December 20, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

God is with us as we wait in joyful hope

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (Is 7:14).

The Gospel reading for the Fourth Sunday of Advent (Mt 1:18-24) affirms what this holy time of year celebrates: God is with us. Advent is a time of hope-filled anticipation for the Lord’s return, but this time of waiting is not bereft of God’s presence.

In fact, one of the great mysteries of the Advent season is the fact that God waits with us. He remains present in the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in our prayer, in our communion with one another and in our service to those in need, even as we look for him with eager expectation.

God the Father is with us as we wait in joyful hope for his Son’s coming again. The Holy Spirit is with us now and always to comfort us in our sorrow, to calm our fears and to encourage us in the difficulties we face, especially during this hectic and often stressful season.

One of the great figures of Advent is St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. St. Matthew describes him as “a righteous man” (Mt 1:19). We call someone righteous when he or she is honest, trustworthy, faithful and unwavering in fulfilling commitments. Joseph was certainly all these things. We never hear Joseph speak, but we watch as he listens attentively to God’s messengers and responds immediately to God’s will for him and for his family.

“Joseph, son of David,” the angel tells him, “do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through 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” (Mt 1:20-21).

Joseph’s ready acceptance of the role assigned to him as a custos, or steward, of the child Jesus speaks for him. He was a righteous man who must have had his doubts and fears, but who never let them prevent him from keeping his commitments as a husband, father and a faith-filled Jew, a “son of David.”

Mary’s pregnancy was the first Advent. It was a time of eager expectation, a time when God was present to his creation in a unique way. Joseph supported Mary during this time of waiting—as did Mary’s cousin Elizabeth and her child who leapt for joy when the two unborn children, John and Jesus, were together for the first time each in their mother’s womb.

God is with us all the time, but we experience it in a distinctive way during Advent and Christmas. There is a special hopefulness at this time of year. We may be surrounded by darkness—keenly aware that there is evil and injustice all around us—but the presence of God overcomes the negative forces that threaten us. The profound hope that the Lord is coming again to affirm his victory over sin and death, and to unite us with each other and with him, stirs us from our lethargy and ignites our hearts with the fire of his love.

Advent is a time of joy. What we are waiting for has already come. In fact, it comes every day if we open our hearts to God’s presence in our lives, and it will be with us at the end of time and forever if we follow Joseph’s example and live holy and righteous lives.

We are joyful because Jesus is with us and is still to come! What a marvelous gift! God is with us even as we wait in joyful hope for his coming again!

The story of Jesus’ birth, which we will hear again in the coming days, never gets old because it reminds us vividly that God is with us, that he is present in the quietest moments of our lives as well as in the noise and confusion of daily activity.

“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’ ” (Mt 1:22-23).

As we begin the final days of Advent and prepare to celebrate once more the birth of Christ, let’s pray for the patience and the quiet faithfulness of St. Joseph. Through his intercession, may we listen attentively to God’s Word. May we respond with joyful and generous hearts when our Lord comes again.

Above all, may we acknowledge the presence of Jesus Christ—here and now—even as we wait for him eagerly, with joyful hearts! †

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