Advent homilies

Dec. 23, 2017

DAVID BUILDS A HOUSE, GOD BUILDS A DYNASTY 

Readings: 1st- 2Sam. 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16; 2nd- Rom. 16: 25-27; Gospel- Lk. 1:26-38

So, what was David thinking? He was such a successful king, a strong military commander. David was a great political strategist who won several battles. He must be enjoying some peace from his victory as a result of his policies. Hence, he had to plan the next step in growing his kingdom- building a house for God. Despite its religious significance, that would add to his achievements. He envisaged a Jerusalem that is the center of worship. This provides the background for today’s reading whereby David summons the prophet Nathan to express his desire, “Here I am living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God dwells in a tent” (2Sam. 7:2). Nathan, on his part endorsed David’s idea, “Go and do whatever you have in mind, for the Lord is with you” (v.3). David thought that he was the one who has been responsible for the victory Israel enjoyed in his time. He thought that he was the victor.

But God revealed to Nathan the true story behind Israel’s success, “Go and tell my servant David, “Should you build a house for me to dwell in?” It was I who took you from the pasture and from the care of the flock to be commander of my people Israel” (2Sam. 7:9-10). God wants David to acknowledge his supremacy. What type of house is David to build for God? David plans to erect a structure, man-made costly house that will last for some time. That’s not the type of house that God wants. Then came the revelation, “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins, and I will make his kingdom firm. I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me”. This prophecy has both immediate and future fulfillment. Solomon was the immediate heir to David while the ultimate fulfilment of the prophecy was in Christ Jesus, the begotten Son of God.

Christ is the house that God erected for human salvation, the dynasty that would last forever, whose throne will have no end. While explaining the parable of wicked tenants, Jesus explains the meaning of this house to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?” (Matt. 21:42). God’s dynasty is the eternal kingdom that will accommodate everyone on the journey towards salvation.

In the gospel, we see God’s Master plan laid out. The angel Gabriel is the divine contractor sent to survey the land for the building. Our Blessed Mother the Virgin Mary is God’s land prepared to house the eternal structure. The annunciation is the groundbreaking ceremony for this building. The angel’s greeting to Mary, “Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you” tells us exactly that God is the Architect of the entire plan. The angel said, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus” (Lk. 1:32). The angel attests to the nature of God’s building. The Son to be born will rule over the house of Jacob forever and his kingdom will have no end. Mary accepts God’s offer. Is this structure to be like any other building made by man? She asks, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” God’s building is different. The angel made explains to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Lk. 1:35).

Mary is to be filled with the Holy Spirit and overshadowed by divine presence. She understands that and makes herself available. Whereas David thought he was the builder, Mary made herself available for God to build. Ironically, David thought that the ark of God should dwell in a magnificent structure. Did God really intend to live in a costly place? Maybe David was thinking about majesty defined in human terms. In the fulfilment of this prophecy, David was proven wrong. The Ark of God dwelt in a manger, a poor, lowly place. Mary was a young maiden who lived in simplicity and virtuous poverty.

Mary’s obedience to God is a great lesson for us. Most times, we feel that we are over-achieving and attribute success to ourselves. Although we might produce results that are great, we need to recognize that God is the one who plants the seed of eternal growth in our lives. That is the reason for Christ’s coming in human form, dwelling in such a humble state. He meant to possess us in a special way. We have to open up and let him reign.

Mary’s response is, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Be it done to me according to your word”. It is a statement of commitment, availability and openness. God needs us to just be available for him. He builds. Those who are available for God do not fret about things. They rarely let anxiety eat them up. They do not panic about results. They are not taken aback by disappointments. They are not possessed by material things. Archbishop Fulton Sheen calls it the “long span of voluntary obedience” when he wrote, “By this long span of voluntary obedience, He revealed that the Fourth Commandment is the bedrock of family life. In a larger way, how else could the primal sin of disobedience against God be undone except by the obedience in the flesh of the very God who was once defied. It was Lucifer who said, ‘I will not obey,’ and Eden caught up that echo”. Obedience to God's will builds a dynasty that lasts, not a house that collapses. It makes us understand the true value of our lives and what we have. It makes us understand that everything belongs to God, and that material things will always fade.

