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4th Sunday Advent :: 2007 A

4th Sunday Advent :: 2007 A

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Fourth Sunday in Advent: Cycle A; December 23, 2007Scripture ReadingsFirst :
Isaiah 7:10-14
Second:
Romans 1:1-7
Gospel:
Matthew 1; 18-25Prepared by: Fr. Stephen Dominic Hayes, OP1.
Subject Matter
 
 
1. As Christmas draws near, the readings begin to focus upon the mystery of the incarnationof the Lord: specifically, in Matthew's Gospel, the virginal conception and birth of Christ bythe power of the Holy Spirit.
 
2. The Gospel provides meditation upon the annunciation to St. Joseph, through whom, inaccepting Jesus as his own son, and by taking the responsibility of naming him, Jesus shallreceive his lineage and claim to be Son of David the king.
 
3. The heart of St. Joseph, his openness to being formed by God through his dreams (muchlike Joseph, son of Jacob, in the book of Genesis) gives an example to all those who wouldmake a place for Christ and his Holy Spirit in their lives. He manifests the ”obedience offaith” which St. Paul proclaims in the second reading.
 
4. Like the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph shows himself to be at the disposal of God and his planfor salvation at all times. In this, he also demonstrates what is the essence of being husbandto the wife God has chosen for him, and the essence of fatherhood towards the holy Sonwhom he takes and serves as his own.2.
Exegetical Notes
 
Matthew, the most Semitic of the Gospels, is rife with allusions to Old Testament prophecycoming to fulfillment. Most prominent is the specific allusion to Isaiah 7:14 (in the firstreading) and that text’s discernment of the birth of the child who will be the manifestation ofthe Messianic Age. The Septuagint translates the Hebrew
almah 
(young woman) as
parthenos 
(virgin), and Matthew uses this to affirm the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Theprophecy of Isaiah, however, seems to put more emphasis on the name
“Emmanuel”: (God with us”)
, in which points to a Savior who is more than man, while remaining clearly a Son ofMan. The birth of the child of Bethlehem will fulfill precisely all these prophecies. Matthewreturns to this idea at the end of the Gospel (28:20), when the risen Lord, about to ascend toheaven, promises his disciples, “I will be
with you 
always, until the end of the age.”
 
 
In distinction to Luke, Matthew focuses his narrative of the birth of Christ around Joseph, whois the descendent of David and of Abraham through, through whose lineage the plan of Godis to work out. It will be through Joseph that Jesus receives his title as descendent of Davidand of the ancient line of Judah’s kings. This will be accomplished when Joseph, inobedience to the instruction he receives from the angelic messenger in his dream, does thefather's duty towards Jesus by giving him his name, a name, which God himself has providedprior to the Christ's birth.
 
The espousal of Mary and Joseph places the time of the angelic visitation between theexecution of a marriage contract traditional for Jewish marriage and the time of the receptionof the bride into the house of the husband. Thus the term "divorce " is only approximate;better is the translation “to put her away quietly.” Although the punishment for adulteryaccording to the Mosaic law was death by stoning, even the in the case of adulterycommitted after the reception of the bride the law seems to have not been applied with its fullrigor in New Testament times. The danger to Mary is shame, not necessarily stoning.Joseph seeks to act rightly, and therefore, to avoid causing his fiancée any distress. St. JohnChrysostom writes, "to keep marrying his house appeared to be a transgression of the law,but to expose and bring her to trial would cause them to deliver to die. He would do nothingof the sort. So Joseph determined to conduct himself now by a higher rule than the law. Fornow that grace was appearing, it would be fitting that many tokens of that exalted citizenshipbe expressed. It is like the sun not yet arisen, but from afar more than half the world isalready illumined by its light. So did Christ, when about to rise from the womb -- even beforehis birth -- cast light upon all the world."
 
