Monday, 31 December 2012

COMMENT: Feast of Holy Family, Joseph of David

In the Christmas Octave, Joseph of David has attracted special prayer at our Manger.
Feast of the Holy Family. "Joseph love Jesus". He is the Joseph of the Family,
Vespers Antiphons highlight the Joseph of David, (Jacob was the father of Joseph).
And meanwhile the Pope highlights a focus on Joseph, "THE CONCEPTION AND BIRTH OF JESUS ACCORDING TO MATTHEW.

"In contrast to Luke, Matthew relates it exclusively from the perspective of Saint Joseph, who as a descendant of David represents the link between the figure of Jesus and the Davidic promise. "

Jesusof Nazareth
The Infancy Narratives
Joseph Ratzinger
Pope Benedict XVI
Translated by Philip J. Whitmore Chapter III p.38

The Birth of Jesus in Bethlehem
After considering Luke's annunciation narrative, we must now turn our attention to the tradition handed down in Matthew's Gospel regarding the same event. In contrast to Luke, Matthew relates it exclusively from the perspective of Saint Joseph, who as a descendant of David represents the link between the figure of Jesus and the Davidic promise.
Matthew begins by telling us that Mary was betrothed to Joseph. According to the prevailing Jewish law, betrothal already established a juridical bond between the two parties, so that Mary could be called Joseph's wife, even though he had not yet taken her into his home-the step which estab­lished the married state. While betrothed, "the woman still lived in her parents' home and remained under the patria potestas. After a year, her husband would take her into his home, thereby sealing the marriage" (Gnilka, Das Matthiiusevangelium) p .. I7). Now Joseph had to come to terms with the fact that Mary "was with child of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:18)'
With regard to the child's origin, Matthew is anticipating something here that J oseph does not yet know. J oseph has to assume that Mary has broken their engagement, and according to the law he must dismiss her. He has a choice be­tween a public juridical act and a private form. He can bring Mary before the court or he can issue her with a private writ of divorce. Joseph decides on the latter option, in order not "to put her to shame" (1:19). Matthew sees in this choice an indication that [oseph was "a just man."
The designation of Jose ph as a just man (zaddik) extends far beyond the decision he takes at this moment: it gives an overall picture of Saint Joseph and at the same time it aligns him with the great figures of the Old Covenant-beginning with Abraham, the just. If we may say that the form of piety found in the New Testament can be summed up in the expression Ha believer," then the Old Testament idea of a whole life lived according to sacred Scripture is summed up in the idea of Ha just man."
Psalm 1 presents the classic image of the "just" man. We might well think of it as a portrait of the spiritual figure of Saint Joseph. A just man, it tells us, is one who maintains living contact with the word of God, who H delights in the law of the Lord" (v. 2). He is like a tree, planted beside the flowing waters, constantly bringing forth fruit. The flowing waters, from which he draws nourishment, naturally refer to the living word of God, into which he sinks the roots of his being. God's will is not a law imposed on him from without, it is "joy." For him the law is simply Gospel, good news, because he reads it with a personal, loving openness to God and in this way learns to understand and live it from deep within.
If Psalm 1 sees it as the mark of the just man, the "happy man," that he lives by the Torah, the word of God, the parallel passage in Jer 17:7 calls "blessed" the one "who puts his trust in the Lord, whose hope is the Lord." This text brings out more strongly than the psalm the personal character of righteousness-the trust in God that gives man hope. Although neither passage speaks explicitly of the "just" but rather of the "happy" or the "blessed," we may still regard them, with Hans-Joachim Kraus, as providing the authentic Old Testament image of the just man, and so we can learn from them what Matthew means when he describes Saint Joseph as "just." .
This image of the man with roots in the living waters of God's word, whose life is spent in dialogue with God and who therefore brings forth constant fruit-this image becomes concrete in the event recounted here, as well as in everything we are subsequently told about Joseph of Nazareth. After the discovery that Joseph made, his task was to interpret' and apply the law correctly. He does so with love: he does not want to give Mary up to public shame. He wishes her well, even in the hour of his great disappointment. He does not embody the form of externalized legalism that Jesus denounces in Mt 23 and that Paul opposes so
strenuously. He lives the law as Gospel. He seeks the path that brings law and love into a unity. And so he is inwardly prepared for the new, unexpected and humanly speaking incredible news that comes to him from God.
Whereas the angel "came" to Mary (Lk 1:28), he merely appears to Joseph in a dream-admittedly a dream that is real and reveals what is real. Once again this shows us an essential quality of the figure of Saint Joseph: his capacity to perceive the divine and his ability to discern. Only a man who is inwardly watchful for the divine, only someone with a real sensitivity for God and his ways, can receive God's message in this way. And an ability to discern was necessary in order to know whether it was simply a dream or whether God's messenger had truly appeared to him and addressed him.
The message conveyed to [oseph is overwhelming, and it demands extraordinarily courageous faith. Can it be that God has really spoken, that what Joseph was told in the dream was the truth-a truth so far surpassing anything he could have foreseen? Can it be that God has acted in this way toward a human creature? Can it be that God has now launched a new history with men? Matthew has already said that Joseph "inwardly considered" (enthymethintos) the right way to respond to Mary's pregnancy. So we can well imagine his inner struggle now to make sense of this breathtaking
dream-message: "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 1:20).
