Fourth Sunday of Advent – Year A


Anthony P. Burrascano, O.S.A.
Villanova University
Villanova, Pennsylvania

Is 7:10-14
Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Rom 1:1-7
Mt 1:18-24

We have lit the fourth and last candle on the Advent Wreath. The Season of Advent is quickly coming to a close, and very soon we shall celebrate Emmanuel, God is with us.

One of the prominent figures in our celebration of the birth of Jesus is his mother Mary. When we see Mary in the scripture we immediately think of the young woman who had an angel appear and ask her to be the mother of the savior. We have heard of the tremendous faith of her response to God to allow His will to be done. Mary has always been seen as the model of the faith filled person, the total disciple of God.

The scripture today presents a figure we are familiar with, one we know, but very rarely see, Joseph the husband of Mary. We do not know much about him. He was a carpenter, he cared for Mary and Jesus. We do not know how long he lived, how and when he died, what he was doing as Jesus lived his mission. We do not see a lot of Mary in the scripture, but even less of Joseph.

Today he is the center of the Gospel. He has learned that Mary, his betrothed, is with a child which is not his. He could have understandably divorced her, ended their engagement, left her, ended their relationship. But he did not. He accepted the pregnant young women as his wife and from what we can see accepted her child and cared for him. He must have loved Mary greatly to accept all this. He must have been a very caring, understanding and loving man.

He shared a great quality with his wife, Mary. He was a man of great faith. An angel appeared to him in his sleep and told him not to be afraid to take Mary and the child into his house, for the child was from the Holy Spirit and would save his people from their sins. We have no way of knowing what went through the mind and heart of Joseph as he heard all this. He could have just walked away and gone on with his life, but he did not. He heard what God was asking of him, and like Mary, he opened himself to do the will of God, in spite of all that God was asking him to accept and to do.

We have always seen Mary as the model of acceptance of the will of God, as a person of great and open faith. We now seen another person as a similar model of a person of faith, Joseph.

When we look at Joseph, or Mary, we can see what human nature is capable of being and doing. They show us what we as human beings are capable of with faith. If we feel that humanity is limited in how our faith can affect our lives, if we feel that humanity is limited in the possibilities of faith, we need only have to look at these two human beings to show the depth of human faith.

Do we ever feel that God is asking too much of us? Do we ever feel that life is too difficult for us? Do we ever feel that we are alone in life, in what the challenges of life are presenting to us? Then just look to Mary and Joseph to see what our human nature is capable of with faith in the presence of God in our lives.

There is not a lot of historical information on the man who is central to our Gospel today. That is not necessary. What we see of him we see the beauty of a human being, and what he is capable of doing and being, with the great gift of faith in his life.