Christmas is a time of saying yes to the will of God in our lives. It is a time to recognize that God is the Architect, he lays the plan. We must be open in order to obey God. He leads and we follow. We just have to be present to his desire. Saint Paul enjoins us to “obedience of faith”. It is the best way to accept Christ in our lives. Just learn to be present. Give it to him. Let God reign. Let him rule. Let him decide for you what you need to do. Make him your coach and play according to his game-plan.

Merry Christmas!  

Dec. 15, 2017

THE ERA OF JOHN THE BAPTIST

Readings: 1st- Is. 61:1-2, 10-11; 2nd- 1 Thes. 5:16-24; Gospel- John 1:6-8, 19-28 

The period preceding Christmas can be described as John the Baptist era. John does two things in today’s gospel: 1. He clarifies his own identity. 2. He turns our attention to Christ. The gospel opens up this way, “A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony, to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to testify to the light” (Jn. 1:6-8). John is sent by God, he is the voice of the one crying in the desert urging believers to prepare the way, and baptizing them with water. John is not the Christ.

In today’s gospel, different groups exert pressures upon John regarding his identity and role. The Jews from Jerusalem pressure him asking, “Who are you?” They think that John must be either Elijah, the Prophet or the One who is to come. Some Pharisees also pressure him asking why he should baptize if he is not the Christ or Elijah or the Prophet. “What have you to say for yourself?”, they quiz him. John’s response is, “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord”. John is unambiguous in explaining his position, “I am not the Christ”. That defines the meaning of his era; a period of preparation and waiting. 

The second part of John the Baptist’s mission is to turn our attention towards Christ. John bears testimony to the light so that that all might believe in Christ through him. John is like the altar server. The altar server usually leads the procession, announces the commencement of the liturgy. John the Baptist announces the beginning of the Liturgy of salvation made manifest in Christ Jesus. He says, “I baptize you with water, but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie” (Jn. 1:26-27). John’s role is to bear witness to Christ, “the light of the world” (Jn.8:12).

One of my professors told us a story of her experience in school. She said she was in for her final exams in the fall. They had all 5 of their course exams (all comprehensive) on one day. Then the first professor met them in the class at 8am, gave them their exam and waited for them to be done. When they went to turn in the test, they were given another for the second class, and so on for all 5 exams. They were exhausted and sleep-deprived. Somewhere a few hours in, one of their classmates who had actually taken a 10minute nap (in the middle of the exam!) lifted up her head with sleep lines on her face and shouted, "y'all, Christmas is coming. No matter what, Christmas is coming." You know what that means for a student in such a tensed atmosphere. It means more than just enduring exams to get to the holiday break. It means that no matter how difficult and painful life gets, no matter how tired the students are, the Messiah is coming. This world can be tough, a brutal place where the innocent suffer and the undeserving are oppressed; 2017 might certainly have been no exception. Yet there is great beauty in the season.

The prophet Isaiah’s message in the first reading is given to a people on their return from exile. Israel come back to find that their land is in ruins and that injustice and poverty had pervaded the land. The prophet foresees great things happening to the people. He foresees a jubilee year, freedom and liberation. And he writes, “The spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to heal the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to captives and release to prisoners, to announce a year of favor from the Lord and a day of vindication by our God” (Is. 61:1-2). This is what the coming of Christ announces; what Advent reminds us of, that we are not only suffering. We are also working. We are still waiting. We are altogether preparing. Ultimately, we trust the Redeemer to complete what we cannot do, to come back for us, to heal us, redeem and set the captives free.  

Saint Paul invites us to do three things within this period: “Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:16). Can we just do those things? –Rejoice! Pray! Give thanks! We must rejoice each time recognizing the love of God in our lives. We must pray to God who is the reason for our joy. And we must give thanks at all times remembering always the great favors that God bestows on us. Saint Paul states, “for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus”. God wills to free us from the entanglements of worldly nightmares.

