Sunday, December 18, 2016

Dec. 18, 2016: 4th Sunday Advent A

Dec. 18, 2016: 4th Sunday Advent A

Click to hear Audio Homily

Have you ever asked the question, “God, what do You want me to do?” There are times in life when we face choices that affect our lives, choices that seem to have so many possibilities and unclear future. We may feel in our hearts that we should go one way, but our head tells us to go another. Such internal struggle stops us and leads us to confusion or fear of the unknown. What do you do in such a situation?

During Advent each of us is called to prepare the way of the Lord who wants to enter into our lives. We are to do this by removing every obstacle --  one by one: those arising from our limited way of seeing things, and from our weak will. In today’s Gospel, St Joseph shows how he prepared for the arrival of Jesus. He was a devout Jew who prayed daily and longed for Messiah’s coming. He was a just, upright, and humble man.

After becoming engaged to Mary, Joseph busied himself with his work because soon he would be supporting his wife. As the time drew closer, Joseph was even more earnest in his anticipation and all was going well for him, until the day Mary returned home from assisting her cousin Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Joseph found out that his virgin bride was with child, but not just any child, the very Son of God—or so he was told. Joseph wanted what was best for her, yet he didn’t know if he could take her as his wife anymore. Can you imagine Joseph lying awake at night, pondering his current situation, and doubt creeping into his mind? Perhaps he wondered: ‘How could she have done this to me? What should I do? I love her; I don’t want to see her hurt.’ Night after sleepless night he searches the heavens for an answer.

Don’t we also find ourselves at times in perplexing, heartbreaking situations that involve people we love and trust. In this narrative about Joseph, we find the way for dealing with our perplexity and mending our heart. Joseph acts with integrity in searching for God’s guidance in a seemingly no-win situation. He decides to divorce Mary quietly believing that would be the best for both of them. Joseph seeks God’s direction with a certain calmness. For us, the angry grinding of our minds over the injustices we see brought against us can keep us awake at night. At the pivotal night when Joseph made his final decision to divorce, the angel sheds the light of God’s direction on Joseph’s situation. Joseph received the answer to the question, “God, what do you want me to do.”

We also can discover God’s intent through meditating on the Scriptures, silent prayer, pondering the deeper meaning of events, seeking the guidance of a holy person. God will often ask us to do things that don’t make complete sense. He tells Joseph to marry a pregnant virgin because the child is from the Holy Spirit. Was that puzzling to Joseph? Because he was a prayerful and devout person, he recognized God’s voice and did as he was instructed. One thing we can learn from Joseph is that a certain type of peace comes when one deeply understands the ways of God, even when what the Lord commands is perplexing or unexpected. This experience comes from the habit of referring all our needs and decisions to the Lord.

Like St. Joseph, we need to discern between our way and God’s way for us, between our will and His will. Once we discern the question, “God, what do you want me to do,” we need courage to trust that God’s path will bring us fulfillment of our vocation. May we spend time in prayer and in reading scripture so that we too may recognize the voice of God directing our lives.