4th Sunday of Advent

Home Sweet Homeā€”God Is With Us

Joke: A Sunday school teacher asked her class why Joseph and Mary took Jesus with them to Jerusalem. One student said that it is because all the Inns were filled. Other said this and that. This one little girl raised her hand and said, “Because they couldn’t find a baby sister.”

The main focus of today’s readings revolve around one word, Immanuel, “God is with us,” which was foretold in the Old Testament and brought into reality through the New Testament that both Matthew and Saint Paul described in today’s readings. What does the phrase “God is with us” really mean?

Today’s first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, describes the scene where Ahaz, King of Judah, answered the Lord by saying, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Because of his faith and trust in the Lord, Ahaz believed that the Lord would be with him, to guide him and to lead him in governing his people of Judah. Because of his faithful and trust in the Lord, the Lord promised him a sign, “The virgin shall be with child, and bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” This promise delivered in the time of King David’s descendant by the name Joseph that was described in today’s second reading and the Gospel.

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul confirms who Emmanuel is when he says that he is “descended from David according to the flesh, but established as [the] Son of God in [the] power according to the spirit of holiness.” Therefore, there is no doubt that Jesus is Emmanuel that in him there are two natures, both God and man. These both natures present among us as the angel said to Joseph in today’s Gospel, “They shall name him, [Jesus], Immanuel, which meant God is with us”. God is with us through him, as Saint Paul said in today’s second reading, “We have received the grace of apostleship” to be his fellow brothers and sisters.

As the Gospel of Luke focuses on the message of the angel announced to Mary who will conceive and bear a son through the Holy Spirit, in the Gospel of Matthew, it is focused on Joseph that Matthew sketches for us a beautiful picture where the angel of the Lord encouraged Joseph saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” described in today’s Gospel. “For it is through the Holy Spirit,” he continues, “that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus.” To name him Jesus is to give him the right of human origin, the descendant of David. Both Mary and Joseph believe in the words of the angel and carry them out into actions that is to accept first and foremost the invitation of the Lord to be the mother of the Son of God and the husband of Mary. This invitation is not an easy invitation to accept when Mary conceives a child without a relation with a man. This invitation is not an easy invitation to accept when Joseph learns that Mary conceived a child in her womb not by him. This invitation is not an easy invitation to accept when no one takes them into their house at Mary’s due time of labor. This invitation is not an easy invitation to accept when in the middle of the night Joseph and Mary have to flee because of Herod, the King, tries to kill the baby Jesus. This invitation is not an easy invitation to accept when they both lost Jesus, a young boy, in the temple area. However, with deep faith and trust in the Lord, united with God in prayer even before they come together, both do not only accept the invitation, but they faithfully carry that invitation and deliver it into actions.

Mary accepts the invitation to carry Jesus in her womb, while Joseph accepts the invitation to bring Mary, who conceives and bears the Son of the Most High, into his house described in today’s Gospel saying, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” Just as Mary and Joseph accept the invitation and prepare a place for Jesus, the Son of God, have we accepted the invitation to be children of God to prepare a place for Jesus, the Immanuel, God is with us, in our lives? Joseph, since he is a righteous man and doesn’t want to shame Mary that he tries to leave her quietly, have we had that integrity to talk to each other rather than cheating and lying each other, secretly engage in an affair with other, secretly satisfy our own flesh desire when our spouse cannot satisfy us, parents excuse not having enough time for children, children become lying and cheating more in the tests and homework, and many more brokenness occurred in family life, in school, at work and in our society? How did Joseph feel when the angel announced to him that Mary, his wife, conceived and bore a son by the Holy Spirit, not by him? Have we had the courage to turn away from temptations and to be there for our loved ones? How did Joseph respond to the message of the angel after he woke up? Joseph took Mary into his house, have we had the courage to take our spouse, to accept our spouse of who he is or who she is, and to allow the Lord to be with us even at the moments of facing difficulties and challenges of life? Immanuel, God is with us, in other words, as Saint Paul puts it that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit, the house of God, what should we do in order for God to come and to stay with us? Just as Jesus was there with Mary and Joseph for at least thirty years from the moment of conception no matter what happens, have we been there for one another, especially our loved ones even at times of difficulties and challenges? Spouse cheated, children disobeyed, mistrusted one another in the family, gossiped and destroyed other’s reputation, cheated at work and school, and many other crooked ways of life, that sometimes we are lost in touch with God and wanted to end our lives, we might want to ask ourselves: Have we had room for the Lord to come to be with us? Immanuel is God is w/ us, not that God is on high, and we are bellowed. No. God lowers himself to come into our flesh to be with us, so that we can become like him in his divine nature. He lives among us, sacrifices himself for the sake of our salvation, suffers and even dies for us because of love, how do we make ourselves present to one another, especially to our loved ones, when we claim that we love them? Or how can we love one another when we cannot sacrifice time, money, talent, strength, and many other good things that we can do to prove that we love them? The Lord is coming. Have we had a home ready to welcome him to be with us? He is so closed to us, but have we been with him?


Weekend Homilies 2019

Homilies by Fr. Joseph Nguyen

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