The name of the child given by the angel, in Greek “Iesous” represents both Aramaic“Yeshua” and Hebrew “Yehoshua”. It's meaning is “God saves”; it has been held by otheragents of divine salvation, most famous of which are Joshua, the successor of Moses andthe one who leads the people into the Holy Land to seize the promises of God; and the highpriest Joshua, who appears in Zechariah 3 and 6, whose name is connected with the figureof the “shoot” (of Jesse), the messianic figure who will build up the temple of the Lord. Thattext also calls for the royal crowning of Joshua in the present Hebrew text; the scholars makethe argument that the original text, as delivered by the prophet, referred to Zerubbabel, theprincely descendant of David who is Joshua’s contemporary and the ancestor of St. Joseph(cf. Matthew 1: 12-13.) The present text has Joshua the high priest receiving a royal crown,something reserved for the tribe of Judah. But there will come a “Yehoshua,” Jesus, adescendent of Judah and David, who shall be both priest and King (Hebrews 11), and thebuilder of that spiritual Temple which is Holy Church.
 
Vs 25: “
until she bore a son 
”. They New Testament knows nothing of any other children ofMary and Joseph. Matthew emphasizes that Joseph is not the natural father Jesus and hislanguage is determined by that interest. The term “firstborn son” in the Gospel of Luke doesnot point to subsequent children, but refers to the obligation to redeem the first male childopens the womb by the sacrifice of a lamb or two turtle doves (as will occur in thePresentation in the Temple). Matthew's concern, on the other hand is to emphasize thedivine agency by which the child is conceived, and the reality of the Virgin birth. His use ofthe word "until" do not address any event occurring after that birth.
 
3.
References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church
 
 
CCC 437
: To the shepherds, the angel announced the birth of Jesus as the Messiahpromised to Israel: "To you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ theLord.” From the beginning he was the "one whom the father consecrated and sent into theworld," conceived as "holy" in Mary's virginal womb. God called Joseph to "take Mary asyour wife, for that which is conceived of her is of the Holy Spirit," so that Jesus, "who is calledChrist," should be born of Joseph's spouse into the messianic lineage of David.
 
CCC 497
: ( On Is. 7:14), The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesusas a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility: "That which isconceived in her is of the Holy Spirit," said the angel to Joseph about Mary, his fiancée. TheChurch sees here the fulfillment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah:"Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son."
 
CCC 498
: People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and NewTestament epistles about Jesus’ virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merelydealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we mustrespond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery, orincomprehension of nonbelievers, Jews and pagans alike; so it could hardly have beenmotivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age.
 
CCC 485
: The mission of the Holy Spirit is always conjoined and ordered to that of the Son.The Holy Spirit, "the Lord, the giver of life," is sent to sanctify the womb of the Virgin Maryand divinely fecundate it, causing her to conceive the eternal Son of the Father in a humanitydrawn from our own.
 
CCC 2087
: Our moral life has its source in faith in God who reveals his love to us. St. Paulspeaks of the "obedience of faith" (Rom. 1:5; 16:26) as our first obligation. He shows that"ignorance of God" is the principal explanation of all moral deviations (Rom. 18-32). Ourduty toward God is to believe in him and to bear witness to him.4.
Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities
 
 
Ignatius of Antioch
(
Letter to the Ephesians
): Mary's virginity and giving birth and eventhe Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthyof proclamation were accomplished in God silence.
 
Anonymous Incomplete Work on Matthew (5
th
C.):
See in what way the similarity herefollows in everything that happened with Adam. At that time, the woman alone, tasting of thefruit of the tree, was seduced and brought forth death, but Adam did not share in herseduction. He did not sin through being seduced by the devil but because he consented tothe woman's act. Likewise, submitting to the Holy Spirit, Mary alone believed, saying,"Behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed." Joseph then actually had nothingin common with her conception, but later was saved only by being silent and consenting.Joseph was assisted in a dream -- not openly -- so that even as when Adam was asleep Godcreated the woman, so when Joseph was asleep he was given a wife by divine influence.
 
 
St. John Chrysostom (
On the Gospel of Matthew, Hom. 4.6) 
:
It was as if the angel weresaying to Joseph, "Do not imagine that, because he is conceived of the Holy Spirit, that youhave no part in the ministry of this new dispensation. In the conception, you had no part.

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