 Joseph is explicitly addressed as son of David, which also serves to indicate the task assigned to him in this event: as heir to the Davidic promise, he is to bear witness to God's faithfulness. "Do not be afraid" to take on this task, one that might well arouse fear. "Do not be afraid"-the very words that the angel of the annunciation had spoken to Mary. By means of this same exhortation from the angel, Joseph is now drawn into the mystery of God's incarnation.
After the message about the child's conception through the power of the Holy Spirit, Joseph is entrusted with a further task: "Mary will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). Together with the instruction to take Mary as his wife, Joseph is asked to give a name to the child and thus legally to adopt it as his. It is the same name that the angel indicated to Mary as the name of the child: Jesus. The name Jesus (Jeshua) means "YHWH is salvation." The divine messenger who spoke to Joseph in the dream explains the nature of this salvation: "He will save his people from their sins."
On the one hand, then, a lofty theological task is assigned to the child, for only God can forgive sins. So this child is immediately associated with God, directly linked with
God's holy and saving power. On the other hand, though, this definition of the Messiah's mission could also appear disappointing. The prevailing expectations of salvation were primarily focused upon Israel's concrete sufferings on the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom, on Israel's freedom and independence, and naturally that included material prosperity for this largely impoverished people. The promise of forgiveness of sins seems both too little and too much: too much, because it trespasses upon God's exclusive sphere; too little, because there seems to be no thought of Israel’s concrete suffering or its true need for salvation.
So this passage already anticipates the whole debate over Jesus' Messiahship: has he now redeemed Israel, or is everything still as it was before? Is the mission, as lived by Jesus, the answer to the promise, or is it not? Certainly it does not match the immediate expectations of Messianic salva­tion nurtured by men who felt oppressed not so much by their sins as by their sufferings, their lack of freedom, the wretched conditions of their existence.
Jesus himself poignantly raised the question as to where the priority lies in man's need for redemption on the occasion when the four men, who could not carry the paralytic through the door because of the crowd, let him down from the roof and laid him at Jesus' feet. The sick man's very existence was a plea, an urgent appeal for salvation, to which Jesus responded in a way that was quite contrary to the ex-
pectation of the bearers and of the sick man himself, saying: "My son, your sins are forgiven" (Mk 2:5). This was the last thing anyone was expecting. This was the last thing they were concerned about. The paralytic needed to be able' to walk, not to be delivered from his sins. The scribes criticized the theological presumption of Jesus' words: the sick man and those around him were disappointed, because Jesus had apparently overlooked the man's real need.
I consider this whole scene to be of key significance for the question of Jesus' mission, in the terms with which it was first described in the angel's message to Joseph. In the passage concerned, both the criticism of the scribes and the silent expectation of the onlookers is acknowledged. Jesus then demonstrates his ability to forgive sins by ordering the sick man to take up his pallet and walk away healed. At the same time, the priority of forgiveness for sins as the founda­tion of all true healing is clearly maintained.
Man is a relational being. And if his first, fundamental relationship is disturbed-his relationship with God-then nothing else can be truly in order. This is where the priority lies in Jesus' message and ministry: before all else, he wants to point man toward the essence of his malady, and to show him-if you are not healed there, then however many good things you may find, you are not truly healed.
In this sense, the explanation of Jesus' name that was offered to Joseph in his dream already contains a fundamental
clarification of how man's salvation has to be understood and hence what the Saviour's essential task must be.
After the angel's annunciation to Joseph of the virginal con­ception and birth of Jesus, Matthew adds two further statements that complete his narrative.
First he shows that these happenings had been foretold by the Scriptures. This is a characteristic feature of his Gospel: for all essential events, to adduce a "proof from Scripture"-to make it clear that the words of Scripture anticipate these events and inwardly prepare the way for them. Matthew demonstrates that the ancient words come true in the story of Jesus. But at the same time he shows that the story of Jesus is true: that is to say, it proceeds from the word of God, by which it is sustained and brought about.
After the Scriptural quotation, Matthew brings the story to a close. He recounts that Joseph awoke from sleep and did as the angel of the Lord had instructed him. He took Mary home as his wife, but did not "know" her until she had given birth to the Son. This underlines once more that the Son is begotten not from him but from the Holy Spirit. Finally the evangelist adds: "He called his name Jesus" (Mt 1:25).
Once again Joseph is presented to us, in quite practi­cal terms, as a "just" man: his inner watchfulness for God, which enables him to receive and understand the message,
leads quite spontaneously to obedience. Even if hitherto he had puzzled over his various options, now he knows what the right course of action is. Being a just man he follows God's commands, as Psalm 1 says.
At this point, we must examine the proof from Scripture that Matthew presents, which has become the object (how could it be otherwise?) of extensive exegetical debate. The verse is as follows: "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" (Mt 1:22£; c£ Is 7:14). This prophetic saying, which Matthew makes into one of the key Christo­logical statements, we will first attempt to understand in its original historical context, and then we will try to see how the mystery of Jesus Christ is reflected in it.
Come to the manger every day for lessons

