Advent provides a blueprint for family life
If I were to ask the question, ‘who makes the decision in your family‘, what would your response be? Some may say it is the man of the house, the father who makes the decision; some may say it is the mother, the woman (who is boss) and should make the decision. Yet others would say it is the children who make the decisions. Either one can be a recipe for disaster since with all of the information in front of us, the best of us can still get it all wrong. If we were to reflect on our lives, and honestly look at the decisions that we have made, we will see that many of them were in fact bad decision – big or small. We made many wrong turns in our lives; turns that we thought were the right ones but turned out to be wrong. Some of us have made bad decisions with regards to our jobs, we have made bad decisions with regards our relationships and this has caused a tremendous amount of pain, not only in our lives but in the lives of others and the society as a whole. We have made a bad decision with regards to purchases that we have made – things that we thought we needed and went all out to purchase ended up being left abandoned somewhere.
So if we are so prone to making the wrong decision, who then should make the decisions in the family? Should it be the mother? Should it be the father? Should it be the children? Maybe it should be done all the members of the family. Maybe unilateral decisions might be the best way to go. Sorry to say that’s not it either since even unilaterally decisions have been wrongly made. If not guided by the Spirit, gaining a consensus can still be wrong!
We have had some really great reading during this third week of Advent, but Thursday’s gospel reading gives us an indication as to how decisions should be made in our families. Hear we see that Joseph had a problem. Mary, the woman that he loved and was planning to spend the rest of his life with was found to be with child and it was not his. The bible describes Joseph as a righteous man and as such he made a decision that he was going to divorce Mary quietly. He did not want exposed her or to scandalize her in any way. But before Joseph carried out his decision, the bible says he went to sleep. Now in the bible sleep refers to prayer or an act of surrender. For example in the old testament – in the book of Genesis, we see that when God was going to make woman, He put the man into a deep sleep then He took one of his ribs and a made woman. So in the context of the gospel reading, we know that Joseph was a righteous man and as such even though he had decided to divorce Mary quietly, he still went to God in prayer. It was in prayer that God spoke to him through the angel. Just a thought -bearing in mind the importance of Jesus’ coming as man to the entire human race, can you imagine for a moment what could have happened if Joseph did in fact make the wrong decision?
One of my former parish priests would always tell couples getting married that marriage is not about two people in love with each other and looking to each other for happiness. He would tell them that marriage or rather the secret of a good marriage is two people – a man and a woman – in love with each other and in love with God even more, and looking to Him for their happiness. He would continue in his sermon that you need three people for a strong marriage relationship. The husband, the wife and God. The most significant of the three is GOD. Archbishop Fulton Sheen speaks about this in detail in his book, ‘Three To Get Married‘
Coming back to the gospel at hand, we see that Joseph, even though he had made up his mind to carry out a particular act, because he was a righteous man, he sought God’s guidance first. Now it is important to note that according to the law, Joseph would have been justified to divorce Mary. But God had and was working out a very special master plan; one that would redeem the whole human race, and both Mary and Joseph were important parts of that plan. God has a master plan that involves every single one of us, regardless of color, creed or race; whether you’re rich or poor, tall or short; whether you are perfect or imperfect in the eyes of the world. God has a special master plan for the life of every human person. The question is, and the primary determining factor for the success of that plan is ‘are you – am I – going to yield to God and cooperate with His plan?’ Am I going to die to self so that God can have His way in me and in my life?
When you look at the gospel reading you will also notice two very powerful characteristics for family life. These are grace and righteousness. Mary was ‘full of grace’ and Joseph was a righteous man. With this winning combination and through the power of His Holy Spirit, God brought Emmanuel into the world – God came down and dwelt with us. There is a tremendous amount darkness and evil in our world today. One of the reasons why this is so is because of poor family life. Men, husbands, fathers are no longer seekers of righteousness; and women, wives mothers no longer seek to be full of grace. If we are serious about crime in Trinidad and Tobago and want to dispel the darkness from our world; if we want to truly redeem the beautiful islands of Trinidad and Tobago and drive crime away, then our men must be men of integrity and of righteousness and other women must be full of grace. God left a blueprint for us to follow in the form of the Holy Family. If we adopt and follow the blueprint for family-life as God has given it to us, there will be a significant reduction in darkness and evil in our land of Trinidad and Tobago, and in the world. Our men-folk will become men of integrity, of honor; they will become faithful husbands and fathers who are present to their children and who lead them by example by themselves following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Our women will respect themselves and their bodies and will teach their daughters to do the same. Then our carnival will no longer be carnal and a desecration of the human body and soul but rather an expression of thanksgiving to God for His many graces and blessings He has lavished on us.
To make the best possible turns in life, let God by the decision maker. Then you cooperate with his plan. It will be difficult at times but His grace is sufficient. God will always give us the grace to do all that He has called us to.
We need to learn to discern the voice of God from all the other many voices there are. There are many voices out there clamoring for our attention, and one gentle sweet voice that brings peace. We must learn to tell the difference and our hearts so transformed to desire the voice of God and His plans for our lives..
We need to be obedient to the voice of God and cooperate with His plan. God is all powerful and all wise. If He created the earth, the sun, the moon, the stars – and He certainly did – if He is the author of all creation – and He is – then He knows oh to well how to handle any and every situation that may come our way. God is more than able! Trust Him! Trust Him! Trust Him! He will never ever lead us the wrong way! He is incapable of doing this.
Prayer is critical; more-so the type of prayer where God does all the talking and we do all the yielding. Our children must see this in us and learn this from us. We must teach them to take every thing to God in prayer.
Men must hunger and thirst for righteousness and teach their sons to do the same.
Our women must be full of grace and teach their daughters to do the same.
Heavenly Father we ask you to do a new work in us. Please cause our families to reflect the love and unity you share with your Son and the Holy Spirit. Cause our families to become fertile ground in which God-fearing children are raised to know, love and serve you. In Jesus’ name we pray. AMEN!
Gospel – Matthew 1:18-25
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 be with child 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.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.