Scripture: 1st Reading: Jer23,5-8; Resp Psalm: Ps. 71:1-2,12-13,18-19; Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24
The nativity or birth revealed His humanity. The story of His birth showed that He was true man. His birth teaches us that He united Himself to our frail mortal nature for the specific purpose of saving it. He became man so that we could share in His divine nature.
The earthly manifestation and the beginning of our collective redemption from the shackles often sin and death is what the word recalls in today's first reading. The word today tells us unequivocally that the Son of God had an earthly mother whose name was Mary. It further reveals that His mother was betrothed to Joseph. In order words, the two were billed to start a natural family together, the way of every mortal.
The joy of that betrothal and eventual marriage and living together was shattered when Mary was found to be with child out of wedlock. Since the child she carried was not his own, Joseph could either make a case of this which would lead to the cancellation of the betrothal and disgrace for Mary and her parents. The other alternative was to claim the child as his own since by virtue of the betrothal, Mary was legally considered as Joseph's wife and could be pregnant for him.
Joseph chose the second option. But this was not an ordinary, human choice. An angel of the Lord visited him in a dream to convince him that the child was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was to name the child "Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins." All these mysterious happenings brought the words of the prophet Isaiah to fulfillment. Yahweh finally was going to be with His people. Immanuel was going to be born.
The word today teaches us a number of lessons: that the child is the womb is a human person with rights to live; that after conception human life is present and must be defended; that the mother who conceives a child out of wedlock, though in sin, is carrying a human life and must be supported; that striving to live a virtuous life, like Joseph, predisposes us to knowing the will of God; that in difficult moments of our lives, we must never take precipitate actions but must patiently and prayerfully consider the situation and wait unto the Lord for answers.
The gospel today is thus the fulfilment of the words revealed to prophet Isaiah in today's First Reading. The child, the virtuous branch promised today is Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Mary. He would be a true king and be wise; He would practice honesty and integrity, bring salvation to Judah and confidence to Israel. He would bring back those exiled from the Father's house and separated from their God as a result of sin.
That is the Person we await. That is the salvation we long for with all our hearts and souls. That is the redemption our bodies desire as we look forward to His coming again in glory. As we begin the last days to the birth of our Lord, may the words we hear these days prepare us for our encounter with Him.
Let us pray: "Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who are weighed down from of old by slavery beneath the yoke of sin, may be set free by the newness of the long-awaited Nativity of your Only Begotten Son." Amen.
May the Living Word of God find a true dwelling place within our hearts and souls today and always.