The Scandal of God

December 18, 2019 – Wednesday 3rd Week of Advent

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Have you ever experienced being betrayed? Betrayed by someone you love or someone who is so dear to you? 

 I am sure that many of us here would really be upset. Personally, I would feel angry and perhaps hate the person for betraying me. Betrayal or unfaithfulness is scandalous and disgraceful by the fact that it causes so much pain to the person being betrayed. This would happen within our relationships, within our families, relatives, friends, workmates. And because unfaithfulness causes us so much pain, it breaks our heart. Unfaithfulness destroys trust and confidence in a relationship.

For us, our common attitude to painful experiences such us the unfaithfulness of a friend, or a partner or a relative is sometimes “hostile” either towards the person who betrayed us or towards ourselves. When we are hurt, we either inflict pain to others to take our own revenge or inflict pain on ourselves by lingering to depression, guilt, and self-pity.

However, today’s Gospel presents to us a different attitude in a scenario that is intrigued with a scandalous betrayal and unfaithfulness.  Yes, the story that we have heard in the Gospel was scandalous. Mary and Joseph were already engaged but within that period of engagement Mary got pregnant. The people in their village knew that Joseph was not the father. Joseph himself was confident that Mary’s child in her womb was not his. Joseph knew that the Jewish law would find Mary guilty of adultery.  This is an act punishable by shame and death. Their law mandated Joseph to divorce her.

In a small village like Nazareth, gossip seemed to be faster than lightning. Every person in their village knew that Mary was pregnant. Yes, Mary was judged by the people to be unfaithful to Joseph. And if we would imagine Joseph, surely, he too was hurt. He might have felt being betrayed. As a man, Joseph would have already imagined Mary as his wife. As a family, Joseph might have possibly dreamed of a simple and happy family. Unfortunately, these aspirations of Joseph seemed to be in darkness at that moment.

But then, there was something in Joseph that particularly pleased God. Joseph was a good man. He was righteous and thoughtful. We expect Joseph to have been really hurt by this scandal yet what Joseph showed towards Mary was mercy rather than revenge, and love rather than hate in the midst of his anger, disappointment, confusion and fear. And so, Joseph considered to divorce Mary in secret and not to expose her for a public trial and public execution by stoning her to death. Joseph thought to protect Mary from further bullying and disgrace.

 Indeed, Joseph struggled with this decision. This crisis could have been the darkest in his life. But then, the story has not yet ended. This dark and difficult moment of Joseph became the way for God to reveal His plan. That is why, God revealed to Joseph in the night of dreaming and pondering. Through that revelation, Joseph’s view of Mary and her pregnancy and even of himself became larger and brighter. Joseph began to see the scandalous situation of Mary’s pregnancy through the eyes of faith rather than his fear and disappointment, through God’s love rather than his anger and hate.

And from then on, Joseph saw and felt that what has been revealed to him was truly scandalous because God revealed Himself to him, because God has become man there in the womb of Mary just to be with us. It was scandalous because we thought that God is up there or out there in the heavens only, a place that no person can reach. But then Mary got pregnant. This is what blows our mind now, because through that unexpected pregnancy, God is telling us the He is intimately present with us. God is telling us that humanity can become pregnant with God.

Mary’s faithfulness to Joseph was also questioned. She was accused of betrayal and infidelity. But after the revelation to Joseph, he understood that Mary’s pregnancy is a statement of God’s faithfulness and commitment to us. God commits himself to be our God. He commits himself to choose us as His people. This is God’s assurance to us now that he is present and he lives in the midst of our lives, in the midst of our pain, of our failures, of our disappointments, hurts and fears in order to bring to us His mercy, love and friendship.

What God is telling us this Christmas is this – that He chooses life and not death because he chooses to be born like us. God is telling us that he never gives up on us because His name is Jesus – the God who saves us. God is telling us that we are not alone in our difficulties because He is Emmanuel, the God who is with us who gives joy and hope.

As we are coming closer to celebrate the Lord’s birthday, I would like to invite you to look at the face of the person in front and behind you. Please look at her/him and generously give a warm smile and a simple “hi and hello.” Remember this, Jesus is born, human like us – as Christians we may always defend, protect, nurture and love every human life. Hinaut pa.

Jom Baring, CSsR


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