Homily — 4th Sunday Advent A Dec. 23, 2007

Homily — 4th Sunday Advent A            Dec. 23, 2007

Do not be afraid to take Mary . . . .into your home.” the Angel said to Joseph.

Our Patron, Saint Joseph, who we invoke in the Litany of St. Joseph under the title “The terror of demons,” is himself terrified and afraid.  But, if demons fear Joseph, what does Joseph have to be afraid of?  He’s afraid, because Mary his wife, whom he has already lawfully married but hasn’t moved in with yet (as was Jewish custom), was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

Now, some people, even some Fathers of the Church, think Joseph was troubled and afraid because he suspected Mary of adultery.  While this might have been the case, its hard to see how it could have been, judging from what we know about the character of Mary and Joseph.  Could Joseph, the just man, have thought for a minute that Mary the Immaculate Conception was guilty of such a grave sin against the sixth commandment?

A better explanation, which St. Jerome and other Church Fathers held, is that Joseph is afraid because the Virgin Mary told him what happened: about the Angel’s Annunciation, about the Holy Spirit overshadowing her, and about how, as she speaks to him, she is carrying God’s only Son, the Messiah, in her womb.

Recall Elizabeth’s reaction to this news at the Visitation:  Who am I that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?

Who am I?  Elizabeth recognizes how unworthy she is to have Jesus and Mary just pay her a visit;  How much more does Joseph recognize his unworthiness of being the man who’ll care for and raise God’s Son?

And this is why Matthew says Joseph decided to divorce Mary quietlyShe wasn’t the problem, he was.  Actually, some people think a better translation this from the Greek would be “He withdrew from her mystery.”  Who was he to be a part of this most important plan of God?

But the angel comes to him and says “Do not be afraid to take Mary . . . .into your home.”  God the Father wants you, Joseph, to be a part of His plan to bring His salvation to the world.  You will name Him Jesus, Joseph.  God doesn’t want to save the world without your help.

And so Joseph listened to the angel and entered into to this Great Mystery, taking Mary and the unborn Jesus into his home.

My brothers and sisters, you and I can also be afraid to take Mary (and her Son) into our home.

We can be afraid in a good way like Joseph and Elizabeth was, saying “Lord, who am I that you should come to me, who am I that I, with all my imperfections, could be of any use to You?”   But God’s angel will then say to us “Do not be afraid.  Take Mary and Jesus into your Home, into your life, whole heartedly; and God will use you, He will touch many souls through you.”   This kind of Fear of God’s call is a supernaturally healthy thing, one of the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us at Confirmation.

But we can also however be afraid in bad ways that are not of the Holy Spirit;  we can be afraid for example that if we take Mary and Jesus into our home and get real close to our faith, it might reveal faults and sins that we’ll have to repent of, and we’d rather not go there, rather not have to grow in our faith.

The angel says to that Prodigal Son in us: “Do not be afraid to be holy; to break away from this faithless and immoral world;  Holiness is attainable, and it is the only road to lasting peace and happiness.  Turn away from the darkness of sin and come closer to the warm light of Christ.”

And finally, there are those non-Catholic Christians (and perhaps some Catholics as well) that aren’t afraid of taking Jesus into their homes and hearts, but are afraid of taking Mary His Mother in.  These people are afraid that too much focus on Mary will take away from the total devotion due to her Son.

This last group of people need to listen to the words of the Scriptures they hold so dear:  Do not be afraid to take Mary into your home.  And then there are Jesus’ last words to us from the Cross:  Behold, my beloved disciple, your Mother Mary.  May we take her into our home, as John the Beloved and Joseph did.   Drawing near to Mary will only make us draw nearer to her Son; she will only help us follow Him more closely.

May God the Father give us the graces we need to overcome our fears and give ourselves completely to Mary and Jesus, as St. Joseph did; so that Christ may be born anew in our hearts and in our world this Christmas.

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