First Reading: Is 7:10-14; Psalm: 24. R. v. 7c.10c; Second Reading: Rom 1:1-7; Gospel: Mt 1:18-24
GOD WRITES STRAIGHT WITH CROOKED LINES
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
The story regarding the birth of Jesus Christ took place thousands of years ago in a small village in Nazareth. It is a very familiar story which today is read to us once again as Christmas draws close. Now, I would want us to perform a mental exercise concerning this story which perhaps could give us a close understanding of the sentiments of the characters involved in this story. This exercise could also bring home a clearer message of how possibly will would react in our present time if we were to be in the shoes of Mary and Joseph and by extension, their families and acquaintances.
I would like us to mentally import this story of Mary’s conception from the ancient days to the present time bearing in mind the evolutions that has happened over time in our cultures and ideologies. What if you were Mary or Joseph? What if we personally knew them and where they lived? What if we were their parents or one of their siblings? What if we participated as relatives or acquaintances in the marital stages of Mary’s betrothal to Joseph? I guess probably our feelings regarding their story would begin to change especially with our different ways of understanding and interpreting similar situations in our time and age.
Who would believe Mary’s own side of the story today? That an angel appeared to her and announced she would be the mother of Jesus the Messiah and months later she found herself with child. Listening to her, Joseph would probably say, “That was a smart one.” His relatives would have heard and had Mary thrown out of his house. And Mary would be in serious distress that no one believed her story.
Betrayal of true love can be very hurtful. This is where a lot of people make costly mistakes. We know homicide is common news here in South Africa especially pertaining to infidelity. Young men and women have shot their lovers and spouses in matters relating to this. And in some occasions, it takes the form of murder-suicide. But sometimes, patience could unravel some truths which we failed to see due to hasty conclusions. Joseph was not a man of rash judgment even though he resolved to send Mary away silently. He patiently thought over the matter. It was while he considered this issue that an angel revealed the truth to him in a dream. And this brings us to the next part of this reflection.
Today, many of us would have considered Joseph a fool to have accepted Mary back. What was his reason for doing this? That an angel told him in a dream to accept Mary as wife because she was telling the truth. Who does that? Who takes a life time decision today based on a message received in a dream? Do we not say that dreams are replications of one’s figment of imagination? One would even wonder how Mary felt to see Joseph suddenly change overnight.
Joseph might as well doubt or refused the angel’s message and acted on the contrary. He wouldn’t be the first to do so. Did Sarah the wife of Abraham not doubt the angel who announced that she would conceive Isaac? (Gn 1812). Did Zachariah not doubt the chance of Elizabeth conceiving a son when an angel announced this to him while he burned incense in the temple? (Lk 1:18). Why would Joseph believe and act on a news conveyed to him in a dream? In this present time, how would we react to this decision of Joseph either as his parent, sibling or friend?
These questions are not an attempt to remove the divine operation in this story. But it goes without saying the kind of man Joseph was. Joseph was a devout and soft hearted man. A man who was selfless and forgiving and whose love for Mary superseded the hurt he felt. Although this story happened many years ago and in a different culture; but it does not remove the fact that it takes the grace of God for anyone to do what Joseph did whether then or presently. This was the story of how Jesus came into the family of Joseph.
If Jesus, the son of God came to us in this way; then God could be saying something to us in this seemingly dark moment of Joseph’s life. Our God writes straight with crooked lines. Just like Joseph, there are times that life throws a curveball at us. Times when we feel that the world is caving in on us. It could be as a result of injustice, disappointments, heartbreak, divorce, terminal illness or even death. Moments like this can be so devastating. We may not even be lucky to have the support of families and friends. And due to the vulnerability of these moments, some may be very quick to make rash decisions. Like homicide, suicide, euthanasia, and a gradual slip to atheism. But if only we were patient, if only we listened, we would see some glimmer of hope ahead.
Not many of us believe in dreams today. Psychology has a way of trivialising the contents of dream and understandably. But our hope of resilience from the dark moments of life could lie on something we consider so insignificant. God sometimes speaks to us through the most unexpected ways. Sometimes, we may think that the way to wealth and success is by associating with the wealthy and powerful. But the answer could just be in that ‘still small voice’ telling us to believe in ourselves. We may lose hope and find no reason to live due to some depressing situations. But some spark of hope can suddenly come from nowhere and give us another reason to live.
Betty was a poor widow who lost her little daughter that meant the world to her. This little girl was her only child and her reason for living. On this day, Betty decided to take her own life. As she tried to poke her head through the noose hanging from the ceiling fan, she saw by the wall of her room the picture of her little daughter with her pretty blue eyes looking straight into her eyes. Betty became unsteady and couldn’t continue. Narrating her story, Betty said, “I saw in her pretty blue eyes a strong worded rebuke, ‘Hell no Mom! You’re not doing this.’ That rebuke gave me another reason to live again.”
Whatever is the crisis we are passing through at the moment, we could overcome it if we gave it time and listen to God who speaks to us even in the most unexpected ways. If Jesus came into the family of Mary and Joseph through what seems to be a crisis moment in their lives and thereafter made our lives beautiful; then, we could also find God in the midst of our troubles with the hope of a joyful end. This is the message of the fourth Sunday of advent.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Lord Jesus, we pray for the grace of patience in our moments of crisis; and the attentiveness to listen to you as you speak to direct us. Amen.
Thanks for this wonderful sermon.
Egbuonu Johnpaul Okey
May God grant us the grace of integrity as Joseph Amen.
Amen and Amen