18 December 2017. Monday of Week 3 of Advent

St Flannan, bishop. (opt.mem.)

1st Reading: Jeremiah 23:5-8

A righteous Branch who will rule with wisdom and justice

“The days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

“Therefore, the days are surely coming,” says the Lord, “when it shall no longer be said, “as the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,” but “As the Lord lives who brought out and led the offspring of the house of Israel out of the land of the north and out of all the lands where he had driven them.” Then they shall live in their own land.”

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-25

Joseph is told of the conception of Jesus, who  will save his people from their sins

Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.


An Ongoing Mission

God sent his Son, Jesus, to act as Saviour for the entire human race. In the lavish language of Jeremiah, we hear about him as the “Righteous Branch will be raised up from David’s descendants, and that through him his people will be saved and live in safety. In the Gospel, Jesus is described as the one who will save his people from their sins. To save us is why he came! In order to do so, although he was God from eternity, he chose to take on our humanity, fully and in the flesh, by being born of a mother. That was Mary’s major role and mission: to be the mother who served God’s saving plan. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, “to become the mother of the Saviour, Mary was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to her role. The angel Gabriel salutes her as “full of grace” — totally ready for her great mission in life.

As God prepared Mary for her role and mission, so are we too prepared for what is asked of us. This principle — that God prepares those whom He chooses for their role and mission — is true for everyone who is prepared to serve God. We are chosen and called to holiness. God has prepared us for works of service and of live; by giving us Jesus to be our Lord and guide, by calling us to the saving waters of Baptism, by giving us the support of the Church and its Sacraments, and by strengthening us to cooperate with His saving will.

The role of Joseph

In Matthew’s gospel, there is no annunciation to Mary, but there is an annunciation to Joseph. That is the gospel. In Luke’s gospel, the angel Gabriel says to Mary, “Do not be afraid.” In Matthew, the nameless angel says to Joseph, “Do not be afraid.” God was doing something new, something extraordinary, in the life of Mary and of Joseph, indeed, in the life of the human race. The unprecedented nature of what God was doing led to understandable fear and anxiety in the lives of those most directly affected, Mary and Joseph. Both of them needed a word of reassurance, “Do not be afraid” at the beginning of this new phase of what God was doing.

In times of transition when disturbing events are occurring around us, we all need to hear those words, “Do not be afraid.” They are words which assure us of God’s presence, God-with-us, Emmanuel, at the heart of all that is happening, even at the heart of his self-surrended on the mount of Calvary. [MH]

Saint Flannan, bishop

Flannán mac Toirrdelbaig was a 7th century Irish saint (d. c. 678). The the son of an Irish chieftain, Turlough of Thomond, Flannan entered Mo Lua’s monastery at Killaloe, where he later became Abbot and was considered a great preacher. He made a pilgrimage to Rome where Pope John IV consecrated him as the first Bishop of Killaloe, of which he is the Patron Saint.

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