December 18, 2022 – Fourth Sunday of Advent
Click here for the readings (https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/121822.cfm)
Do you ask signs from God? Certainly, there are many of us who can relate well in asking the Lord to give us signs especially when we make big decisions in life. Even when we become desperate over life issues and concerns, we could ask signs from God to confirm our belief, to affirm ourselves. We ask signs so that the hope in us may continue to live.
With this, allow me to dig deeper into our readings on this Fourth Sunday of Advent and let us see how God also reveals his signs to us and how God calls us today.
The first reading from the Book of Prophet Isaiah is very interesting because what we have heard was that, it was the Lord who asked a man to ask for signs. Yes, the Lord spoke to Ahaz, the king of Judah to ask for a sign. However, Ahaz refused to ask for a sign. This was the King’s refusal to believe in God.
Ahaz actually sold himself to the King of Assyria and became a puppet king. He trusted this foreign power who once defeated him in a battle to protect him from two other kingdoms who threatened his reign. Yet, his political alliance with Assyria was to the detriment of his own people. He turned away from God, desecrated the altar of the temple, worshipped foreign gods and murdered his own people as long as he shall remain king. He even burned his own son as a human sacrifice to the gods of Assyria in order to please the King.
However, despite the refusal of Ahaz, the Lord spoke and promised for a sign. Yes, it turned out that God initiated to give a sign through a virgin who shall give birth to a son. He will be called Emmanuel, God-with-us. He is God’s greatest and most wonderful sign of the divine presence and love.
This sign which God spoke had been realized through the annunciation of the angel to Mary. The Gospel of Matthew spoke about this today. However, God’s sign that was already conceived in the womb of Mary had been surrounded by scandal. It was scandalous that it must have brought the entire village to feast on a gossip that Mary betrayed Joseph, that Mary was a whore.
The neighbors even the relatives of Mary must have suspected her for being adulterous. They must have passed harsh and hurtful judgments against Mary “without further investigation,” without knowing or caring about finding the truth. They must have wished and thought that Mary will be shamed, be dragged out of their village and be stoned to death.
Well, even today, this is not far from our own experience. How many have suffered and traumatized by gossips filled with malice and insults? How many have we terrorized by maligning others only to cover our own guilt? This culture of gossip or using the popular online lingo called “MARITES” of a person who spend more time spreading malicious gossip against a neighbor, is perhaps no different from what Mary experienced. If Mary’s pregnancy happened today, what would people say, then? “Bigaon nga babaye!” Nagbusong nga indi man sang iya bana!” – and that is scandalous! (And when people hear judgment like this, many would just nod and laugh and not confront it to stop it.)
I remember, when I was in high school, my older sister got pregnant out of wedlock. I would hear our neighbors saying something that demeaning to my sister. And that was terrible!
Yet, in the midst of this scandal in the neighborhood, God intervened again and gave Joseph a sign. Joseph never thought to hurt Mary. That is why in his own way, he wanted to divorce Mary secretly so that Mary could join with the man who fathered her child. Joseph must have also thought that Mary got another man. In the midst of these, the Lord gave the sign through a dream. Joseph’s dream symbolically means “resting with God” – where we are most comfortable and peaceful in God’s presence. As Joseph was asleep, God revealed to him the divine plan.
This was how Joseph understood the plan of God. And indeed, God’s sign was scandalous! Because God who is almighty, all powerful, who cannot be seen or touched, is to be born as human! Joseph began to see the scandalous situation of Mary’s pregnancy through the eyes of faith rather than his fear and disappointment.
The scandal of God’s sign is imprinted in the name of Jesus, which means, God will save us from our sins. This is how Joseph also realized that the pregnancy of Mary is God’s greatest manifestation of love. That is why we have lighted the fourth candle of Advent, which is also called as the Candle of Love.
How are we invited now on this last Sunday of Advent? There are two invitations on how we can become signs of God’s presence in our homes and communities, which I would like you to bring as your take-aways for today.
First, BE A SIGN OF LIFE. Remember, even when Ahaz chose death for his own people, God promised of a birth of a child. That is life! Thus, in our relationships always choose life, nurture your life and the life of others, protect and defend life. Hence, reject also anything that will abuse life, traumatize life, suppress life, manipulate life and destroy life because that is not what God wants us.
Second, BE A SIGN OF LOVE. The Emmanuel is the face of love. Jesus is love made flesh. May we always choose to love, because love is always right and it can never be wrong. But remember, it requires us great amount of commitment and sacrifices because to love can be so demanding. Mary who chose to love was subjected to ridicule and harsh judgments. Joseph who chose to love had been in great troubles in order to protect his family from danger.
And so, be a sign of life and a sign of love. Ok lang? Sana all.