Scripture and Reflection for 21st December 2013

Fourth Sunday of Advent

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Gospel Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Advent – December 22nd 2013

Full scripture for this Sunday is available on the Catholic Ireland website. Daily Scripture is also available. Our parish Prayers of the Faithful for this Sunday are made available on the Dublin Diocesan website.


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 a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when 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 the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

‘The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
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.

Matthew 1:18-24


Joseph – faithful type of guy. Observant in religion and now to Mary also. He doesn’t let her down or God down. He is the carer of Jesus and Mary the carer for him, as he was an older man and died in her arms. Open to the mystery of God.

Tie things down?
A temptation of religion is to tie things down too much. The law in Joseph’s time was strict – if a woman was pregnant the man would cancel the betrothal and she might be stoned. Joseph went beyond law to love and the mystery of God’s call. Good religion is open to the mystery of life, of nothing ever being final only God.

Some of the most open-minded people I have met have been very religious and some of the most narrow people have also been religious! Like good and bad medicine, there is good and bad in religion.

A lighter church
True religion is open to mystery and not knowing where things will end. We need a lighter church, lit with the light of God, as Joseph was. His burden was lifted when he was open to God.

This is the annunciation to Joseph –  the word of God from the angel to Joseph in a dream. It opened him  to new life and new mystery and gave thim a huge meaning in life. We accept this word as a central part of our lives and the next time we meet the word, it will be made flesh.

Lord you are the word of God who is made flesh, have mercy on us.

Donal Neary SJ