Just a thought on our first reading from Isaiah. He was writing about a very political situation going on in his time. Syria, which is so much in the news today, entered into a pact with the northern kingdom of Israel against the kingdom of Judah. They were going to lay siege against Jerusalem. Ahaz was Jerusalem’s king at that time. Isaiah wants Ahaz to know that things will work out in the long run, but he has to trust God. Isaiah offers Ahaz a sign. ‘A young woman is with child, she’ll have a son and he shall be named, Emmanuel. The young woman was one of Ahaz’s wives and her son Hezekiah would be the one to follow his father on the throne. The royal line of David would continue in the kingdom of Judah. A sign that God is still with the people of God.
In our gospel Matthew puts a whole new spin on the promise of Isaiah. Matthew interprets Isaiah through the prism of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, Emmanuel, is not a product of human evolution but the intervention of our transcendent God into human history. This was the belief on the early Church, the eternal Word was made flesh and dwelt amongst, suffered, died and rose again.
For this wonder to take place God chose two young people from the unimportant town of Nazareth, Mary engaged to Joseph, a carpenter.
God made God’s plan known to Mary through the visit of the angel Gabriel. Her pregnancy would be unique, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you – the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. The young and confused Mary surrenders herself to this mystery with the simple response,’ be it done according to your word.
Mary left home to be with her aged cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant in her old age. When she came home to Nazareth her pregnancy was showing. Image the gossip and scandal in the town. Joseph, to whom Mary was engaged and who loved her dearly probably asked her what happened, who was the father? He found it hard to accept Mary’s explanation. Who wouldn’t? He decided to break the engagement but that was not to be. Young Joseph had a dream and was let in on the divine plan. This was all the work of God. Mary’s child would be Emmanuel – God with us. The young and confused Joseph added his ‘yes’ to Mary’s and our Christmas event begins to unfold.
Mary and Joseph were still in their teens when God intruded into their lives. But both Mary and Joseph did three things in their encounter with God. They listened, they trusted and they loved. They listened to what God was asking of them. They listened to what was beyond their imagining that they were invited to work with God in something only God could understand. Then they trusted. That must have been the hardest, to trust, as God’s plan unfolded in their lives. They trusted when they faced the dangers and hardships as they traveled to Bethlehem and found there was no place to stay and delivered their son in a shelter for animals. They trusted when they had to flee to another country to save the child’s life.
Imagine the trust demanded of Mary as she stood by the cross and looked at the beaten and diminished body of her son and remembered the promise of the Angel, ‘he will be great and will be called son of the Most High and the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David, his kingdom will have no end.’ Looking at the crucified body of her son Mary faced the exact opposite of these promised and yet she trusted.
Mary and Joseph listened, trusted and loved. They certainly love each other; otherwise Joseph would have taken off when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy. They certainly loved the son Jesus and they certainly loved God.
Cardinal Newman wrote of himself, ‘God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me, which He has not committed to another. I have my mission.” We all have something to do in life that no one else can do. It may be great, it may be very ordinary, but it is ours just as Mary and Joseph had their definite to God.
When Mary and Joseph were presented with their missions they listened, they trusted and the loved. When, in God’s time we discover our mission may we be blessed with the grace to listen, to trust and to love and do whatever God calls us to do.