Tuesday, March 19, 2013
Joseph, the Spouse of Mary, the Mother of Jesus
a) Opening prayer:
Spirit who moves over the water,
calm in us all discordance,
the agitated waves, the noise of the words,
the whirlwind of vanity,
and make the Word which recreates,
arise in silence.
Spirit who in a sigh you Whisper
to our spirit the Name of the Father,
come and gather together all our desires,
make them grow in a beam of light
which will be a response to your light,
the Word of the new Day.
Spirit of God, the sap of love
of the immense tree on which you graft us,
so that all our brothers
will seem to us as a gift
in the great Body in which
the Word of communion matures.
(Frère Pierre-Yves of Taizé)
b) Reading of the Gospel: Matthew 1, 16-24
Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ. The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ. This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us’. When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home; he had not had intercourse with her when she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.
c) A moment of silence:
so that the Word of God may enter into our hearts and enlighten our lives.
a) A key to the reading:
The passage of today’s Gospel is taken from the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew which forms part of the section concerning the conception, birth and infancy of Jesus. The center of all this account is the Person of Jesus around which are all the events and the persons mentioned. One must keep in mind that the Gospel reveals a Theology of the history of Jesus, and so getting close to the Word of God we should get the message which is hidden under the veils of the account without losing ourselves, as Paul so wisely advises us “in foolish speculations”, avoiding “those genealogies and the quibbles and disputes about the Law, they are useless and futile” (Tt 3,9).
In fact, this text is connected to the genealogy of Jesus, which Matthew arranges with the intention of stressing the dynastic succession of Jesus, the Saviour of his people (Mt 1, 21). To Jesus are conferred all the rights inherited from the lineage of David, of “Joseph, son of David” (Mt 1:20; Lk 2:4-5) his legal father. For the Biblical and Hebrew world legal paternity was sufficient to confer all the rights of the lineage in question (cf.: the law of the levirate and of adoption (Dt 25:5ff). That is why from the beginning of the genealogy, Jesus is designed as “Christ the Son of David” (Mt 1:1) that is, the anointed one of the Lord Son of David, with whom all the promises of God to David his servant, are fulfilled (2 Sam 7:1-16; 2 Cr 7:18; 2 Cr 21:7; Ps 89:30). This is why Matthew adds to the account of the genealogy and of the conception of Jesus the prophecy of Isaiah: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken through the prophet.: The young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel, which means God with us” (Mt 1, 21-23 and Is 7:14).
Let us stop to say something, on the spiritual reality of adoption, we can refer to the fact that the elected people possess “the glory, the covenants, the legislation, the cult, the promises”, because “they are Israelites and possess the adoption of sons” (Rm 9:4). But we also, the new people of God in Christ receive the adoption of sons because “when the completion of the time came God sent his Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to redeem the subjects of the Law, so that we could receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5). This is the salvation which Jesus has brought to us. Christ “will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21) because he is the “God with us!” (Mt 1: 23) who makes adopted sons of God.
Jesus is born from “Mary who was betrothed to Joseph” (Mt 1:18a)) who “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Mt 1: 18b). Matthew does not give the account of the annunciation as Luke does (Lk 1, 26-38), but structures the account from the point of view of the experience of Joseph the just man. The Bible reveals to us that God loves the just and many times chooses them for an important mission, protects them and does not join them to the impious (Gen 18:23ff). In the Old Testament we find many persons who are considered just. We think of Noah “a good man, an upright man among his contemporaries” (Gen 6:9). Or also Johoash who “did what Yahweh regards as right” (2 K 12:3).
A constant idea in the Bible is the “dream” as a privileged place where God makes his projects and designs known, and sometimes reveals the future. The dreams of Jacob and Betel are well known (Gen 28: 10ff) and Joseph his son, as also those of the cup-bearer and the chief baker imprisoned in Egypt with him (Gen 37:5ff; Gen 40: 5ff) and the dreams of Pharaoh which revealed the future years of plenty and of famine and want (Gen 41:1ff).
“An Angel of the Lord“ appeared to Joseph (Mt 1:20) to reveal to him God’s design. In the Gospels of the infancy frequently the Angel of the Lord is mentioned as the heavenly messenger (Mt 1:20.24; 2:13.19; Lk 1:11; 2:9) and also on other occasions the angel appears to calm down, to reveal the project of God, to heal, to liberate from slavery (cf. Mt 28:2; Jn 5:4; Acts 5:19; 8:26; 12:7.23). Many are the references to the Angel of the Lord also in the Old Testament where originally the angel represented the Lord himself who guided and protected his people being close to them (cf. Gen 16:7-16; 22:12; 24:7; Ex 3:3; 23:20; Tb 5:4).
b) Questions to orientate the meditation and make it relevant:
● What has struck you in this passage? Why?
● In the key to the reading, have we given enough consideration to some terms (adoption, angel, dream, just)? What sentiments or thoughts did these arise in your heart? What relevance can they have for your journey of spiritual maturation?
● Which do you think is the central message in this Gospel passage?
a) Psalm 92
It is good to give thanks to Yahweh,
to make music for your name, Most High,
to proclaim your faithful love at daybreak,
and your constancy all through the night,
on the lyre, the ten-stringed lyre,
to the murmur of the harp.
You have brought me joy, Yahweh,
by your deeds, at the work of your hands I cry out,
‘How great are your works, Yahweh,
immensely deep your thoughts!’
Stupid people cannot realise this,
fools do not grasp it.
The wicked may sprout like weeds,
and every evil-doer flourish,
but only to be eternally destroyed;
whereas you are supreme for ever, Yahweh.
Look how your enemies perish,
how all evil-doers are scattered!
You give me the strength of the wild ox,
you anoint me with fresh oil;
I caught sight of the ambush against me,
overheard the plans of the wicked.
The upright will flourish like the palm tree,
will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.
Planted in the house of Yahweh,
they will flourish in the courts of our God.
In old age they will still bear fruit,
will remain fresh and green,
to proclaim Yahweh’s integrity;
my rock, in whom no fault can be found.
b) Moments for a prayerful silence
The Christian contemplation of God’s dream, of the project which God cherishes for the history of humanity does not produce alienation but keeps the consciences vigilant and active and stimulates us to face with courage and altruism the responsibilities which life gives us.
We thank the Carmelites at ocarm.org for today’s reflection.