John the Baptist era reminds us of the great coming of Christ. He announces the good things that await us in Christ Jesus. Like the student in my professor’s story, I say to you, "y'all, Christmas is coming. No matter what, Christmas is coming." Christmas is coming, and must come. No matter what you face, Christmas is coming. No matter what you fail to accomplish, Christmas must come. Some of us live in anxiety. Some live in fear. Some live in uncertainty. Some, in anger and sadness. Works, family, children, health, relationships, politics, etc. There’s always something driving us crazy at one time or the other. Those things cannot compare with the joy brought to us by Christ. They cannot deprive us of the Christmas joy. The will of God for us is joy and happiness. God wants us to bear witness to the light that Jesus brings at Christmas.

The era of John the Baptist is the era of announcement, of preparation, of waiting. It is the era of constant reminder that Christmas is coming. It is the era of bearing witness to the light of God’s goodness by our words and actions. The needy need to hear the voice that Christmas is coming. Captives need to hear that Christmas is coming. The broken-hearted need to hear that Christmas is coming. Prisoners need to hear that Christmas is coming. The sick need to hear that Christmas is coming. The bereaved need to hear that Christmas is coming. Let us bring glad tidings to those around us. Like John the Baptist, we must bear witness to the light. Christmas is coming! God wills us to be joyful.

Dec. 9, 2017

DIVINE COMFORT: THE BEST PRODUCT OF THE SEASON

Readings: 1st- Is. 40:1-5, 9-11; 2nd- 2Pet. 3:8-14; Gospel- Mk. 1:1-8 

Business owners and marketers advertise their products. They make them attractive to prospective customers. Marketers develop the best jingles for their commercials. The prophet Isaiah does same for God today. He acts like the Lord’s salesman presenting the divine offer; the Lord’s comfort is the best product for the season.

“Comfort my people, comfort them”, says the Lord (Is. 40:1). This book of Consolation begins the second part of Isaiah’s prophetic writings, what is called Deutero Isaiah (chapter 40 to 55). It is written for the people of Israel at the end of their Babylonian exile around the Sixth Century BC. The people are on the verge of losing hope having endured years of separation from their land and their God. The prophet offers them hope and comfort. He offers them freedom from captivity. More so, he rekindles in them God’s love and his reassuring intimacy. God’s tenderness and compassion is the reason for consolation; “Here is your God! Here comes with power the Lord God, who rules with strong arm… Like a shepherd he feeds his flock, in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care”. 

What the prophet Isaiah offers to the Old Testament Israel, John the Baptist offers to the New people of God. The 2018 Workbook for Lectors remark, “Three biblical figures express in different ways the spirit of the season of advent: the prophet Isaiah, whose words create hope and expectation; Mary, the mother of Jesus, whose obedience opened the door to the Incarnation; and John the Baptist, whose ministry was to prepare the way of the Lord”. John the Baptist is not just another prophet, he is an introduction to the Jesus’ chapter. Mark’s gospel captures his message as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). It says, “John the Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.  

Just like investors prepare to do business, to take advantage of opportunities, John the Baptist invites believers to prepare. Repentance is the price, while the reward is forgiveness. John’s preaching drew a large crowd of people because of the reward of forgiveness from the Lord. The people are consoled by his words. They expect their sins to be forgiven. They expect their bad ways to be corrected. They expect deliverance from the Messiah. They believe in John because he spoke passionately about the Messiah. John’s marketing strategy is powerful. He offers the people a sample of the product from his master, baptizing them in the Jordan River. Hence, he declares, “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals”.

Christ is the mighty one, the Messiah we are waiting for. The advent invitation is that we prepare to welcome him. We must get ready to invest in the “best product” ever- John calls him, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn. 1:29-30). The prophet Isaiah gives us an idea of what our business plans should look like: “Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!” Saint Peter expounds God’s offer in the second reading, recognizing the privilege of being part of the heralds of his coming. He reminds us that God does not delay, he is only being patient with us. He desires our salvation and so invites us to repentance. The divine package is an amazing gift for believers, “new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Pet. 3:13). God is giving us extraordinary gift, newness of life completely transformed by the coming of Christ. We must therefore aspire to receive it, to be found without spot or blemish, to be at peace. That is the great consolation.

