December 18 / Third Tuesday of Advent
When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.~ Matthew 1:18-19
One of the great challenges for practitioners of any faith is the inevitable encounters with suffering and hardship despite our following the rules. For as today’s Gospel suggests, righteousness is no guarantee of a smooth life. Joseph, a Jewish man who faithfully observed the precepts of Torah, finds himself in a shameful predicament: The woman with whom he has a binding marital contract is pregnant. By Jewish law, he has every right to terminate their contract and determines to do so quietly. But God sends a night messenger with a counter-command. Joseph neither questions nor resists; rather, he does exactly “as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” Even when we honor our covenant with God and live as faithful Christians, sometimes things simply go wrong. We lose our job to a restructuring, or our health to a protracted illness. A child encounters difficulty in school. Someone we love cannot break the bond of addiction. Our default position in such a stressful circumstance is to take matters into our own hands, as Joseph planned to do. A quiet divorce would spare both Mary and him of a lot of trouble. But this was not God’s plan, and he sent his messenger to Joseph asking him to trust God’s saving work. So God operates in our lives, too, leading us in directions we do not always understand, and asking us to have faith in his guiding hand as he assigns each of us our role in the drama of salvation. When our soul encounters a dark night, we need to listen carefully and deeply to God’s message, put our fear aside, and trust.
Lord of Love, lighten the darkness that surrounds me with the luminous power of your kindness and mercy, and help me to trust in you at all times.Amen.