Fourth Sunday of Advent
A Homily - Cycle A - 2013-2014

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First Reading - Isaiah 7:10-14
Responsorial Psalm 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6
Second Reading - Romans 1:1-7
Gospel - Matthew 1:18-24

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.  For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."

He probably thought to himself, Iím one of the luckiest guys in town.  My bride is known to be one of the kindest, humblest, and most BEAUTIFUL women around.  And I get to be her husband!  Weíll move into our new house in a couple weeks, weíll have a big family with LOTS of children, weíll never have to move or deal with uncertain futures . . . Iím sure St. Joseph was dreaming of these things as he prepared to start a new life with his new wife, Mary.  Like his predecessor in the Old Testament, this man from Nazareth was a man of dreams.

Until his dreams turned upside down.  As his future wife tells him, sheís already pregnant!  Joseph, your bride, sheís already expecting a child!  And from what Mary has told him, this child comes from God Himself.  Heís never heard anything like this before.  And he certainly wasnít expecting this.  There go the dreams of a normal life, there go the dreams of a big family with, um, ordinary children, and there go the dreams of a predictable life without uncertainty . . .

By the Jewish law, he could have brought Mary up on charges, brought her before the court, openly divorced, and perhaps even worse.  But Joseph, well, heís a GOOD MAN.  And, even with this fearful news, he doesnít want to do anything so harmful to Mary.  He decides to quietly divorce her.  Those are his plans.  Not because he doesnít love her; but because heís afraid.  Because his greatest drams are being tested . . . so he wonít dare to move into this situation, itís too much beyond his control, he feels too powerless . . . Ďfatherí to Godís son?  Yeah, right . . .

King Ahaz in the Old Testament must have felt similar Ė war is raging around him, alliances are being formed, and heís encouraged to make an alliance with a foreign nation.  The prophet Isaiah, on the other hand, encourages the King to trust in the God Ė in fact, go ahead and ask the Lord for a sign, Ahaz!  Go right ahead, be bold, go ahead and dream.  But he dares not.  He wonít dream.  Heís too afraid.  Besides, could God really GET that involved in life?  . . . so Isaiah says, well, fine, God is going to go ahead and GIVE you a sign . . . the Virgin shall be with child . . .

Over and over again, our God reminds these Biblical characters (and us), not to be afraid . . . and donít stop dreaming.  Getting ready for our Rectory Christmas Party. Fr. Donahue, the pastor, asked if we might have a few lights to hang, some ornaments, maybe a tree?  I looked at him, as Iíve looked at all the staff members, and said, ďletís dream big, letís think a really large family Christmas decorations, a set up that would inspire Chevy Chase.Ē  Dare to dream!  Others have reminded me of that Ė I recently mixed up dates and seasons, and asked a few days ago if the Redskinsí season was over . . . oops . . . . a parishioner reminded me, Father!  The biggest game of the year is coming!  Weíre playing Dallas at 1pm Ė and this will be our greatest moment yet!  Donít be afraid!

Donít be afraid to dream.  And donít be afraid when the Lord sees your dream and says, wonderful, my child Ė you have great dreams . . . but now see MY dreams for you, which are always greater, and more amazing!  And do we respond, GREAT!  No . . . usually we are like Joseph Ė Lord, youíre expecting THAT from me?

I answered, Iím sorry . . . thatís IS too much . . . He responded, ďthatís why you didnít dream this . . . I DID.  And I will give you EXACTLY what you need to LIVE the dream.  Youíre still the luckiest guy in town. 

Brothers and sisters, God has dared to dream something amazing for each of us here . . . Heís about to prove it on Wednesday . . . dear Lord, give us the strength, like Joseph, to discern your dream for us, to accept it, to live it, to love it, so that YOUR DREAM for us, may become the best reality we could ever know.  Amen.