I wish to ask that each of us make a commitment at this advent in view of Christmas. That is our business plan to invest in the Lord’s offer. The prophet says, “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low, the rugged land shall be made plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together” (Is.40: 4-5). What valleys need to be filled up in your life? What mountains need leveling? What rugged lands need to be made smooth? Is there a relationship that has bothered you for years now? This is the time to smoothen it. Someone tells me -It is my relationship with my dad. We have not been in good terms for the past ten years. Each time I come to church, my wish is to not hear the pastor preach about forgiveness because I’m not ready for it, just that one relationship. I’m good with every other one. Each Christmas, I feel as if my celebration is incomplete. I feel like it’s not that time yet to let go of the hurt I feel for my dad. But it is suffocating me inside. I come to advent confession, and wish that the priest doesn’t tells me to go and make peace with my father. I can take any other penance but not that. What do I do? 

Go and level that mountain, the Lord is offering you another opportunity. He offers you comfort in the healing that comes from reconciliation with one another, with your father. Go, fill up the valley. That’s the rough road you need to smoothen. And together, like the prophet said, all people shall see the glory of Christmas. Have you ever witnessed the joy of a family reunion before? Of course, no reunion can take place without forgiveness. No reunion can happen where there is no peace because the Lord Jesus is our Peace. And peace comes through sacrifice. God brings us comfort and consolation today, as Peter says, “The Lord does not delay his promise” (2 Pet. 3:9). Let us not remain exiled by hatred and anger. Let us not remain exiled by iniquity and sinfulness. Let us not remain exiled by divisiveness and pride. God’s comfort is here. It is the best product of the season. It is free, made available for us in Christ Jesus. We must reach out to take it.   

Dec. 2, 2017

THE MASTER’S HOUR

Readings- 1st- Is. 63: 16-17, 19; 64:2-7; 2nd- 1 Cor. 1: 3-9; Gospel- Mark 13: 33-37

The season of advent calls us to vigilance. It reminds us of the coming of the messiah, the Christ. This coming is imminent and distant at the same time, hence calls for watchful preparation. The prophet Isaiah reminds us in the first reading of how the Lord would want to meet us; “Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage” (Is. 63:17). That’s who we are, the heritage of God. The prophet prays that we be in good state to meet the Lord when he comes. He laments our sinful, unclean state like “withered like leaves”, and that “our guilt carries us away” from doing the will of God. Humanity’s woundedness and depravity play out clearly in our daily lives; ugly deeds that are unpleasant to God. Bad steps and decisions characterize our actions. Anxiety makes us drift, often not to trust God adequately. The prophet invites us to the loving ways of God.

Interestingly, prophet Isaiah uses the image of the potter and the clay to describe the relationship between God and us, “Yet, O Lord, you are our father; we are the clay and you the potter; we are all the work of your hands” (Is. 64:7). This brings out an important attribute of God in relation to our human brokenness. God is represented as the potter- patient and loving. He cares for us and desires our salvation. We are the work of God’s hands created in his divine image and likeness. As potter, he molds us patiently. The story holds of a potter who is asked how he feels each time he stays near the fire molding a particular piece of image. His reply is that he doesn’t feel the heat of the fire. The potter states that when he stays near the fire creating and molding his artwork, his joy is in the image that he produces. That in looking at the image he sees his own image. This is how we appear before God. God stands with us even in the heat of our sins. He doesn’t feel the heat, rather he sees in us his image and likeness. He is concerned with saving us. The Psalmist remarks, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in love. The Lord is good to all, compassionate to every creature” (Ps. 145:8-9).

Jesus invites us to respond to the love of God, our Father. His approach in the gospel could be described as both a warning and a prayerful invitation. Christ warns about his second coming (Parousia), “Be watchful! Be alert!” In the Old Testament, those who watch over the city are called sentinels or sentry. They are described as being very attentive and watchful. In the Psalms we read, “My soul waits for the Lord, more than sentinels wait for the dawn. More than sentinels wait for the dawn, let Israel wait for the Lord” (Ps. 130:6-7). It is a vigilance that goes beyond the observable, a watch that flows from the heart. This is what Christ calls us to do, to watch, “You do not know when the time will come”. Therefore, he warns, “Whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning” (Matt. 13:36). Jesus speaks here about the last things, the signs of the end marked by persecutions as well as the coming of the Son of Man. If we are unsure of his coming, then it becomes pertinent that we must be vigilant and keep constant watch.

