Pastor's Pen, the 4th Sunday of Advent

In Jamaica, on a few Sundays, the church would be abuzz with chatter.  On occasion one of the gun men from the corner by the church would come to Mass.  I would always make sure I went over to say hello and welcome them, and I was usually surprised that these ‘tough men’ seemed sheepish and almost embarrassed to be in church.  I think they realized two things which caused their unease.  First, they understood the lack of correspondence between the lives they lived and the Christian faith.  Secondly, they knew that not everyone thought they should be there.  In this week’s Gospel we hear the story of Joseph’s unease with regard to Mary’s pregnancy.  Joseph knew the expectation and the customs of his society.  If he were to keep her to be his wife he would be making a fool of himself in the eyes of others.  And as a person like ourselves he initially gave in to what others thought was the correct thing to do – he would dismiss her, but he’d do it privately to protect her.  We know however that Joseph’s mind was changed by the appearance of an angel in a dream.  The Scripture says “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the Angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.” 

We can sometimes act according to the common sense that we have learned from the world, which does not always echo our Christian faith.  For example, do we write people off who have disappointed us?  Do we respond with meanness to an insult or hurt?  Do we seek to serve from our strength rather than our poverty?  Do we judge those who are already condemned?  Do we join in gossip because it’s fun?  Do we fail to support others when they are in need?  All of us on various days probably could answer yes to some and no to others.  While it’s true that our lives is the prolonged work of salvation, and therefore moments of stumbling should not surprise us, on the other hand, we must always seek to be honest with ourselves and with our God.  Like Joseph, our faith gently leads us in a more life-giving direction.  We stumble and fall but we “are called to be saints,” as St. Paul writes in the Second Reading.  Our growth in sanctity is never achieved through a stricter following of rules.  Instead, it is given with the gradual acceptance of the Father’s love in Jesus Christ.

Our Lives are difficult and so too is the living of our Christian faith.  Thankfully it is not something we have to do alone.  We have each other for support and strength and we have our God who desires our prayers.  Ahaz did not want to bother God with his request.  But our God wants to chat with you.  Let us fulfill the Father’s desires and let us ask for everything, for our God desires to give his very self to each of us.  

We are not just people who trip and fall.  We are not just people who fail to do the things we should.  But in His love and through His grace, we are called to be saints.

God Bless and Take Care!
Fr. John

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