THOUGHTS TO LIVE BY: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Liturgy of the Word — 
Is. 7:10-14;
Ps. 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6;
Rom. 1:1-7;
Mt. 1:18-24.

1. Aguinaldo Mass or Simbang Gabi is the Pinoy version of the Bolivian and Venezuelan Misa de Gallo.  It is a nine-day Novena of Masses from Dec 16 to Dec 24. The practice of 4:00 AM Dawn Masses originated in Mexico in the 16th century and was brought over to the Philippines. This was for the benefit of farmers who have to work in the fields after Mass and breakfast. The last Simbang Gabi on Dec 24 is called the Misa de Gallo, the Rooster Mass, celebrated about the time when roosters begin to crow. In Zamboanga, the Simbang Gabi or Aguinaldo Mass is also called Misa de los Pastores. Our Dawn Masses are celebrated in honor of the Blessed Mother for the perseverance of the nation in Faith. The Gloria is sung and white vestment is used even on Sunday.

2. 1st Reading, Is. 7:10-14 — In the Syro-Ephraimite War of 735-732 BC, the northern Kingdom of Israel, or Ephraim (of King Pekah), joined the forces of Syria (of King Rezin) to attack Jerusalem, the capital of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah predicted the downfall of the two allies (vv. 1-8). “Within 65 years, Ephraim (Israel) shall be crushed, no longer a nation (v. 9).  In this socio-political context, the word comes to Ahaz, King of Judah: “The Lord himself will give you a sign; the young woman, pregnant and about to bear a son, shall name him Emmanuel” (vv. 10-14; see this oracle applied to the Virgin Mary and her Son, Jesus, Mt. 1:23). 

3. Resp. Ps. 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6 — The Glory of God. “The earth is the Lord’s and all it holds, the world and those who dwell in it. For he founded it on the seas, established it over the rivers” (vv. 1-2). It is “the clean of hand and pure of heart” who may go up the mountain of the Lord (vv. 3-4). “He will receive blessings from the Lord and justice from his saving God” (v. 5).

4. 2nd Reading, Rom. 1:1-7 — The Introductory Greetings of  the Letter establishes Paul’s role as “a slave of Christ Jesus,” called as an Apostle, “set apart for the Gospel about God’s son, established in God’s power by the resurrection, and able to share the Spirit to those who believe.” As an Apostle, he is to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles (vv. 1-5). He addresses the Letter “to all the beloved in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 7).

5. Gospel, Mt. 1:18-24 — The Birth of Jesus.  The genealogy presented by Matthew concludes, “…Mathan the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Of her was born Jesus who is called the Messiah” (Mt. 1: 15b-16). Matthew then describes how Jesus was born. The key role is played by Joseph, in contrast to Mary’s role in the Gospel of Luke. We are familiar with the story of Joseph. He is betrothed to Mary and finds out that she is with child, before they live together. He is a righteous person. He does not want to expose Mary to shame as someone who has grossly violated the law in Deuteronomy, that precribes death by stoning for proved adultery (see Dt. 22:20-23). So he decides to break the union quietly. 

6. But an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife (vv. 18-20). “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 [“Joshua” in Hebrew, “Yahweh saves”], because he will save his people from their sins” (v. 21). This is to fufill the prophecy of Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son and they shall call him Emmanuel, which means ‘God is with us'” (v. 22).  Waking up, Joseph does what the angel told him. He takes Mary as his wife to his home (v. 24).

7. Matthew presents Joseph as a man of exceptional virtue, righteous, compassionate, merciful, and obedient. Out of reverence for the unique conception by the Holy Spirit, and for the incredible identity of the Child in Mary’s womb, Joseph had no relations with Mary. 

8. Prayer to St. Joseph — 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. To you, God entrusted his only Son; in you, Mary placed her trust; with you, Christ became Man. Blessed Joseph, to us, too, show yourself a father and guide us in the path of life. Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage, and defend us from every evil. Amen. (Pope Francis).

Prayers, stay safe, God bless!