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The birth of Jesus

Gospel Reading: Mt 1:18-24
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.

In the Gospel, God introduces Joseph into the mystery of the Incarnation. Like any other human being, Joseph at first experiences confusion, fear, and pain. But when the mystery of Mary’s pregnancy is explained to him, he welcomes it and obediently takes his role in relation to Mary and her Child. Joseph becomes our model as we approach the mysteries and the manifold challenges of faith and life. Joseph, man of discernment. When Mary is found to be with child – which, to Joseph, can only appear to be the fruit of her infidelity to their betrothal – she faces the prospect of being charged with adultery. If Joseph chooses not to bring her to public trial, Mary may escape stoning but not a lifetime of public bickering. Being a “righteous man,” Joseph is inclined to follow the Law of Moses that prescribes punishment. Yet, he is also solicitous of Mary’s welfare. He thus tempers his “justice” with mercy. He will divorce Mary but “quietly”; he will not bring her to judgment. This decision is the fruit of his agonized discernment. Discernment enables us to carefully examine the “stirrings” of our emotions and of our soul, and their consequences on our lives and those of others. It challenges us to see ourselves as persons “wrapped in mystery.”

There is always something nobler, greater ahead of us. The coming of God’s light. God rescues Joseph from his anguish and confusion. In a dream, an angel explains to him the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. Then he is told to take Mary home as his wife and provide security for her and her Child. He is also to guard the mystery of the Child, born of the Holy Spirit, and destined to save his people from their sins. Faith does not assure us full comprehension of the mysteries of life. Rather, faith sustains and strengthens us as we face life’s complexities and challenges. God assures us of his “light” through discernment, prayer, reflection on his Word, and advice of well-meaning people. In the process, we gain wisdom and understanding of our lives. Acting on God’s Word. Like Mary who