Christ ends that passage with a prayerful invitation: “May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping”. As we begin this advent journey, we must recognize the power of God’s word in us. God’s word equips us. It enlightens us on the demands of the kingdom of heaven. It reminds us to be constantly watchful. Like the sentinels, preparation demands attention and watchful vigilance. Is the Master coming today or tomorrow? That is not so much relevant as to the fact that he must come. Prophet Hosea says, “Let us know, let us strive to know the Lord, that he will come is as certain as the dawn” (6:3). Let us live every moment as if that is the Master’s hour.

In the second reading, we hear Saint Paul, “I give thanks to my God always on your account for the grace of God bestowed on you in Christ Jesus” (1 Cor. 1:4). God’s grace is in our hearts, but we must feel it. His grace enables us to cooperate with him. To be good clay, we must allow the potter to manipulate us and get us to the desired shape. Sin distorts that shape. Sin makes us uncooperative of God’s intention for us. Sin makes us act like polluted rags, like withered leaves that the prophet Isaiah laments in the first reading. But God’s grace keeps us out of the entrapment of sin and human brokenness. Grace enables us to be vigilant, to aspire towards good deeds. Grace opens us to listen to Christ as he says, “What I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” That voice is clear enough for those who cooperate with his grace.

Everyone is invited to be watchful. Last Sunday, we were instructed on how to keep watch. Give food to the hungry. Give water to the thirsty. Give clothing to the naked. Give comfort to the sick. Pay attention to those in prison. That’s the invitation for advent. That is the Master’s hour. Two things set the alarm for the Master’s hour: 1) Avoid whatever leads us into sin. 2) Aspire towards good deeds. As Christ said, I wish to say to all of us again, “Be watchful! Be alert!”

Dear friends, be alert in doing good. Be alert in showing love to others. Be alert in forgiving your detractors. Be alert in entering dialogue with your opponent. Be alert in using positive, helpful words. Be alert in asking forgiveness when you offend. Be alert in pursuing peace. Be alert in promoting justice for the oppressed. Be alert to God’s will in your life.

Mar. 28, 2017

"EMMANUEL, GOD IS WITH US" (Matt.1:23-24)

Today's readings present to us three key points: 1. The fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy of the Isaiah in the New Testament. 2. The important role of Joseph in the salvation story and 3. The fulfillment of this promise of salvation in Jesus. 

First, we note that the prophecy of Isaiah about Jerusalem in the first reading comes at a time of crisis. Enemies invade Jerusalem and threaten to remove the King Ahaz. Do not imagine that Ahaz's response to Isaiah was a mark of belief in the power of God. Not at all. It was rather the contrary because Ahaz sought to rely on the mighty Assyria for salvation. That's why the prophet said, "Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?" The prophet tried to prove to the king of God's presence and sustenance for the Davidic dynasty. Thus, "Therefore, the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel" (Is.7:14). After all, the kingdom did continue with Ahaz's son, Hezekiah, who undertook religious reform in Israel and refused to serve the king of Assyria (2Kings 18:1-6). But the kingdom goes beyond Ahaz and his son in the prophecy of Isaiah. In the Book of Samuel, God spoke to David through the prophet Nathan, "And when the days are over and you fall asleep with your ancestors, I shall appoint you heir, your own son to succeed you. And I shall make his royal throne secure forever" (2Sam.712-13). 

Today's gospel presents us with story of the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy. The evangelist Matthew announces how the birth of Jesus would come about. Joseph discovers that Mary was already pregnant before they came to live together. He is determined to send her away, then the angel appears to him in a dream. The words of the angel draw a relationship between the Old Testament prophecy and the continuation of David's dynasty. Joseph is addressed as "Joseph, son of David". The angel says to him, "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". In the child Jesus, the Kingdom of David is both being fulfilled and redeemed. Although Joseph is not responsible biologically for Jesus, he is involved in his parenthood. He is addressed as the "son of David", that means he's part of the great dynasty. 

