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FOURTH SUNDAY of ADVENT :: 12/22/13

First reading:   Isaiah 7:10-14 
Second:          Romans 1:1-7
Gospel:           Matthew 1:18-24

“DO YOU HEAR WHAT I HEAR? DO YOU SEE WHAT I SEE?”
by Sister Marietta Fahey, SHF 

This familiar Christmas song stays with me often through the year! The truth in the song helps me sometimes come through misunderstanding, frustration when I wonder … don’t you see what I see? As though what I “see” is right! And what I am given to “hear” and “see” is also a gift of God’s own Spirit which I trust and which sustains me in difficult situations.

Today’s Gospel gives us a close up glimpse of Joseph as he faced into a very surprising, confusing, unsettling situation! His fiancé, Mary, is said to be pregnant, they’ve not lived together yet, and she remains a virgin. Really???

In his culture and tradition, how is Joseph to understand, react, and manage this situation? His intention is to respect Mary and preserve her dignity. What to do? Imagine his struggle. All of us have experienced unsettling, confusing moments in our own lives. What to believe? What to do next?

In a dream, Joseph “hears” and “sees” deep truth which he came to believe and rely on…deep truth revealed as gift and guide, sustaining him through all that would lie ahead. “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home. It is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She is to bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. From what we know, Joseph not only believed what he had been given to hear and see, he acted on it.

How often in the months and years that followed Joseph must have sought guidance and strength from this encounter. Believing beyond understanding. Sustained by what he alone experienced. Later, in another dream he comes to know it is time to flee, to take the child and Mary to safety, out of Herod’s reach. What a gift and challenge to remain anchored in the truth he had come to know.

In the reading from Romans, Paul writes of the “obedience of faith”. Obedience – rooted in the Latin: ob audire (… to listen to…) to listen deeply to one’s experience, to discover the inspiration of God’s Spirit and then believing it, act on it, believing God is faithful to what is revealed.

This reading ends with Paul’s familiar phrase : “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Grace: all is given.. all is gift.. Hear it…See it… believe it …the gift and the challenge and then, act on it. You will have all you need.

Peace from God, deep within you, especially in unsettling, disturbing moments will sustained you.

I wonder what kind of conversations Joseph and Mary had as they reflected together on their unique encounters which forever changed their lives! Peace and grace sustaining them through every uncertainty beyond imagining. Yes, how often they had to draw on what they had heard and seen…to be strengthened each time in believing that the Promise would be fulfilled.

In a conversation with a friend of mine in Detroit recently she emphatically said: “I don’t guess! I believe it! We are meant to see what we see and hear what we hear! “ This in reference to an ordinary experience in which she heard and saw, believed God’s own Spirit at work!

So as we draw very near to Christmas, I can hear children’s voices asking: “Are we there yet?” I ask in my own deep heart: Are we there yet…are we really there in the heart of the Mystery of Emmanuel…”God with us”?

In the midst of ordinary daily life with all its surprises, change and challenges… what do you “hear” … what do you “see”? Do you believe “God-with-us” is guiding and sustaining you personally and us together as the Body of Christ in the world today? Does what we believe shape our decisions, strengthen us when the road is rough?

In a news segment Wednesday night this past week, a reporter in Vatican square caught these words as Pope Francis delivered his last message before Christmas: “God still has faith in us!” Really? YES! The One who created us still believes in us! So, how shall we live?

Now, with all we have heard and seen, we come to the table to be strengthened as the Body of Christ. Yes! God–with-us still believes in us!

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