YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 4TH SUNDAY OF ADVENT
HOMILY THEME: THE 3 SIGNS OF EMMANUEL!
BY: Fr. Ben Agbo
HOMILY: * Is 7 : 10 – 14, Rom 1 : 1 – 7, Matt 1 : 18 – 24.
In the divine plan of salvation, two human qualities /virtues were required and three divine attributes/ graces were released ; Faith in the Word of God was required of Mary while gentility /virtue of tempering justice with mercy was required from Joseph. Faith, hope and love were released in abundance for righteousness, justice and peace.
B. THE STORY OF SALVATION
The 1st reading tells the story of Ahaz’s loss of faith in God. He was told : ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign’. Ahaz said ‘No’. The Prophet said : ‘The Lord himself will give you a sign : A Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son and shall call his name Emmanuel -God is with us’.
The story of salvation is summarized in the name ‘Emmanuel’ – our common name. God has always tried to be with us : God walked in the cool gentle breeze of Eden, Gen 1 – 3 until the devil disrupted his presence with man. He encountered Abraham in Gen 12 and 14 through the mediatorship of Melchizedek his priest. He showed himself to Jacob in a dream at Bethel when he woke up and shouted : ‘God is here and I didn’t know it’, Gen 28 : 16. He manifested himself to Moses in a burning bush that was not consuming the grass, Ex 3. He manifested himself to the Isrealites in a pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night, Ex 13 : 21. He proved himself to Prophet Elijah at Horeb against the Prophets of Baal. He gave the Prophet Isaiah the clearest vision of the Messiah and that’s why he was called the evangelist of the Old Testament. Isaiah told the fidgeting King, Ahaz (and still tells all of us today) : ‘If you do not take your stand on me you will not stand firm’. Yes, those who put their trust in the Lord are like mount Zion that cannot be shaken, Ps 125 : 1.
C. THE 3 SIGNS OF ‘EMMANUEL’.
The 3 signs of Emmanuel are : Righteousness, Justice and Peace. In Mary’s virginity before and after the birth of Christ, the demands of righteousness/ purity were met. According to St Ignatius of Antioch, ‘Mary’s virginity and giving birth and even the Lord’s death escaped the notice of the Prince of this world ; these 3 mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God’s silence’.
In Joseph’s gentility, the demands of tempering justice with mercy (epikeia) were met. According to the demands of the law of Moses, Deut 22 : 23, the punishment due for a betrothed wife found with child outside her husband’s knowledge was death by stoning, but Joseph, being a just man (a gentleman), did not want to disgrace her and decided to send her away secretly.
That was why, in Jn 8 : 1 – 11, when the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught committing adultery, Jesus stooped down and recollected what his father Joseph did 30 years ago when his mother was found guilty of the same law. So he made compassion override the law and said : ‘The 1st person to stone her should be completely innocent’ and nobody was fit to judge her.
In Jesus, peace was enthroned in the world. He made both Jews and Gentiles become one through his death on the cross, Eph 2 :14. Jesus’ highest gift to mankind is peace, Jn 20 : 21. He sets us free from the bondage of sin, Jn 8 : 36, 1Pet 2 : 24 and he is the Lord that heals our diseases, Ex 15 : 26, Ps 103 : 3, Ps 107 : 20 and by his stripes we are healed, Is 53 : 5.
What we are preparing to celebrate at Christmas is the enthronment of righteousness, Justice and Peace on earth. We need humility and detachment to accept the peace that Christ brings. Today’s 2nd reading says it comes through obedience of faith. We cannot but emulate the humility of Joseph who decided to take the wise counsel of the angel of God through his dream and brought peace to the home of Nazareth. Our world is becoming too ambitiously arrogant and our prayer styles are becoming too tempestuously noisy. And ipso facto, hearing the Word of God is becoming more and more difficult.
We emulate also the purity of Mary that gave righteousness to the human race. In the story of the Messiah we celebrate the role of dream as a means through which God spoke to gentlemen and the virtue of purity as a tool which God values most in women. These two instruments of divine – human encounter has been bastardized by the noise and corruption of the modern day.
Joseph remains a shining example of marital nobility, dignity and gentility. He knew what it means for a husband never to disgrace his wife in public. Never can such a husband suffer from hypertension which has become the malaria of the ever suspicious, irate and intemperate spouse.
As a Christmas gift, please give your spouse respect, trust and the benefit of the doubt before you think of other material gifts. Happy Sunday dear friends!
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