Fourth Sunday of Advent: Matthew 1:18-24

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“Angel of Hope” Painting and Bulletin Cover: Ronald Raab, CSC

Read my column from this week’s bulletin and view my cover painting. Click on link to read the full bulletin. 

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Dear Believers in the Word-Made-Flesh,

Today’s gospel (Matthew: 1:18-24) reveals to us a shift in the Advent liturgy and prayers. For the past three weeks, we have been focusing on the end times, the Second Coming of Christ Jesus. We now move into a reflection on Jesus’ birth and the movement toward celebrating Christmas.

In this gospel, Joseph receives a message from an angel. He had found himself in quite the unusual situation. It was against the law for him to marry a woman who was pregnant. His intention was not to abandon his future wife, yet he did not understand what to do. So this angel comes in the night to tell him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” The angel goes on to explain that the Holy Spirit has given the couple this child and that the child is going to change not only his earthly parents, but also the entire world.

This gospel shows us the validity of our dreams. I want every individual and every family to hold on to this passage from Matthew at Christmas. I really want our dreams to change us. Our dreams can show us that our lives do not have to be perfect in order for some amazing and beautiful things to happen within us. God plants within every human person the seed of goodness, hope and the talents to enrich our earthly existence. So dream on! Dream big!

If you notice within the gospels that whenever something new is about to happen to Jesus, an angel says, “Do not be afraid.” We, too, are to be open to God in changing times. When Jesus is about to be born, do not be afraid. When the resurrection is about to be revealed, do not be afraid. When the Holy Spirit is celebrated, do not be afraid. Through all of these transition moments, the gospels show us that fear is not to be the motivating action.

I invite us to not be afraid. I pray for your families in the conclusion of this Advent season so that fear will not be a guest at your table when your family arrives for Christmas dinner. I pray that when you reminisce about the events that have happened this year, that fear will not guide you into the future. I pray that you take to heart what Joseph realized, that your families do not need to be perfect in order to be faithful. If Joseph’s family was not perfect, do not think that your family has to be perfect. I pray for our parishioners this week that fear does not override our mission to serve people most in need. I pray that fear does not motivate our prayers about our nation, the decisions of our national leaders, our neighbors, friends, relatives or our brothers and sisters in poverty, loneliness and illness.

In this week before Christmas, light a candle in the stillness of evening. Dream with those you love even if they are not in the same room. Recognize the burdens you carry. Entrust your life again to Jesus, the Light of the World. Pray for those who need forgiveness from you. Pray for peace and the end of division and hatred. Allow your heart to enter into the message of an angel that fear is not the answer. Live the peace you pray for. Embrace differences. Listen to Saint Joseph. Turn off old judgments in your mind and enter the love of Emmanuel, “God is with us.”

Advent Blessings,

Fr. Ron

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