Fourth Sunday of Advent – A

Kuwait City, 20-22.12.2013.
Homily of the Apostolic Nuncio
His Grace Archbishop Petar Rajič

Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24

During these weeks of Advent, some key Biblical figures have been presented to us in the liturgical readings, who were chosen by God to prepare the world for the coming of the Saviour. These last two Sundays John the Baptist has been described as the precursor of Christ. He is the voice crying the wilderness “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand” and also “Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths”. Today as we approach the Nativity of the Lord, the names of Mary and Joseph come forth and an Angel of the Lord is mentioned whose name we do not know. Mary and Joseph were betrothed to each other, hence destined to be married. This young couple was chosen by God to bring forth into the world the Promised One of the Lord, the Messiah. They were to be his earthly parents, taking care of the child Jesus up until his adulthood.

Neither Mary nor Joseph mention a word in today’s gospel, but only the Angel of the Lord, who appears and speaks to Joseph in his sleep, conveying a very important message. And the message is so wonderful that it is worth repeating over and over again: “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.

Prior to this, Joseph was in a dilemma. He was engaged to Mary yet she was pregnant and he knew that he wasn’t the father. Since he loved and respected Mary, he did not want to put her to shame or get her into trouble by leaving her. While he was pondering this doubt, the Angel of the Lord appeared to him to provide him with the assurance he needed and the comfort of the promise of God.

The Angel said to Joseph “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife”. In other words, do not fear your responsibilities towards your fiancée, the woman you will marry one day. Do not fear the challenge that stands before you in order to take care of Mary and her child. This is a great message for any man about to be married. No man should fear the responsibilities that he is taking upon himself towards his wife and future children, for indeed it is a noble duty to be a husband and father, one in which every married man can experience and become an instrument of the paternal love of God the Father with his family. Joseph however, was destined for even greater things that were yet to be revealed.

An explanation of everything was then given to Joseph from the Angel, who revealed it to him and through him to all of mankind, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit”. The child indeed is not Joseph’s, but belongs to God and has been conceived through the working of the Holy Spirit. It is only fitting that the arrival of the Son of God into the world be through the power of the Holy Spirit and not through natural human reproduction. The Church also confirms the divine origin of Christ in the Nicene Creed, in which we profess: I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.

A further explanation is given to Joseph by the Angel in the words: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. Mary is destined to give birth to a son and he shall be given the name Jesus, which in Hebrew means “God saves”, that describes his identity and his mission – the salvation of sinners. God has come into the world through his Son Jesus, who is the promised Saviour of mankind, whose mission is to take away the sins of the world.

This great announcement of the Angel of the Lord is a brief summary of the entire Gospel message. God sent his only Son into the world to save mankind from sin. Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, became incarnate in the womb of the Virgin Mary, taking his human form from her and thus becoming a man similar to us in everything except our sinfulness and yet so different from us due to his holiness. Jesus comes to us even today, in order to free us from the bondage of sin, to liberate us from our sinful habits in order to provide us with true freedom, a new relationship with God in this world that leads to eternal life.

During these last days of Advent, as we approach Christmas, let us awaken in our hearts a desire to accept Mary and the gift of God she is carrying within her, as Joseph did. The greatest Christmas present we could ever receive is the same one that Mary and Joseph received – Emmanuel, the gift of the Son of God in our midst.

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