Daily Scripture Analysis

Daily Gospel

Fourth Sunday of AdventA

Sunday of the IV AdventA

 

Readings: Isa 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24.

1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 7:10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 "Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test." 13 And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, 3 the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations, 6 including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; 7 To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 1:18 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; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 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; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us). 24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife.



I. THEME: Do not doubt and disobey God. 

 

            People have a tendency to do what they think and to apply their thinking to God. If they think it is impossible for them to do a certain thing, they conclude it is also impossible to God. When people think as such, they lower God to be equal to them; and as a result, they disobey Him; and gradually they have no need of God.

            Today readings illustrate some examples of those who obeyed and disobeyed God. In the first reading, Ahaz, the Judean king disobeyed God and sought help from the Assyrian king, because he didn’t believe in God’s strength to deliver Judah from the Egyptian power. In the second reading, Paul, after witnessed Christ’s revelation to him on the way to Damascus, recognized God’s plan of salvation for all nations through Christ. From that time on, he incessantly preaches the gospel to the Gentiles. In the Gospel, at first, Joseph couldn’t fathom Mary’s strange conception, so he planned to secretly leave her. Then, a God’s angel appeared to him in a dream and let him know Mary’s conception is by the Holy Spirit’s power. The angel also repeated Isaiah’s prophecy in the first reading to enlighten Joseph to understand this mystical conception. When Joseph awoke from his dream, he obeyed God and received Mary into his house.

II. ANALYSIS:

1/ Reading I: Don’t disobey God’s command!

           

1.1/ King Ahaz disobeyed God: An understanding of the Israel’s history shall help us to understand this passage from the prophet Isaiah. Ahaz is the king of Judah, the southern kingdom. After the northern kingdom was fallen into the hand of the Assyrian king, he was afraid and wanted to send his messengers to the Assyrian king to pay tribute and to ask for help. God sent the prophet Isaiah to him the first time to prevent him to do such thing. The prophet told him that he only needs to believe in God because He can deliver his kingdom from all enemies. The king didn’t believe God can do that so he sent his messenger to seek help from the Assyrian king. When the prophet knew king Ahaz’s disobedience, he came to the palace to confront the king, and we have today passage.

            The prophet Isaiah told Ahaz, “Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven." But Ahaz said, "I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test."” This is only a fake humility; if he wants to know God’s power, why he doesn’t open his mouth and asks for a sign. King Ahaz’s words showed he didn’t revere God; he only wants to do his will. Because of his disobedience, the whole his kingdom was fallen into the Babylonian king. The enemies completely destroyed Jerusalem city, the temple, and brought the king, his officers and all people on exile.

1.2/ The prophecy about the Messiah’s coming: Though king Ahaz didn’t ask, God still gave him a sign. The prophet announced, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a young woman shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

            The verb “to weary” has the same meaning as “to disobey” God. The sign which God shall give to humankind is the Messiah through the conception of a virgin (parthenos in LXX and almah in MT).

            Many scriptural scholars argued: The noun almah is used only three times in the Old Testament; it has both meanings as a young woman and a virgin. If the prophet wants to emphasize the virginity, he could use the other noun, betulah, which is used fourteen times in the Old Testament. Isaiah also uses this noun three times in his writing (Cf. Isa 23:12, 27:32, 47:1).

            According to my opinion: The prophet wanted to indicate “a virgin” due to the following three reasons:

            (1) Scripture: Twice when MT uses almah (Gen 24:43 and Isa 7:14), the LXX uses parthenos to render its meaning. There is only one time, LXX uses neanis to translate almah in Exodus 2:8, when Pharaoh’s princess sent out Moses’ sister to look for her a caretaker. Moses’ sister in this case could be a virgin according to the context because she was still young. So, Isaiah could use a synonym, almah, to indicate a virgin in this passage.

            (2) Context: A stronger argument is that God wants to give the king a magnificent sign. If a woman marries and has a baby, it is nothing new, it is normal.

            (3) Tradition: When Matthew, the evangelist, illustrated the Isaiah’s prophecy; he used parthenos to indicate a virgin.

2/ Reading II: “The gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures.”

            To understand the introduction of the Letter to the Romans, we must remember Paul’s falling down from his horse on the way to Damascus. Before this event, Paul didn’t believe two things: Christ is the necessary factor in God’s plan of salvation and the Gentiles can be saved. As the majority of the Jews, he believed people can be saved by keeping of the Law and salvation is only for the Jews. But after was revealed by Christ, Paul completely changed his beliefs. He believed salvation is for all people and he was chosen to preach Christ’s gospel for the Gentiles. These are two things which Paul mentioned in today passage.

2.1/ Paul is called to preach Christ’s gospel: He proclaimed his faith in Christ, the gospel, his calling and mission to the Gentiles as follows, “Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy scriptures, the gospel concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

2.2/ The gospel is announced to all the Gentiles: Paul believed there are two phrases of God’s plan of salvation:

            (1) God chooses the Israelites to prepare for Christ’s coming;

            (2) When Christ comes, salvation is extended to all people.

            Paul was chosen by God to preach the gospel of salvation to the Gentiles, as he wrote, "Through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations; including yourselves who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

3/ Gospel: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.”

           

3.1/ Mary’s mystical conception: St. Matthew reported Mary’s mystical conception as followed, “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 divorce her quietly.” According to this report, one can recognize immediately two important things:

            (1) Mary’s conception wasn’t by Joseph: When Joseph resolved to divorce Mary quietly; he affirmed this point, because he is a just man.

            (2) Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit’s power: Twice in today passage, St. Matthew mentioned that Mary’s conception was by the Holy Spirit’s power. The first time is by the evangelist and the second time by God’s messenger.

3.2/ This thing happened to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy: When Joseph was planning to leave Mary, a God’s angel appeared to him in his 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; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” The angel emphasizes, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel" (which means, God with us).”

            Though in a dream, but the angel of the Lord wants Joseph to be confirmed by the Isaiah’s prophecy which was announced from about six hundred years ago. Therefore, when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife.

3.3/ The arguments about Mary’s virginity: From the early Church till now, in every generation there are some who don’t believe in Mary’s virgin conception. To them, a woman can’t give birth and remain a virgin. We can rely on the following five arguments to affirm Mary’s virginal conception:

            (1) The prophet Isaiah announced this fact nearly six hundred year ago. We analyzed the vocabularies and the context in the first reading.

            (2) Today passage from St. Matthew mentioned twice Jesus’ incarnation is God’s will and by the Holy Spirit’s power.

            (3) Joseph himself also certified Mary’s conception isn’t by him. This is the reason why he planned to leave Mary quietly.

            (4) God has power to do all things; nothing is impossible to him. People can’t apply their thinking to God.

            (5) The virginal conception is worthy and should be done because Christ is holy, he can’t be attached to sin.

            Whoever question the virginity of the Blessed Mary; they like king Ahaz, who always doubted about God’s power. These people only believe in their human reason and continually weary God.

           

III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:

 

            - As human beings, our knowledge is very limited; therefore, we shouldn’t be so stubborn in our arguments but be opened to receive God’s revelation.

            - We should never apply our thinking to God because He is very different and has much more power than us. When we don’t understand God’s revelation, we should be humble and ask for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, instead of saying it is impossible to happen.

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