POPE FRANCIS ON THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT YEAR A
Saint Peter’s Square
4th Sunday of Advent Year A, 18 December 2022
Dear brothers and sisters, buongiorno!
Today, the fourth and final Sunday of Advent, the liturgy presents the figure of Saint Joseph to us (cf. Mt 1:18-24). He is a just man who is about to get married. We can imagine what his dreams for the future are – a beautiful family, with an affectionate wife and many wonderful children, and a dignified job – simple and good dreams, the dreams of simple and good people. But all of a sudden, these dreams come up against a disconcerting discovery. Mary, his betrothed, is expecting a child, and the child is not his! What would Joseph have felt? Shock, pain, confusion, perhaps even irritation and disappointment…. But… He experienced his world was falling apart all around him! And what was he supposed to do?
The Law gives him two options. The first is to accuse Mary and make her pay the price for her alleged infidelity. The second is to secretly annul their engagement without exposing Mary to scandal and to harsh consequences, taking upon himself, however, the burden of shame. So, Joseph chooses this second option, which is the way of mercy. And behold, at the height of his crisis, right when he is thinking and evaluating all this, God gives him a new light in his heart – he declares to him in a dream that Mary’s motherhood did not come about because of a betrayal, but was the work of the Holy Spirit, and the baby to be born would be the Saviour (cf. vv. 20-21), and Mary would be the Mother of the Messiah, and he would be His guardian. On waking up, Joseph understands that the greatest dream of every devout Israelite – to be the father of the Messiah – was being fulfilled for him in a completely unexpected way.
To accomplish this, in fact, it was not enough to belong to David’s lineage and to be a faithful observer of the law, but he would need to entrust himself above and beyond all else to God, welcome Mary and her Son in a completely different way than was expected, differently than had ever been done. In other words, Joseph would have to renounce all reassuring certainties, his perfect plans, his legitimate expectations, and open himself to a future that was completely to be discovered. And before God, who disrupts his plans and asks that he trust Him, Joseph says “yes”. Joseph’s courage is heroic and is exercised in silence – his courage is to trust, he welcomes, he is willing, he asks for no further guarantees.
Brothers and sisters, what does Joseph say to us today? We too have our dreams, and perhaps we think of them more, we talk about them together at Christmas. Perhaps we lament over some dreams that have been shattered and we see that our best expectations often need to be put together with unexpected, disconcerting situations. And when this happens, Joseph shows us the way. We do not need to give in to negative feelings, like anger or isolation – this is the wrong way! Instead, we need to attentively welcome surprises, the surprises in life, even crises. When we find ourselves in crisis, we should not make decisions quickly or instinctively, but let them pass through the sieve, like Joseph did who “considered everything” (cf. v. 20), and base ourselves on the underlying certainty of God’s mercy. When someone experiences a crisis without giving in to isolation, anger, and fear, but keeps the door open for God, He can intervene. He is an expert in transforming crises into dreams – yes, God opens crises into new horizons we never would have imagined before, perhaps not as we would expect, but in the way He knows how. And these, brothers and sisters, are God’s horizons – surprising – but infinitely more grand and beautiful than ours! May the Virgin Mary help us live open to God’s surprises.
Saint Peter’s Square
Saint Peter’s Square
4th Sunday of Advent Year A, 18 December 2016
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