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Gentle Righteousness and Quiet Faith
Saturday of the Third Week of Advent
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce 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. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
Opening Prayer: Lord, help me quiet my heart. Let the outside world fall away. In this time with you, I seek to grow in love and faith. Do not let the concerns of the day mar this opportunity to spend time with you.
- Gentle Righteousness: Joseph was faced with a devastating series of events. He had become betrothed to Mary in a binding religious ceremony, committing to her as his wife. Since the precepts of his time dictated a waiting period between the formal betrothal and taking her into his home as his wife, her pregnancy was a terrible shock to him. He had every reason to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful. Yet, instead of bringing down the full wrath of the law on Mary, he planned to divorce her quietly. She could have been put to death for adultery, and Joseph, as heartbroken and mortified as he must have been, simply did not want that. What a gentle and kind heart he must have had. Are we as gracious and kind when we believe we have been wronged?
- The Dream: Joseph was a practical man, a carpenter who made his living working with his hands. Yet, he was also a student of Scripture and a man of prayer. When the angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, it might have been easy for Joseph to wake up and convince himself that he had not had a visitation from an actual angel. On the contrary, his heart and soul were open to the extraordinary possibility that the Scripture was, at last, being fulfilled. The more time we spend in prayer and in studying the word of God, the more ready we are to hear the Lord when he speaks to us.
- The Prophecy Fulfilled: It is hard to imagine the wonder and awe mixed with fear that both Joseph and Mary must have experienced during this tumultuous time. Joseph did exactly what the angel told him to do, despite the difficulty it must have caused him. There may have been gossip about Mary’s pregnancy. They faced the hardship of traveling to fulfill the census when his young wife was about to give birth. Joseph had a quiet strength and he drew this strength from his obedience to God’s will. As St. Teresa of Avila was to say so many years later, “I know the power obedience has of making things easy which seem impossible” (Interior Castle, preface). The consequence of Joseph’s obedience was the fulfillment of the prophecy; Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”
Conversation with Christ: Lord, help me to keep you first in my life, to keep my focus on you. By reflecting on the amazing events surrounding Jesus’ birth and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, my faith and trust in you are strengthened. You are my Lord, the author of my life. I surrender my life to you.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will make an act of faith as I pray this daily offering:
Eternal Father, I offer you everything I do this day: my work, my prayers, my apostolic efforts, my time with family and friends, my hours of relaxation; my difficulties, problems, and distress, which I shall try to bear with patience. Join these, my gifts to the unique offering which Jesus Christ, your Son, renews today in the Eucharist. United to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary, may my life today may be of service to you and to your children, and help consecrate the world to you. Amen.
For Further Reflection: The Sacrament of the Present Moment by Jean-Pierre de Caussade.
Cathy Stamper lives with her husband in Maryland. They have been partners in business, marriage, and parenthood for thirty-one years and are deeply grateful for the gift of their five young adult children and large extended family. She is a lay member of Regnum Christi.