Scripture: Lectionary 543, Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. II
Samuel.7:4-5.12-14.16. Psalm 89: 2-3.4-5.27-29. Romans 4: 13.16-18.22.
Joseph is a man who is faithful to the covenants and the promises of God.
He fulfills the prophecy of II Samuel by being part of the Davidic lineage
that Matthew attests to in his opening chapter. We take up from the
genealogy the immediate relationship of Joseph to his father, Jacob, and
then the mystery of Jesus enters in.
Both Joseph and Mary are led through this mystery of the Word becoming
flesh (John 1:14) through the power of the Holy Spirit. Luke, the
Evangelist of the Holy Spirit, introduces us to Mary through the presence
of the Holy Spirit both in his message and in her miraculous conceiving of
a child. The angel answered Mary’s question about how shall this come
about: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High
will overshadow you,hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called the
Son of God.”(Luke 1:35).
Joseph’s encounter with the Holy Spirit takes place after Mary has
conceived. He is in doubt about her but the Holy Spirit unravels the
mystery for him of the Word becoming flesh and it is he, Joseph, who will
name the child Jesus. His answer comes in a dream: “Joseph, son of David,
have no fear about taking Mary as your wife. It is by the Holy Spirit that
she has conceived this child. She is to have a son and you are to name him
Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21).
Both Joseph and Mary are graced persons because of their faith such a
mystery can be accompished in and through them. Joseph also fulfills the
covenant of faith like Abraham did–a covenant not only sealed in the flesh
but also in and by the spirit of a human and of God. Joseph is to be known
in Christian tradition as a righteous person, that is, a holy and
integrated one who lives by the love and law of God. His fidelity to God
opened him to the mystery taking place in Mary his espoused wife. He will
give the Davidic claim of the messiah to the son born of Mary. We today
can learn much from this holy couple whom the Church has venerated from the
beginning. They cooperated with the Holy Spirit in the history of
salvation. The most beautiful human expression of that is in the conceiving
of a child for God. Every child is holy to the Lord and most mothers are
too. Blessed be God forever. Amen.
Scripture: Lectionary 330 March 19–second reflection on a Lenten
Saturday. Deuteronomy 26: 16-19. Psalm 119:1-2.4-5.7-8. Matthew 5:43-48:
One of the most challenging lines of the New Testament is found in
Matthew:” You are to be perfected as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Rather than cowering from that inspired challenge, we should realize how
great the dignity of the human person is that one is called to be perfect
even as God is perfect! Rather than complain that this is impossible, we
should rejoice in the love that God has for us that he calls us to an
exceptional stage in holiness–perfection! The word used in Matthew is
teleios taken from the Greek word that means end or goal. This is applied
to us who are limited yet one could say they are, we are complete,
finished, without fault and are enjoying physical and moral integrity.
Luke uses the word “merciful” in a parallel text found in Luke 6:36.
Matthew is familiare with the Torah and Jesus is even the perfect teacher
of the Torah which says “Be holy for I am holy.” (Leviticus 19:2; I Peter
1:15f). “Matthew situated in God the ideal of perfection which he proposed
to believers: not to be satified with the practice of the Law (Torah), but
to love all men., to give one’s goods to the poor. Even when one is no
longer a beginner, a “baby,” the new perfection not only loomed ahead, but
referred to a state which was not to acquired except in heaven, in the
perfect Man. Moreover, through Jesus, who has been made perfect, the
believe too has to strain forward toward perfection. The same ideal was kep
in view through the rejection of impurity or reproachable
behavior.” (Xavier Leon-Dufour, Dictionary of the New Testament, p.318).
We have Psalm 119 as our responsorial and as our prayer. It leads us to
appreciate how deeply a faithful person meditates on the loving laws of God
and strives toward perfection. As you well know, this Psalm is the longest
in the Scriptures consisting of 176 verses that are composed of stanzas
that start with each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. This is called an
Acrostic Psalm and there are several in the Book of Psalms but this is the
tour de force among the Psalms using an acrostic. The inspired poet
probably was meditating on Deuteronomy when he composed this beautiful
psalm. He has focused on seven dimensions or titles of the Torah to bring
home its perfection. They are the following words : Torah meaning
instruction, teaching, direction; testimony or rules of conduct to
accomplish God’s will; precepts or personal rules to be obeyed or carried
out for righteousness before God; engraved laws or statutes that govern
the public and community life of God’s faithful Israel; Mitzvoth or good
deeds characteristic of living out the principles of the Torah with joy;
mishpat or justice seen in the rules of conduct with regards to our
neighbor; Davar or “word” in the sense of a reality that is expressive of
God’s will; and imrah a poetic expression of the word Davar but seen in the
keeping of God’s promises that are then expressed in sayings about them.
Each stanza has from one to seven of these words within them in the Hebrew.
The fact that the poet had to conform to the alphabet to contain these
seven ways of observing the loving laws of God shows that he was indeed a
master composer who lived in or near the Temple. This is indeed a great
Psalm for Lenten prayer.
Jesus in today’s pericope shows us that the commandments of love help us
through our own alphabet in life from A to Z with its different demands and
surprises. Thus the call of Jesus who is known as the Alpha and the Omega
(first and last letter of the alphabet) is a summons to follow him in a
wholesome manner that is equated with perfection. We are therefore
learners on the road to holiness and perfection. We are honored by God who
asks us to imitate God’s holiness and perfection. We, as Christians should
learn the alphabet of Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, God’s perfect Son.