21st / 22nd December 2019

posted 23 Dec 2019, 02:29 by Parish Office

Homily for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A – Day of Prayer for Expectant Mothers (21 & 22/12/19)


Often, we emphasise, rightly, the role of Our Lady in salvation history.  She was prepared by almighty God to be Mother of the Redeemer:  firstly by her Immaculate Conception, being conceived without Original Sin; secondly by being free from all sin throughout her life; and thirdly by being the ever-virgin spouse of the Holy Spirit: both before, during and after the birth of Jesus.  St Irenaeus, writing in the second century, said of Our Lady:  “Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race. … The knot of Eve’s disobedience was untied by Mary’s obedience:  what the virgin Eve bound by her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.”  (Adv. Haeres. 3. 22, 4:  PG 7/1, 959A)  So where does all this leave St Joseph?  Was his role merely rather basic and unimportant?  There’s perhaps a bit more to it than first appears.


So, the consent of Our Lady made the birth of Jesus possible, but his foster father had a role in salvation history as well.  The Messiah was to be of David’s house and line, and for that it required St Joseph.  In this country in 2013, the rule of male primogeniture for the next monarch was abolished, but traditionally in history, it has always been the eldest-born son who became the next king, regardless of whether he had any sisters who were older than him.  So even if, for the sake of argument, Our Lady had also been a descendant of King David, it required St Joseph to be of David’s house and line for the kingship to pass to Him and for the prophecies to be fulfilled.


So that now leads me onto the next point:  given that Our Lord had the legal status of being a descendant of King David, and was also God, and because Mary and Joseph had both agreed to fulfil God’s plan, did that mean that their lives were always blessed and free from suffering?  We know the answer to that question.  Their lives were blessed by God, yes, but they still had to undergo all sorts of suffering.  Think not only of the difficulty in finding a place when they got to Bethlehem and ending up having to settle in a cave, used as a stable for animals, but also about the massacre of the innocents.  Once again, just as in our Gospel reading, an angel warned St Joseph to take Our Lady and Our Lord and flee to Egypt, and to stay there until the death of Herod.  They were refugees in a foreign land, and they didn’t know how long they were going to have to stay there, as well as the difficult journey there and back – there were no buses or planes in those days, even though it’s sometimes called the “flight” into Egypt.  There it would have required Joseph to find work to provide for his family – whether he encountered prejudice and discrimination because of him not being Egyptian we don’t know, but at the very least we can probably say that it was likely.  If he had disobeyed God right at the beginning and abandoned Our Lady, then none of this might have happened for him, but then, how could he go against the clear will of God?  It is an honour to serve the Lord, even when it involves having to undergo all sorts of hardship.  As it says in Psalm 83:


“One day within your courts

is better than a thousand elsewhere.

The threshold of the house of God

I prefer to the dwellings of the wicked.” (v.11)


It is so much better to have the privilege to serve God for just one day, rather than spend a thousand without God.  And that’s part of the reality of our faith:  our faith doesn’t shield us from sufferings, from the cross.  The joy we experience as Christians is not a superficial happiness:  it’s something deep down inside, a security and a knowledge that all will be well.  In the, perhaps little known, book of the Prophet Habakkuk in the Old Testament, it puts it this way (3:17-18):


“For even though the fig does not blossom,

nor fruit grow on the vine,

even though the olive crop fail,

and fields produce no harvest,

even though flocks vanish from the folds

and stalls stand empty of cattle,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord

and exult in God my saviour.

The Lord my God is my strength.”


Sometimes, our part in the work of God may seem rather insignificant.  It might also sometimes seem a bit daunting.  God doesn’t promise us a life free from suffering.  But St Joseph shows us today that to serve God is better than any riches, and sometimes, we underestimate the significance of what we are called to do.


St Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for us.