Bobby had a hard time getting up in the morning. It was becoming a problem as he would be late for school. His mom tells the story of how frustrating it was for her to get him alert and out of bed so he could start the day. One day she had an idea. She told him to leave the shade open at night. Then in the morning the sunlight would slowly fill the room well before he needed to rise. Then things started to change. At first it was easier to wake him up. After a few weeks he even started to get up himself without having to be woken. The mom, reflecting on this, applied it to her own spiritual journey. She noted when she was feeling down or having a difficult time in life. She noticed she would get bogged down, so to speak, by the challenge, like a darkness. It was not to the point of distressing but it would slow her down a bit – hard to get the day going. She then started to apply the experience of leaving the shade in her son’s room open and the effects it had in his life (and her’s). She became more and more aware that when she allowed the Light who is Christ to come into the room of her heart, things started to change. The problems or challenges did not go away but she put them into a new context.
God was with her and that was enough to face the difficulties and to walk her through them.
The Light filled her with a new energy and hope.
Christ the Light is one of those spiritual themes that resonate this time of the year. On Christmas during the Mass of the Day (there are different readings for the Vigil (Christmas eve), Night and Dawn), the Gospel passage is the Prologue of the Gospel According to John where we hear those words “the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” The “light” theme is carried over to our decorations for Christmas – lights on the trees, houses, yards, and so forth.
Today we are celebrating the Fourth Sunday of Advent. Our focus in Advent has now pointed to our preparations for the celebration of Christmas (as differentiated from the hopeful expectation of Christ’s return); all the while recalling that he is continually present to us now.
We hear the account of the Annunciation to Joseph from The Gospel According to Matthew. In that account we find Joseph disturbed, troubled and confused. We might experience similar thoughts when we have to deal with troubling situations. Sometimes we might describe these as “dark”. Joseph has come to know that Mary, his betrothed, is with child. He also knows that the child is not his.
When we think of this situation in terms of couples we know who are preparing for marriage we may get an insight into his distress. Joseph is a righteous man. He knows that he will have to separate from his betrothed. His love and compassion are highlighted for he does not want to divorce her publicly which will bring much shame and perhaps something worse. The devastating situation is transformed when the angel appears to him and gives him the news. The light comes in and he is transformed. The message of the angel is good news. The dawn of salvation is now. The child has been conceived through divine intervention. The Holy Spirit has come upon Mary and her child will be Emmanuel, God with us.
Joseph’s response is to accept the light and let it into his heart and life. He is already being enlightened by the child being formed in the darkness of the womb. Joseph’s role in the child’s life will be significant. He will be His father on earth. He, along with Mary, will have the responsibility of caring for and raising Jesus. He will have to protect his family from danger and provide for them. He will have to teach Jesus and help him grow ready for His ministry. The angel tells Joseph that he will name the child “Jesus.” The naming is significant as this responsibility, in those days, was the role of the father. In doing so Joseph willing takes on the loving duties of a father. Also, by doing so Jesus will become an offspring of David, the King.
Joseph accepted the Light into His life and responded in love to the call and responsibilities that he has been given. He comes to a new awareness of God’s presence and is one of the first to know the depth of God’s love in taking on human flesh to eventually be born among us.
God is truly with us and this good news continues to shine brightly – and needs to be shared with others.
Joseph’s acceptance of the Light not only dispels the darkness but leads him to love; the Light becomes reflected in him and others come to know the Light through him. That happens to us as well when we let the Light who is Christ into our hearts.
We have this last week of Advent before us, now is the time to make our final preparations.
Now is the time to open our hearts to let in the Light when He arrives – as our response to the psalm: “Let the Lord enter; he is the King of glory.”
Msgr. Joseph Prior is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Parish, Penndel, and a former professor of Sacred Scripture and rector of St. Charles Borromeo Seminary.
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