Finding our way, when there are no GPS or road signs can certainly make life difficult. Which way do we go?
Being confused and frustrated about
where to turn, or what to do next,
is certainly part of human life.
That’s where we find Joseph today –
- at a crossroads, confused, feeling betrayed,
- uncertain of what would be his next move.
The Gospel tells us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. However, being betrothed meant a lot more in Jewish culture than being engaged.
Marriage in the Jewish tradition was made up of two main steps:
- the first was betrothal,
- and the second, home-taking.
The two ceremonies usually took place months apart.
Part of the reason was that
the groom needed the assurance
that his future wife was not pregnant.
Before the time of betrothal,
a contract was drawn up between families –
- each giving consent to the marriage
- and promising the couple to each other.
The contract was read to those present and the couple were considered husband and wife with
- rights to property and inheritance should one of them die
- and to divorce, if that became necessary.
This is the crossroad where Joseph stands.
- He and Mary have become betrothed to each other (she is legally his wife)
- but have not yet moved into the time of home-taking.
- Joseph begins to notice that Mary’s figure is changing. He can’t believe his eyes.
- To his horror, the truth can’t be denied. Mary is with child and that child is not his!
- What is he going to do?
Both Jewish and Roman law required couples to divorce if either party committed adultery.
So, if Joseph chose divorce:
- he would save his honor.
- But, Mary may be subject to a demeaning trial as an adulterer and perhaps even a public stoning!
At this terrible time in his life, Joseph, we can be sure,
prayed for some kind of a sign
to help him choose the right path.
In a dream, God sent a messenger to this faithful man.
The angel told him not to divorce Mary because
- her child was not fathered by another man,
- but by the Holy Spirit.
Because Joseph trusted God, his personal agony ended.
- He chose to believe his dream.
- He could have dismissed it as wishful thinking, but he didn’t.
God had not only waited for Mary’s “Yes”, To the message of his angel, but now God’s plan had depended on Joseph saying “Yes” as well. And he did.
The pivotal word in Joseph’s dream was “Emmanuel”, a word that means “God-with-us” or “God in our Midst.”
In his darkest trial, Joseph’s faith in God was confirmed.
- Just as God was always with his people, the Jewish people – God’s chosen people,
- so, now, God was with him personally.
He could say “Yes” to God and take pregnant Mary as his wife – because Emmanuel – God was and would remain – with them.
These holy people of Scripture give us such tremendous examples for our lives.
- For often, we too, stand at crossroads, major and minor.
- Even though we don’t have an angelic visitation,
by faith we can trust that God is with us. Emmanuel!
If we are really attentive, at our crossroads, we may be given a gentle nudge or hear a quiet whisper in our hearts telling us to:
- “Go this way. Choose the better path.”
- “Make peace. Forgive the offense”
- “Be the first to move out in love.”
- “Be the one who doesn’t join the criticism or spread the gossip.”
- “Speak truth. Stand fast to your Catholic values.”
Some will be asked to take bigger steps when the voice whispers.
- “Give your life to God in ordained or religious ministry.”
- “Share more of your wealth.”
- “Stop climbing the corporate ladder. Spend more time with your family”.
When that nudge comes,
When we hear that quiet whisper,
We need to prayerfully discern if the voice
truly is a message from God and if it is . . . say, “Yes!”
Did you know that almost all of our names have a meaning. According to the website Names.org . . .
Matthew – Gift of God
Elizabeth – God is my oath
Patricia – Noble
Amanda – Worthy of Love
Monica – Advisor, Truth
Christopher – Christ Bearer
Ann – Prayer
Lewis – Famed Warrior
John – God is Gracious
Raymond – “Counselor Protector”
And the name – Jesus – God is our Salvation, God Saves
Emmanuel – God is with us
At her crossroads – Mary said “Yes” and conceived through the Holy Spirit a child who would bring about Salvation for all mankind. For Jesus means God Saves.
At his crossroads, Joseph said “Yes” because his faith told him that Emmanuel – God was with him.
Today, one week before Christmas we may be at a crossroads. If so, it is time for our “Yes.”
If we say “Yes” to Jesus and place our trust in him, the child in the manger will grow to be our personal Savior. For through Jesus – God saves.
We can say “Yes” with confidence for Emmanuel – God is with us. God is in our midst.