of the eighth century foretold and encouraged the house of David that “behold a virgin shall conceived and give birth to a child, whose name shall be called Immanuel, meaning God is with us” (Isa 7:14).

 Of course, at this time Israel needed to hear that God was still with them. During this time, they went through so many difficulties, social, political and religious threats such that some members of the community including their king Ahaz began to doubt the presence of God in their midst. Of course this can happen to any of us in times of illnesses, tragedies or uncertainties. But thank God for the gift and the message of hope and God’s blessings brought by Isaiah about Mary who will give birth to Christ the Messiah and the savior of the world.

The Gospel of Matthew presents the fulfillment of this message of hope promised us by God as foretold by Isaiah and other ancient prophets, and highlights the role of Joseph. Many of us have seen these story of fulfillment of the promised birth of Christ acted out in a play here are there. We saw one the other day in Pennsylvanian, at Lancaster. A young Jewish woman, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. But all of a sudden she was found to be pregnant even though she had not yet had sexual relationship with her husband Joseph. It was the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:38). But it was difficult to humanly convince the ancient community and even Joseph that it was the work of the Holy Spirit; that Mary had not broken the law, nor committed adultery- which was punishable not only through divorce but by death.

Because of this divine incidence the two families particularly Mary and Joseph went through a lot of humiliation and mockery. But this humiliation was not going to be forever. Mary believed Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:38), followed by Joseph when he was told, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home; For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived,’ (Matt 1:18-24).

We can learn so much from Mary, just to trust God, to tell our story, to be consistent, to keep on doing what is good no matter how little or minute that goodness might appear before human beings. We can learn so much from Joseph- find time to reflect, to think through difficult situations, handle crises with listening patience and obedience to the voice of God. We should seek counseling from our seniors, mentors and pastors. Prayer is also the key. Joseph was not in a hurry to divorce Mary. The Bible calls him a righteous man. He was not in hurry to judge or stone Mary. Christmas teaches us to be patient, prudent and trustful. It teaches us not to hurry to judge or be in haste to “stone our neighbors to death” as some folks had wanted to do to Mary. We saw this at Lancaster at the Christmas play. As Joseph was contemplating what to do, Mary was also talking to her mother and Elizabeth her cousins confirming that she was honest, faithful and a trustful young woman. She did not deserve to be stoned to death.

 There are so many ways we can “stone our neighbors to death” today. Pope Francis has mentioned some of these ways in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium: When we exclude the poor, the lowly from the social, political, educational and economic fabrics of the society; when we create unjust laws, structures and unnecessary barriers in the society that would oppress and deprive children, women, the seniors, the lowly of basic necessities of life, food, water, clothing, roof over their heads, education, freedom of speech and worship. Of course we die slowly when we have no food and when you are starved or denied clean drinking water. And worse still spiritually when we have no faith or denied the freedom to pray and worship God.

As we prepare for Christmas we pray that the Grace God may be poured into our hearts, homes, into our church, into our society and nations so that we may always be attentive to the voice and love of God, and like Paul (Rom 1:1-7) share this love, attentiveness and blessings with our neighbors, in imitation of Mary and Joseph.