4th Sunday Of Advent
Fr. Mark Gatto
Preached: December 18, 2022
The Holy Family is not the Traditional Family. Often you will hear people today, sometimes politicians, sometimes religious leaders, speak about the Traditional Family, and the values of the Traditional Family. But, the Holy Family itself would not be considered a Traditional Family.
God comes in a helpless little baby. Born away from home with no place to stay. As part of an oppressed people occupied by a foreign empire. God did not come among the rich, the powerful, the influential. Soon they would be forced to leave their homeland, like one of our modern day migrants.
Jesus was born in the context of a scandal. Mary was a young, unwed and pregnant woman. When she first received news of her pregnancy, she would have realized that she faced possible rejection by her family and community. She was faced with a humiliating situation. People gossiping about her, and at first she would be wondering if Joseph would accept her or not.
Joseph was also faced with great uncertainty. He was probably not sure what to think and was discerning about what to do next. His first thought was to quietly dismiss Mary, to lessen the reaction she would face.
Joseph and Mary were faced with a frightening and uncertain situation. It is not surprising that the first words both of them heard from the angel was “do not be afraid.”
The story of Joseph facing this situation is described in Matthew’s Gospel that we just heard. As he is discerning what to do, after a dream in which he reflects on a passage of the Prophet Isaiah, he overcomes his fear and chooses to take Mary as his wife and support her.
Joseph, reflecting on Isaiah, sees that this child will be Emmanuel, “God is with us.” In this surprising, unexpected, unplanned event. In this experience of scandal, God is with us.
One of the great spiritual battles each one of us faces to allow God to be with us is to overcome fear. We all need to hear in our hearts, “do not be afraid.” Fear is an obstacle to God being with us.
Sometimes we think that God is not with us for various reasons: We say, I am a sinner or I have made too many mistakes in life or my life situation is broken in some way. Some of us might say that my life or my family is not traditional or holy. Some might say that I am not important or famous.
But, the story of the birth of Jesus should help us to realize that God comes to us in surprising places and ways. God comes even in the midst of scandal. God comes where we do not expect. Often God comes among people who are rejected, excluded or avoided by so called traditional society.
The challenge we have is to recognize in our lives, Emmanuel, “God is with us.” Do not allow fear to prevent you from seeing God is with you, in your life, as it is. Our challenge is to find God with us even in unexpected places and situations.
The Holy Family was not a Traditional Family. Yet, there we can say, Emmanuel, God is with us.
Look around in your life, in unexpected places, in surprising events, in the messes of your life. Find God with you even there.