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The Everyday Prayer

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Icon of the Holy Face
Church of Sant'Egidio, Rome

Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The Spirit of the Lord is upon you.
The child you shall bear will be holy.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Matthew 1, 18-24

This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.

Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally.

He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.

She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.'

Now all this took place to fulfil what the Lord had spoken through the prophet:

Look! the virgin is with child and will give birth to a son whom they will call Immanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us'.

When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home;


Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Look down, O Lord, on your servants.
Be it unto us according to your word.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

With only a few days remaining before Christmas, we encounter the figure of Joseph. The opening page of Matthew we heard yesterday recounted the genealogy of Jesus, which ends with a reference to Joseph, “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born.” Today his image stands before our eyes more clearly. The evangelist only speaks about Joseph a few times, and he presents the way in which “the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place” in order to underline its irregular nature. He speaks about Joseph and the drama he experiences because of everything that happens to him. Joseph was engaged to Mary, and, according to Jewish tradition, this essentially meant they were already married. Consequently, when he learns that Mary is pregnant, he feels like a betrayed husband and therefore has the right to divorce her legally. If he did so, Mary would be seen as an adulteress and rejected and ostracized by her family and all the inhabitants of the village. It was truly a dramatic situation. And we can imagine the worry felt by this young man who felt betrayed by a wife who certainly seemed extraordinary, and rightly so. Perhaps because of the high esteem in which he held her, Joseph decided to divorce her in secret. He loved her so much that he interpreted the law in the most delicate, even merciful and loving, way. But if this just man, a man who was even more delicate than the law, had carried out that action, an action that he and the law considered being just, he would have acted against the deeper justice of God. There is, in fact, a “beyond” of God that the angel reveals to Joseph in his sleep. Joseph listens to the angel sent by God, understands Mary’s mystery, and allows his life to become involved in it. Joseph lets himself be pulled away from his own personal projects, as just and honest as they might be, to follow God’s dream for Mary and the world. And, after Mary, Joseph becomes the second believer. The angel continues to speak to him and reveals the role he is going to play in this salvation story: “You are to name him Jesus.” Joseph must recognize and say whose child it is. A few days before Christmas, Joseph becomes the image of the believer and shows each one of us how to live out the mystery that we are getting ready to celebrate: we must listen to the Word of God and prepare ourselves to take Jesus, who is about to be born, with us.

Memory of the Mother of the Lord