THEME: ANGELS AND DREAMS.
BY: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong.
1. Angels and dreams. Someone claimed that Joseph was the most unfortunate family man ever. Asked to explain, he said: “Just imagine sharing a house with Mary and Jesus! Two sinless people! You know that, if something was wrong, it was Joseph’s fault!” In my opinion, no wonder God gave Joseph extra guidance through angels and dreams, as we heard in today’s Gospel reading (Mt 1:18-24). For you and me, Divine guidance through Angels and or dreams encourages us to be virtuous but do not replace virtues. For instance, honesty and generosity remain the virtues that conquer the vice of greed. A greedy person could have dreamt of quick wealth through FTX Cryptocurrency company that collapsed just last month (11th Nov 2022) and is currently in bankruptcy proceedings. Thus, from the start, not every dream is worth pursuing, just as not every desire of the heart is morally acceptable.
2. To Be or Not to Be. In just two days, the United States Space Force (USSF) will be celebrating its third anniversary (established Dec 20th 2019) and ongoing international conflicts accentuate the need for such a force to protect assets in outer space such as the GPS and other communication satellites. Of course, public imagination usually includes for such a force, a possible encounter with extraterrestrial life and intelligence. The Catholic Church is not left out in such imagination. A few years ago, the Vatican, through the Pontifical Academy of Sciences organized a conference to explore scientific perspective on the existence of extraterrestrial life. As Christians, there is nothing scary about extraterrestrial life or even of intelligent aliens in outer space. We Christians should find it easy to imagine other intelligent beings beside human beings. Afterall, in Scripture and in our experiences, we do get Divine help through such non-human intelligent beings: namely angels. In the drama of our salvation, God is the author, Mary and Joseph were principal human actors and angels were like stage managers. And such stage managers are crucial during crises, when, like Hamlet in Shakespeare’s play of the same title, we soliloquize: To be or Not to be? (Hamlet, Act 3: Scene 1).
Today’s first reading recalls (Is 7:10-14) such a crisis faced by King Ahaz. To be or not to be? The Kings of Northern Israel and Damascus tried to force him to join them in an alliance against the Assyrians. Ahaz refused to seek a sign from God as to what to do. The prophet Isaiah stepped in and announced God’s sign: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.” And about 7 centuries later, yes 700 years later, the event took place as accounted in today’s Gospel reading (Mt 1:18-24): “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”” Of course, Joseph faced the question: To be or Not to be? Mary was found with child and Joseph the betrothed was not the biological father. Joseph had made up his mind to end the drama. This was a big crisis: the Law (Dt 22:23-24) required that Mary be stoned to death, because she would have been considered an unfaithful wife, and the baby would have been stoned to death with her. But God intervened and gave crucial guidance in a dream, through a non-human intelligent creature, an angel. It did not stop here. Three times in Scripture, when Joseph was at cross-roads facing situations of “To Be or Not to Be”, God sent him angelic guidance. In the 1st instance recounted today, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In the 2nd instance, the angel will command Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s plot to kill the Messiah (Mt 2:13). And finally, in the 3rd instance, the angel will tell Joseph to return to Israel after Herod’s death (Mt 2:19). Notice that in all three instances, Joseph is not even given opportunity to argue. He simply obeyed. He had his plans but gave in to Divine directives. No wonder he was described as a righteous man. He showed obedience of faith.
3. Obedience of faith. Dear sisters and brothers, in God’s plan, all of us, you and I, have responsibilities similar to those of Mary and Joseph, although at a smaller scale. Our role is better explained by St Paul in the 2nd Reading (Rom 1:1-7): we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles. God is speaking to us, giving directives, inspiring us to be the Joseph and Mary in our families, in our places of work, in our society, online and offline, even in outer space, when we get out there. May we share in the fate of Mary and Joseph here and hereafter. Amen.
FOR MORE HOMILIES CLICK >>>>>>