Secondly, the angel bestows on Joseph a responsibility when he says, "She will bear a son and you must name him Jesus" (Matt.1:21-22). Joseph's responsibility is to declare God's saving presence through naming the infant Jesus. Commentators remark that the responsibility to name him bestows a right on Joseph to claim him as his own son. Such responsibility transfers on Jesus all the hereditary rights of a son which includes Joseph's Davidic descent. Saint Paul states in the second reading, "the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness" (Rom.1:3-4). That means that "Joseph, son of David", in this act of naming, would make Jesus a legal heir to David (cf. Mitch, C. & Sri, E., The Gospel of Matthew, p.44). 

The name the prophet Isaiah gives as proof of God's presence is "Emmanuel" which means "God is with us". Matthew recounts that the encounter between Joseph and the angel takes place to fulfill the Old Testament prophecy that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us". If we still go back to the Old Testament, we understand that the name "Joshua" which is the Hebrew root of "Jesus" means "Yahweh is salvation". The angel announces, "You shall name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins". Then the name Emmanuel points back to the fulfillment of the promise God made to David through Nathan, "Go, and do whatever you have in mind, for Yahweh is with you" (2Sam.7:3). Therefore, the child Jesus becomes the definitive fulfillment of the promise of God's salvation to his people, liberation from the terrorism of sin. 

Meanwhile, we have to appreciate the role of Joseph in the salvation narrative. Joseph symbolizes obedience to God's will. He portrays the model for married life and the role of men in family life. The fact that Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant before coming to live with him was enough not to listen to any voice on Mary's behalf. The question I ask is, "What if Joseph had divorced Mary? What if he refused to listen to the angel? Joseph could have queried like any other husband what the story of becoming pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit was all about. He would have thrown Mary out after all. He would have doubted the authenticity of story of conception as a virgin. His first reaction was to divorce her quietly. Joseph had great reputation and wanted to save it. He recognized also the dignity of the woman whom he had taken to be his wife. He didn't want to ridicule her having found out that she was pregnant. Prior to the angel's revelation, the conclusion would be to claim that the lady was unfaithful. If that was the case, she needed to be disgraced. Joseph did not do that. He wanted to send Mary away quietly. But above all, he listened to the voice of the angel and took Mary into his home. He left behind a standard for husbands to emulate in marriage. 

I wish to use this opportunity to give the following advice to the men:

  1. Guard against rash decisions in the face of difficulties in your marriage. Take time to reflect on what God wants you to do, not necessarily what you wish to do. The challenges of marriage are real but useful solutions come from listening.
  2. Be careful of the voices you listen to. Listen to the voice of God. Truly, God speaks to every person, you only have to be able to discern. Joseph heard God’s voice in a dream, you might hear yours through good and spiritual friends. God’s voice is heard in the quiet moments of lives. Consult inspirational books, listen to inspirational talks, make time to go to church in those difficult moments. God will speak to you too. And when he speaks, obey.
  3. Don’t be selfish. Like Joseph, one key to healthy marriage is to consider the interest of your spouse. If Joseph was selfish, he would have divorced Mary before even hearing the voice of the angel. Be considerate in the treatment of your wife, solutions come when both think and pray over marriage problems.
  4. Don’t play the perfect man. Although Joseph was innocent, he respected Mary’s feelings. It’s important to respect and recognize the feelings of your wife in marriage. Always be ready to hear her out. That way, no one plays the perfect spouse card. Even the best husband makes mistakes. 

Let us learn from today's readings that God is with us. God does not abandon us in difficult moments. The kingdom of David suffered crisis especially in the time of the King Ahaz, God's presence never deserted them after all. That Kingdom is still with us today in Christ the Emmanuel. The name Emmanuel means support, compassion, grace, love and mercy. It means that God searches us out in the very tough moments. Saint Paul invites us to "obedience of faith", that's the best way to know that God is with us. One of my friends called me yesterday and was crying about the challenges she is facing. Suddenly, her car stopped and kept her on the way. She said she barely finished saying to herself that she was fed up with Jesus because of the many challenges she was facing, when her car started producing a queasy sound. This was under this crushing cold weather. She was almost weeping as she talked to me. I want to tell you wherever you are now and such persons in similar situations that God is with you. The Psalm says, "For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the enemy. And from the deadly pestilence, he will save you" (Ps.91:3). May Christ the Emmanuel be with us always. Amen.