REFLECTION FOR TODAY,
December 18, 2020
By Fr. Andrew Ibegbulem, OSA
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. Matthew 1:18–19
The name “Emmanuel” is found only in two books of the Bible (Isaiah and Matthew) in relation to the birth of Jesus, and because of this it is easy to miss the overall meaning: “God is with us.” That means “Emmanuel” is not just a baby in a manger, but our Savior who is with us always – in times of joy, times of sadness, and everywhere in-between. Every day, all day.
Our gospel reference today talks about the mysterious pregnancy and the seemingly scandal of this pregnancy. Mary’s pregnancy was truly mysterious. In fact, it was so mysterious that even Saint Joseph initially couldn’t accept it. But, to Joseph’s defense, who could accept such a thing? He was faced with what was a most confusing situation. The woman to whom he was engaged was suddenly with child, and Joseph knew he was not the father. But he also knew that Mary was a holy and pure woman.
So, naturally speaking, it makes sense that this situation simply did not make immediate sense. But that’s the key. “Naturally speaking” this did not make immediate sense. The only way to understand the situation of Mary’s sudden pregnancy was through supernatural means. Thus, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and that dream was all he needed to accept this mysterious pregnancy in faith.
It’s amazing to consider the fact that the greatest event to ever take place in human history happened under a cloud of apparent scandal and confusion. The angel revealed the deep spiritual truth to Joseph secretly, in a dream. And though Joseph may have shared his dream with others, it’s most likely the case that many people still assumed the worst. Most would have presumed that Mary was pregnant either by Joseph or by someone else. The idea that this conception was the working of the Holy Spirit would have been a truth beyond what their friends and relatives could ever comprehend.
But this presents us with a great lesson about judgment and the action of God. There are countless examples in life when God and His perfect will lead to judgment, apparent scandal and confusion. Take, for example, any martyr of old. We now look at the many acts of martyrdom in a heroic way. But when the martyrdom actually happened, many would have been deeply saddened, angered, scandalized and confused. Many, at the time of a loved one being martyred for the faith, would be tempted to question why God permitted this.
The holy act of forgiving another could also lead some to a form of “scandal” in life. Take, for example, the crucifixion of Jesus. From the Cross, He cried out, “Father, forgive them…” Were not many of His followers confused and scandalized? Why didn’t Jesus defend Himself? How could the promised Messiah have been found guilty by the authorities and killed? Why did God allow this?
Reflect, today, upon the mystery of God’s actions in life. Are there things in your own life that are hard to accept, to embrace, or to understand? Know that you are not alone in this. Even Saint Joseph experienced this. Prayerfully commit yourself to a deeper faith in God’s wisdom in the face of any mystery with which you struggle. And know that this faith will help you to live more fully in accord with the glorious wisdom of God.
Lord, I turn to You with the deepest mysteries of my life. Help me to face them all with confidence and courage. Give me Your mind and Your wisdom so that I can walk each day in faith, trusting in Your perfect plan, even when that plan appears mysterious. Jesus, I trust in You.