December 18, 2016 (readings)
- Fourth Sunday of Advent
- Father Barry O’Toole, LC
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 into your home. For it is though 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." When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took his wife into his home.
Introductory Prayer: As I kneel before you, I humbly recognize that you are my God and my All. I trust in you, though sometimes my confidence is weak and wavers. Sometimes I want to do things my way, and I even brush you aside as if you were getting in the way. Please forgive my selfishness and pettiness. I want to show my love for you by learning to hand you the steering wheel of my life and putting my plans in the back seat.
Petition: Help me to lovingly fulfill your will in all of the specific details and activities of this day.
1. Preconceived Ideas: I believe that it happens to all of us from time to time. It happens that we plan an event or even just our schedule for the day. We work out all of the details, and we get excited about all of the good that is going to come about because of this preparation. Then, as we begin to execute our plans, things start going awry ; nothing works out right. This can be both frustrating and depressing. We begin to ask ourselves, “Where did I go wrong?” Thomas à Kempis once wrote: “Man proposes but God disposes.” (Imitation of Christ, Book 1, Chapter 19). This is exactly what happened to Saint Joseph. He had his plans for forming a marvelous family. He had chosen a beautiful wife, and they were betrothed. Everything was fine until she returns from a four month visit to her cousin’s house, and he discovers that she is pregnant. God’s plans and his plans did not seem to coincide. Do I have preconceived ideas for my own life that aren’t matching God’s plan for me? Am I able to adjust to his way? What holds me back?
2. Endless Searching for Signs: In my priestly ministry, I have met many people who tell me that they want to do God’s will but simply don’t know what it is that he is asking of them. Here, I am referring to everything from discerning a vocation to the priesthood or consecrated life, to making a vital business decision, to trying to balance the amount of time they should spend at work and with the family. In searching for God’s will, they begin an endless rummaging for signs instead of increasing their love and trust of God. These processes of discernment can fill us with uneasiness and rob us of all our enthusiasm. God’s will is not a guessing-game. He is the first one interested in letting us know what he wants. What we have to do is learn to let go of our plans and comfort zone in order to embrace whatever God wants of us –, be it difficult or easy, pleasing or unpleasant.
3. Wake up! “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” The key here is the “wake-up”. He awoke from his daydreams about what he had hoped his future family life would be like, he accepted God’s plan, which was far better and he cooperated fully. We need to break off the shackles of slavery to our egotistical plans! We need to open our hearts to God’s marvelous plan! Do not be afraid! Open wide the doors of your heart to Christ! Today he is begging you to cooperate with him in bringing about his plan of salvation for all mankind.
Conversation with Christ: Lord, I feel insecure and fearful. What the future holds for me is uncertain. I am tending to rebel interiorly against the way things are working out. I fail to recognize that you hold the strings of my destiny in your tender, loving and fatherly hands. Help me overcome my egotism and lovingly embrace your plan, whatever it may be. Then I will truly be able to hear that song of the angelic choir as they proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth to men of good will.”
Resolution: Today I will make a visit to Christ in the Blessed Sacrament asking him to help me open my heart to accept his will over my life.
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