December 18, 2022
by Joan Blandin Howard
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Fourth Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 10

Isaiah 7:10-14
Psalms 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6.
Matthew 1:18-24

Praying Advent Home Page

Pope Francis: On St. Joseph in today's reading.

The Annunciation

Contemplating with Joseph

Imagine that!

When we were pregnant with our first baby and over the moon with joy and excitement, my grandfather told us his story.  When their first child was born, they didn't immediately name him. They called him “Baby” for weeks.  Unlike Mary and Joseph whose unborn son’s name was given to them.  Joseph was told in a dream, “… you are to name him Jesus…”.

My grandfather told us they waited to name “Baby,” as if waiting to discover “Baby’s” God given name. While we were excited and playing with all sorts of names, my grandparents were more cautious and patient.  Many infants died at birth.  How were Mary and Joseph feeling?  She, a young girl, and he an older man.  Both in unexpected situations.  One thing we know is they were scared. Mary had been told at the time of the annunciation “Do not be afraid”.  In his dream, Joseph also was told, “…do not be afraid…”.  We were excited, my grandparents cautious and Mary and Joseph were scared.

In T.S. Elliot’s poem “The Naming of Cats” , Elliot says a cat has three different names: “…the name that the family use daily…” “…A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified…” and the name “…THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.”

“When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable, effable,
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.”

What is my singular name? The name God whispers in our intimate conversations? The name I hear in the silence between words, in the recesses of my heart?   Much to ponder and pray.  I think, however, there is more in this gospel reading. It speaks of a deep, rich interior faith, trust and joy.  Mary’s trust in the announcement, “Behold the virgin (you Mary) shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us”.  Joseph trusted the message of his dream, “…it is through the Holy Spirit this child has been conceived in her (Mary).” “…he (Joseph) took his wife (Mary) into his home.”  We can imagine the possible initial awkwardness, but individually they had faith and trust in the Spirit and so their relationship deepened in faith and trust in each other.

Today is the fourth Sunday in Advent.  Mary’s days of physical pregnancy are drawing to an end. Her days of longing, anxiety, heaviness, weariness, discomfort and joy will soon be over. Mary will give birth.  As directed, Joseph will name him “Jesus.”  I, we, also have been impregnated with holy longing, desire and anticipatory joy waiting for Christ to be born, alive in me.  Mary’s days of pregnancy are numbered.  My days of pregnancy are timeless.  My belly, my heart bulges with the Christ who continues to squirm, wiggle and at times kick me into awareness of his presence within me - physically, mentally and spiritually. I, we, have the privilege of birthing Christ every moment of every day.  Just imagine that!  Like Mary and Joseph, I, we, are invited to share in the same rich, deep faith, trust and perpetual inner joy!  Imagine that!

Emanuel, God is with us

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