Matthew 1:18-24
Responding to God's Will
by Rev. Robert Wagner
Reprinted by permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph, son of David, 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.  She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means "God is with us."

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

In this Sunday’s Gospel, St. Joseph is visited by an angel of God while he is sleeping. To us, it may seem foolish that the salvation of all mankind rested on Joseph’s response to a dream, but since it was God’s plan, we know it was perfect. In a way, it makes sense God would communicate through a dream. Dreams come from deep within us, and can connect us to our innermost being, often revealing thoughts and fears we did not even know existed. It is also in these depths that the Holy Spirit dwells, uniting us intimately with the Holy Trinity.

Even for those of us who cannot remember our dreams, we can learn from Joseph’s faithful and immediate response to the angel’s message. When he awoke, the conditions of his life had not changed: Mary, his wife, was still pregnant with a child of whom he was not the natural father. Yet his faith allowed him to know that the message of the angel was from God, and that the child in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit, would be called Jesus, and would bring salvation to the world. Joseph’s faith allowed him to hear God’s words. Joseph’s faith brought him peace and sent him forward with courage to do the will of God.

It is only when we live by faith that we are able to hear God’s voice and respond with all our hearts. There will be times in our lives when this will occur in momentous decisions, such as the one Joseph had after his dream. More often, however, it is in the small decisions that we allow God to mold us into the people we are called to be. When we follow God’s will, we find that we become more virtuous, generous, and joyful men and women. God desires to speak to us every day so that He can share his plan for us. Living faithfully can help free us from the obstacles of sin and self-love that keep us from hearing the word of God.

The key to living a life of faith is prayer. God used a dream to speak to Joseph, but for most of us, the means of intimate conversation with Him is prayer. Prayer makes our hearts to be like fertile soil. Prayer opens us up to listening to the word of God in Scripture, in the people around us, in the events of our life, in the thoughts and ideas God places into our minds when we spend time with Him in prayer, whether in front of Him in adoration in the church, or gathered with our family at home, or even sitting silently in traffic.

In our prayers, let us beg God to make us faithful and docile like St. Joseph. Let us ask that He allow us to hear His will for us clearly and follow it with courage and joy. When we do this, God will certainly answer our prayers, for He loves us and desires to reveal to us His plan for our salvation and this gift of eternal life.

Prayer is our means to opening our hearts to God, and His means of guiding us and showing us His love. Joseph had a dream that changed his life, and ours, forever. This week, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Son of God, may we earnestly pray that the Lord enters into our lives and our hearts and enlightens us so that we, too, may follow His will with our whole being, and bring the love of His Son to the world.

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