Scripture: Lectionary 195. Dec.18. Jeremiah 23:5-8 . Psalm 72:18-24. Matthew 1:18-24
I like to befriend the Advent persons we meet in the Scriptures and then allow them to guide me through the days before the Birth of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. Isaiah has always been my favorite prophet and each year he tells me new things about God’s wonderful plans; then John the Baptist arrives and he, not only helps me to get my heart and soul ready for the coming of the Lord, but also reminds me that turning my whole self to the Lord is very important each day of Advent. Then comes today’s person who is center-stage for me, namely, Joseph, the spouse of Mary. We learn most of what we know about him only through St. Matthew’s Gospel. Without Matthew we would only know a few things about him that are so much more complete in Matthew than in Luke or John. In Matthew we are privileged to enter into his dreams, his role in the holy family, and his belonging to the lineage in which the Messiah was to come. Yesterday we learned of the blood lines that Jesus issued from and cleansed with his own blood line that of the Virgin and Mother Mary.
Our passage today is more than a footnote to the genealogy (Matthew 1:1-16). For me, it is one of the most beautiful passages given to us in Advent. It allows us to dream with Joseph’s dream and to see our relationship to the one who will give birth to the Messiah, in fact, the only woman to ever have had this claim and privilege as attested to by inspired writers like St. Matthew and St. Luke. I liken the pericope to a quality vignette which opens up the holiness of Joseph, his justice, and his sensitivity in the difficult decision he had to make about Mary his engaged spouse who was found to be with child. He reaches a solution by listening to the angel who informs him of how it is possible for Mary to be with child that is not his own. The legalism of claiming that child will make Jesus legitimate according to the laws of Moses. He risks saying his “yes” to God just as Mary did in her acceptance of what the angel Gabriel told her. Joseph may never have thought of Isaian ain text that Matthew cites: “Behold the virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son and they shall call him Emmanuel. (Isaiah 7:14).” Matthew who knew this text from the Prophet Isaiah and cited it from one of the Greek versions known at the time in which Matthew lived. We have learned there were many Greek and Hebrew variations in texts and probably several texts that existed before the final text that was chosen by the Synagogue and the Church. (see the learned insights of Timothy Michael Law in his book When God Spoke Greek: The Septuagint and the Making of the Christian Bible.) The manuscripts from the Dead Sea Scrolls have shown us differences from the accepted text called the Masoretic text of the Synagogue.
The Isaiah text in Matthew is one of the oldest texts to speak about the birth of Jesus in Christian tradition. Since it is based on the original text of Matthew we accept it as a divinely inspired text that speaks both about Jesus (Christology) and Mary (Mariology).
We learn that Joseph is the one who names the child Jesus. This would be indirectly the only known word that we have from Joseph his legal and foster-father. The context of the paragraph is a covenantal text for God is with us as Emmanuel. We are God’s people and Jesus is said by Matthew to be Emmanuel. Incidentally, this is the only time the word appears in the New Testament.
All of these thoughts come to mind as I think of the great Saint Joseph who seems to have all of the characteristics of the Joseph in Genesis. We, therefore, or at least I, go to Joseph (Ite ad Joseph) as our Advent person who will also become our Church’s universal protector just as he was the protector of Jesus and Mary as we learn transparency; his holiness is seen in his listening to the voice of God given to him through an angel in a dream; his salvation like ours in seen in Jesus whom he named. Joseph showed his wisdom in not passing judgment on Mary but discerning how God works through her by the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. His sensitivity toward her led him to give all men an example of how to relate to women.
Ite ad Joseph: Let us go to Joseph as we move closer to the Birth of Jesus and accept both the Mother and the Child who have made Christmas possible. Amen.
Copyright 2013 Fr. Bertrand Buby, S.M.