December 18th of Advent
Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

December 18th of Advent

Reading 1: (Jer 23:5-8)

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
"The LORD our justice."

Therefore, the days will come, says the LORD,
when they shall no longer say, "As the LORD lives,
who brought the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt";
but rather, "As the LORD lives,
who brought the descendants of the house of Israel
up from the land of the north"--
and from all the lands to which I banished them;
they shall again live on their own land.

Gospel: (Mt 1:18-25)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David,
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."
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means "God is with us."
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.


Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh M. Tien, O.P.

 

I. THEME: Righteousness and sinfulness

            How can one become righteous before God? Some say they can be by perfectly keeping the law or by living a perfect life. St. Paul said that nobody can do so because everyone sins against God and others. The only one way to become righteous is to believe in the one whom God sent to redeem us. If God doesn’t sent him, there is no way for people to be righteous before God. 

            Today readings center around the one whom God sends to take away our sins and to make us righteous before God. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah announced the days are coming when God will raise up a righteous shoot to David. He is called the Lord, our righteousness (sidqênu). In the Gospel, Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant, and since he was a “righteous man,” yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. But when he was explained by an angel in a dream, he obeyed God’s will to accept Mary’s child who shall deliver people from their sins.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: The Lord is our righteousness.

1.1/ God kept His promise: When the Israelites lived in exile; they must raise questions about God’s blessing for them through Jacob and the prophecies about the Messiah’s coming. How can they re-establish their country during their exile? How can they recover the kingship of Judah so that the Messiah shall come from this lineage? But the prophet Jeremiah was still full of hope when he announced his prophecy: “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.” 

            God doesn’t blindly keep His promise with the Israelites. In His providence, He has His way to cause His promise to happen; and people can’t fathom His way. Exiles must happen because the Israel’s and Judah’s kings and people didn’t listen to God’s warnings through prophets; but He already had a plan to save the remnant who shall recognize their sins and repent.

1.2/ The righteous king: “In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our justice."" There are two levels of the fulfillment of God’s promise: 

            (1) Level 1: God caused Cyrus, the Persian king, to sign a decree to liberate the Israelites from the exiles and let them return to re-establish their country on 538 B.C.. Jeremiah compared this event with the Exodus from Egypt, “Therefore, the days will come, says the Lord, when they shall no longer say, "As the Lord lives, who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt"; but rather, "As the Lord lives, who brought the descendants of the house of Israel up from the land of the north"-- and from all the lands to which I banished them; they shall again live on their own land.” King Cyrus not only permitted the Israelites from everywhere to return but also gave them the financial means to rebuild their country. 

            (2) Level 2: The Messiah shall come to govern people. The Israelites must wait for this to happen about 400 years after their return from the exile. This level is stressed more on the spiritual than the political effect.

2/ Gospel: The Messiah himself shall save his people from their sins. 

            St. Matthew reported the familial situation of Jesus’ parents as follows: “Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”

2.1/ Joseph’s difficulty: To understand Matthew’s report, we must understand Jewish custom related to marriage. Like Vietnamese custom, there are three periods:

            (1) Promise to give children to marriage: When the children are still young, parents on both sides promise to give their children to marriage. This is only a promise and not legally bind. If the children aren’t agreed or the parents of one side change their mind, the promise is no longer effective.

            (2) Engagement: This is the period which Matthew described Joseph and Mary’s situation in today passage. When the couple agreed to marry, they enter into the engaged period to learn more about each other in one year. In this period, according to Jewish law, they are legally bound and considered as husband and wife even though their marriage isn’t consumed. If the husband decides not to go forward, he must make a petition to divorce and give a clear reason for it. If the husband is died in this period, the wife becomes the “virginal widow.”

            (3) Marriage: After a year of engagement, the two persons officially become husband and wife. 

            Joseph’s difficulty, as the passage said, is that he couldn’t accept Mary’s pregnant because he is a righteous man. According to Jewish law, he can accuse Mary to be stoned to death because the child in her womb wasn’t his. He might feel something is unusual about Mary’s case, so he decided to quietly leave her.

2.2/ God’s will: “Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, 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."

            The Greek’s name “Jesus” is translated from Hebrew, “Joshua,” which means the liberator or the saver. Christ is called the Redeemer or the Savior because he redeemed people from sins or saved them from death.

            The angel knew what Joseph is thinking, so he gave him the answer: the son who Mary conceived is through the Holy Spirit. The Jewish tradition understands the Holy Spirit’s role as to reveal the truth (cf. Jn 14:26; 16:13) and to give life for God’s creation (Psa 33:6; Eze 37:9-10). Matthew also quoted Isaiah 7:14 about the wonderful sign which God promised with king Ahaz: "Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel," which means "God is with us."” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:                     

            - Since all of us are sinners, we can’t become righteous by our own efforts.

            - We can only become righteous by believing in Christ who redeemed our sins and liberated us from the power of darkness.

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