Sunday, December 11, 2016

Homily Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo

Homily Fourth Sunday of Advent Year A: Fr. Michael Ufok Udoekpo
 Mary and Joseph Models of Advent and Christmas!
·        Isa 7:10-14;
·        Ps 24:1-6;
·         Rom 1:1-7
·        Matt 1:18-24

 Today we celebrate the last Sunday in Advent- Sunday before Christmas. And all that we are asking for—wherever we are (in Netherlands, Africa, Us etc…), is the grace to prepare well in peace and joy for the forth coming Christmas. We also pray for the grace to hope and believe all that has been foretold by ancient Israel’s prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Balaam, John the Baptist) - preached by Paul in his ministries. We are also want to take to heart the messages of the angels, particularly Gabriel, which we heard repeatedly during this season of Advent these past four weeks of Advent, particularly today- that we like  Joseph should not be afraid of the future. Joseph in today's reading is told not be afraid, but to take Mary, his wife home! Mary and Joseph’s faith must inspire us to be more hopeful more trusting not only in the biblical mystery of the incarnation of God, but that this God accompanies us on our journeys!
In the first reading,  and in a  terrible context, if I may call it so, of the eighth century’s economic and socio- political upheavals of great fear, war, and threats of exile, of losing the homeland, to the Assyrian military power, Isaiah, the prophet, prophesied that Israel remain calm. Israel should not be afraid. Israel must remain calm. Israel should be hopeful, for, “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).

Isaiah’s prophecy against fear and despair lives on forever.  The word of God lives on. It is ever alive. The reason is that fear and hope transcends time. It transcends the old Israel. As the new and renewed Israel, we do have our fears and hope, fears of war and hope for peace, fears of scarcity of food, jobs, and hope for economic opportunities and prosperity,. We do have fears of political instability and hope for political security. Fears of unsteady leadership and hope that every nation’s capital be free of corruption and nepotism.
Isaiah’s prophecy which lives on, cuts through the time of David, throughout history, and is fulfilled in our times, as rightly noted by Paul in the 2nd reading and further narrated particularly in today’s Gospel of Matthew’s genealogy. It is a story of fulfillment of God's promise to us. A young Jewish woman, Mary was betrothed to Joseph. Suddenly, and before the marriage was consummated she was found with a mysterious pregnancy. It was the work of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:38). With God everything is possible. With us human, most things are skeptical!

 in this divine story Joseph is God’s instrument. Mary is God’s instrument. She is  the handmaid of the Lord! As God would have used Mary and Joseph, God can use any of us to speak to our neighbors, to address our needs, to raise our kids, to support our fellow worker, friends and spouses, though it comes with challenges. In the case of Joseph and Mary it was mockery, humiliation and threats of dead. For how can Mary’s story and experience with the Angel Gabriel be true!
But the believing Mary, believed Gabriel and said to the angel Gabriel, be it done to me according to your words (Luke 1:38). Joseph also believed  and responded to the angel who said to him, “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). Do we believe in ourselves? Do we believe in one another- images of God? importantly do we believe in God, that with him everything is possible?

This fourth Sunday of Advent's  story challenges us believers, not to cease to trust in God. Not to fail to tell our stories of faith, share our experience  of love and practice peace and reconciliation. Joseph teaches us not to be afraid of the future and of the unknown. Not to give in to gossip. Not to cease to hope  in all circumstances  of lives. Not to cease to be patient with ourselves, with our children, with our subjects, with our superiors, even with our government and political leaders. The biblical Joseph was not in a hurry to divorce Mary. This, among other virtues earns him the title, Joseph, the Just. Joseph, the prayerful man. Joseph the saddiq. Jospeh the prudent man. Like Abraham, Joseph, the man of faith, the hard worker, and the peace maker! And Mary the handmaid of the Lord!
 As we prepare for Christmas we pray that the grace of God be poured into our hearts, homes, church communities (barracks), into our society and nations so that we may continue to be more a hopeful community of faith who appreciative the mysteries of God, who listens to his voice, who embraces and recognizes divine presence in our midst as we daily strive  to imitate the virtues of Mary and Joseph.

Reflection Questions:
1.     As Christmas approaches what are your fears, uncertainties and challenges?
2.     How do you manage your fears or assist your neighbor to deal with fears or mysterious circumstances of  his or her life?
3.     Do you see yourself in Mary and in Joseph’s story, models of faith and hope?