16 Dec 2012
HE AND i, Gabrielle B. Christmas grace. 1947 December 25 - "You mustn't be afraid of aiming at perfection, since I am with you and I have lived it, and since it gives Me great joy to look after you. You see you are not alone; ...

At Bethlehem do you think that Joseph could forget this two treasures for a single instant? His whole heart was centred on them.
 Be like him.  (...)

Sink down deep into the thought of My humility as a little child.
 I became humble for your sake.

Would you like to come to the manger every day for lessons?
Every day right up to the Purification?
I give you a rendezvous there.
 Call it a rendezvous of love.

My love wants to bestow on you My adorning jewels.
 These are My virtues and they are so powerful that even the worldly admire them.
 But you must let yourself be adorned.
 You must turn your will to your highest good."

Benedict XVI - Infancy Narratives

Reflections: ... truly magical moments.    
Dear William,
You have so well enjoyed your Christmas Octave. Your loving insights open the shutters for some of my places.  
Thank you. 
All good wishes for the New Year. 

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: William W ...
To: Donald ...
Sent: Monday, 31 December 2012, 13:26
Subject: Benedict XVI - Infancy Narratives

Dear Father Donald,
I have journeyed through the Octave of Christmas in the light of the understanding of Scripture of Pope Benedict XVI, his third volume 'Jesus of Nazareth'.
His third volume appears to be a straightforward progression through the infancy narratives, but I soon discovered his thoughts to be more of a glorious lectio divina than of a commentary, made with the freedom of one who has such erudition within the summit of his mind, making it all the more theological in consequence. He sees and interprets every event in the infancy marratives that Scripture presents, observing all the prophecies that precede and viewing in all the circumstances volumes of significance for Christ's mission and ministry. Perhaps the most memorable feature of the book are such investigations that conclude with, "I tend to regard as the one true explanation..." or "It seems natural to me...", and I sat savoured his closing comments regarding the 'finding in the temple': "It becomes quite apparent that [Jesus] is true man and true God, as the Church's faith expresses it. The interplay between the two is something that we cannot ultimately define. It remains a mystery, and yet emerges quite concretely in the short narrative about the twelve-year-old Jesus. At the same time, this story opens a door to the figure of Jesus as a whole, which is what the Gospels go on to recount."
There are some truly magical moments, quite often as asides (or deviations to follow a thread of thought, eg end of page 42 where he considers "the lofty theological task assigned to the child") and parts that are cosmic in their scope (eg mid page 100 where he considers "the language of creation"). 
I think this is a book that will reside in the memory of those who savour it as the scent of incense lingers long after the sound of the chant has died away, echoes that resonate.
Delighting to share these reflections with you,
with my love in Our Lord,