Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

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Joseph Accepts to Be the Father of Jesus: Matthew 1:18-25
This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Emmanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not have relations with her before she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matthew 1.18-25)

The first chapter of Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy of Jesus (in Greek “genesis”) with the Evangelist showing us that Jesus is the Messiah of the line of David and of Abraham. Our passage tells how the birth (again “genesis” in Greek) of Jesus the Messiah took place.

This double repetition of “genesis” sends us back to the beginnings, to God’s work of creation. What is about to happen is part of that ongoing creation and, at the same time, is in a continuity with the promises made to Abraham and to David. Here, as at the beginning, the Spirit is at work leading us to a new stage in God’s creative power and the fulfilment of the promises God made throughout the history of salvation.

And yet, immediately we are introduced to everyday life, filled with challenges and questions, of a woman betrothed to a man. God comes into their existence to initiate this new creation and fulfil the promise. God enters into the everyday and ordinary in order to fashion and transform. God is already “with them” in their daily life, continuing to create in and through them.

Mary is named first and holds her full place, but Matthew puts Joseph right next to her. Mary is with child through the creative power of the Holy Spirit. How will Joseph react to this surprising news?

We are told that Joseph is a man committed and loyal to his faith. He is ready to act because of this commitment. He had already decided what he should do and, in a way perhaps astonishing to our modern eyes, to save Mary from shame. But God calls him through a messenger during a dream. Instead of allowing himself to be imprisoned by his fear, he now feels able to accept fully the situation he finds himself in. He will take Mary as his wife.

God’s call transforms decisions and lives. The story makes us understand that the situation is not easy for either Mary or Joseph. Joseph is a just man, we are told. God’s call, however, changes Joseph’s idea of justice. This is how Joseph enters into holiness, finding himself set apart from his usual way of thinking. And he is surely touched by God’s wish for the child to “save his people from their sins.” For it is God’s mercy that is at work. That mercy transforms Joseph.

So this story is full of surprises. But it is not really full of surprises because it recounts the fulfilment of what was written by the prophets. Quoting Isaiah, Matthew sees the fulfilment of all God’s promises in Jesus. Isaiah saw a new age coming. What Isaiah saw as a promise, Matthew sees as present. The coming birth is a sign of God’s presence and plan for all people. We are given two names for this child: “God with us” and “God saves”. And Joseph is to adopt this child. God will be with Joseph and Joseph is transformed by God’s merciful love.

- How does God continue to create in my everyday life?

- How do I react when my ideas of justice and righteousness, even when they are rooted in my understanding of faith, are confronted by God’s creative mercy?

- Contemplate simply the names “God with us” and “God saves”, and the promise fulfilled through them, that take flesh in the birth of Mary and Joseph’s child.

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Printed from: - 6 May 2021
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