Fr Bob Writes – Dec 22, 2013

Of all the gospels, only Luke and Matthew tell us any details about Jesus’ conception, birth and early life.  Since we are in the year of Matthew (year A in the liturgical cycle) the gospel reading comes from Matthew and tells us about Joseph’s reaction to finding that Mary is pregnant and how God uses a dream to reassure him.  We are told that Mary was “betrothed” to Joseph.  Betrothal does not mean our concept of “engagement.”  Betrothal was already “marriage.”  A year -long betrothal was the first part of an official marriage for Jewish couples.  Infidelity during this time was considered adultery.  In the male-dominated Jewish society, a woman pregnant by another man could be publicly condemned, sent back to her parents to remain unmarried for the rest of her life, or even put to death.  No similar penalty fell to the man involved.  Joseph waived his rights to such actions in taking Mary as his wife.

Matthew wrote his gospel for a Jewish audience.  Luke wrote for people raised and educated in Greek society.  Jewish society was more male-dominant than the comparable Greek society of the day.  Thus the angel communicates only through Joseph in Matthew’s gospel while appearing to Mary in Luke’s gospel.  But in both cases the message is the same: the child to be born of Mary is unique, the result of the Holy Spirit of God infilling Mary’s womb with the DNA of God.  Thus Jesus is the Son of God Himself!!

It is always helpful to know to whom something is written to understand more clearly what the message intended by the writer might be.  That is true of the bible as it is of so many other works.  Our being mindful of such things can enable the bible to be what God intends it to be for us today.  God’s living word to bring us to faith and strengthen that same faith.  May the hearing and  reading of the word of God for you this Advent and Christmas be “not just some human message, but what it really is, the word of God , a living power among those who believe”! (Thessalonians 2:13)