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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Sometimes God Asks Us To Make A U-Turn

Sermon by Rev. John Paul Shea
Fourth Sunday in Advent, Dec. 18, 2016
Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, Tucson, AZ

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit;  and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly.  But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." 

In today’s Gospel (Matt. 1:18-24) we hear Matthew’s version of the infancy narrative. The purpose of this story is to inform us that
Mary’s virginal conception of Jesus was in fact the work of the Holy Spirit, and the drama of today’s story focuses on Joseph’s response to the mysterious working of God in their lives.

God had a plan for Mary and Joseph. His plan was carried out through God’s mysterious intervention and their openness to God. God had been preparing this plan for all humanity throughout salvation history beginning with

Genesis 3:15:  "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Yet, God’s plan of salvation not only involves Joseph and Mary, but every one of us. Mary and Joseph had a significant role God would use them to bring Our Lord Jesus into our world and raise Him. Yet, every one of us is called by God to be part of His plan for His greater glory. By our faith in Christ, we are seed of the Woman.

Therefore,  let us take this opportunity to reflect on what God is asking of us in our own lives. 

The first lesson we learn from today’s Gospel is that we need to stay close to Our Lord. Mary and Joseph were close to God. They lived holy lives and strived to follow God’s will for them.

Mary and Joseph were betrothed. Yet, they did not live together.  Joseph was a righteous man. Joseph cared for Mary and wanted the best for her. Joseph practiced self-control. He did not focus on his own passions or self-desires but what was best for Mary. Therefore, as both Joseph and Mary strived to live as God called them to live, God would
Flight into Egypt
manifest His glory in their lives in a most deep and profound way.

If we want God to work in our lives, than we too must strive to live holy and pure lives. If we are not striving to live in grace, than it will be difficult for us to hear and follow what God is asking of us.

God calls us to live in His grace no matter what state of life we live. Whether we are single or married, God calls each of us to live chastely.  Yet, how easy it is for Catholics today to stray away from living in purity?

Instead of following what we know to be God’s will, many Catholics today instead will follow their own will. For example, instead of getting married, some Catholics today instead cohabitate. Instead of allowing God to be in the center of the most sacred act of sexual intimacy, many Catholic couples today instead use contraception.

Although, the holiness of Mary and Joseph enabled them to hear God and follow His path, this did not make it easy for them to follow God’s plan. They had to rely on faith. Yet, it was through their faith that God gave Mary and Joseph the grace to fulfill what He wanted them to do. We too must have faith in God that He will give us what we need in our lives to fulfill whatever He may ask of us. We need to trust that in God anything is possible.

Sometimes God may call us to radically change our own plans and desires.  Joseph had heard about Mary’s mysterious pregnancy, and he had in his mind to divorce
her quietly. Therefore, God intervened in a mysterious and powerful way by giving Joseph a dream. This dream would inspire Joseph to radically change his plans.

It can be a similar story in our own lives. We too may have plans in our lives that God wants us to change for His greater glory. Sometimes God may lead us into a completely different direction than what we may have planned. 

I remember in my own life several years ago I was going to a boxing club. I was planning to give my life to the sport at the time. Yet, right at the time when I was really getting into the sport, God began to radically speak to my heart. 

God began to drastically move my heart into a completely new direction. Our Lord basically told me to put down my boxing gloves and pick up a Rosary. God told me to no longer fight in a boxing ring but to become a priest and fight for the salvation of souls.

Do not not fear. When the angel appeared to Saint Joseph the first words that the angel spoke were, “Joseph, do not be afraid.” Joseph was confused. He didn’t understand God’s plan. Yet, the angel reminds Joseph not to fear, but to trust in God. We too must not fear the unknown in our lives as long as we are striving to follow what our Lord asks of us.

Fear makes it easy to cut ourselves short of who God calls us to be in reality.  In our time today, many young girls become pregnant out of wedlock because they fear not being loved. Or, some women will abort their babies out of fear. Yet, today’s Gospel reminds us that whatever may be going on in our lives that we must not fear. God wants us to be free and trust in Him because He will take care of our needs!

The first words out of Our Lord’s mouth to His disciples after He has risen from the dead were, “do not be afraid.”

Saint Pope John Paul II also told us not to be afraid. He specifically spoke to the youth telling them not to fear because he understood the pressures that our modern day society places on youth. The pope knew that many youth today are falling short of glorifying God in their lives out of fear. 

Therefore, he reminds us we must not be afraid of the things of this temporal world, but to trust in Christ who can do all things! He taught us not to be satisfied with mediocracy but to put out into the deep and let down our nets for a catch.

Pope John Paul II lived his words to the utmost. He did not fear attacks against him even after being shot. He did not fear speaking the truth in all clarity despite opposition from the world. He did not fear living in old age. No. he put out into the deep and gave Our Lord everything he had until his last breath.

Fr. John Paul Shea
My brothers and sisters, as we reflect on today’s Gospel passage let us open our hearts to God’s plan in our lives. God has a plan for every one of us. He called us to Mass this evening for a reason. He wants to lead us to salvation. He wants us to become whole.

Therefore, let us stay close to our Lord. Let us follow what He asks of us by living our faith. Let us not fear whatever obstacles may come our way but trust in God because He will lead us and take care of us. Holy Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, pray for us.

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