This fourth and final week of the Advent Seasons draws us to find peace in the midst of our journey. We turn our focus to St Joseph and his calling to have courage and not to be afraid in taking Mary as his wife. This invitation to St Joseph can also be a source of encouragement and strength for the church. Just as we find St Joseph, worried, afraid and confused we too can identify with his challenge.
Joseph was a righteousness man the Gospel tells us and, wanted to treat Mary with the deepest respect and regard. He was afraid, he is encouraged by God’s messenger to not be afraid but to act in justice and goodness in accepting Mary. Like him we too must be able and open to listening to God calling us to stand for justice, goodness and to proclaim the Gospel. It is through this listening to the Spirit and willingness to accept the invitation to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ that we are able to accept that we too are called and set aside for the Gospel as St. Paul reminds us today. “ Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus,called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God,” Romans 1:1
I find encouragement having recently heard of Pope Francis’ call and. desire to be an Evangelical church. This call or desire allows us to continue to reflect and set forth an action and plan for Mission. To be an evangelical church touches the very heart of our very purpose. We cannot be afraid nor shy away from the call to be Evangelical, namely to respond to the invitation of Christ. Through our very baptism we are called to evangelize and to reach out in mission. The Church exists to Evangelize, to proclaim, the Gospel the Good News of Christ and to invite others into relationship with Him and to know Him and experience to power of His love.
The call to be missionary this fourth Sunday of Advent we accept the call and respond with peaceful resolve to act in righteousness and justice. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States, reminded the U.S. bishops from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and that “Pope Francis encouraged us to be a missionary Church that goes forth to announce the joyful message, more deeply committed to her mission than to maintenance of structures that may no longer adequately serve the mission.”
“Evangelizing, in fact, is the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists to evangelize.” Pope Francis said.
This means we must be on cutting edge finding new and creative ways to respond to our missionary mandate to be evangelical. We cannot just maintain doing what we’ve always done because that’s how we’ve done it. No we must be willing to step out, to develop and try new ways of evangelizing. Rooted in our worship, the Eucharistic assembly gathered and strengthened by the Lord goes out in mission to encounter the “other”. Truly “font and summit” from this high point in our lives we are nourished, rejuvenated to be sent on mission. We reach out to people where they are, speak to their lives, know their joys and sorrows, listen to their dreams and hopes, walk with them through suffering and pain and be a voice and force for justice, equality and dignity.
In today’s Gospel Joseph to responds to God’s messenger. In his openness to the news of the messenger his response is evangelical, namely having heard God’s word he acts on it.
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.”
Upon hearing and receiving God’s word, the Good News of the Gospel, the Evangelical Church, missionary in its identity acts, goes forth and works to share the Joy of the Gospel, “tidings of great joy”, called, set aside and proclaiming God’s word unafraid.
Let us examine and evaluate our Missionary response in our “Courageously Living the Gospel” with these questions:
Do we go forth and take the initiative? Do we get involved? Do we accompany others, showing patience? What are the fruits that we are seeing from our evangelizing efforts? Finally, do our local churches demonstrate the joy, which flows from the Eucharist?” Archbishop Pierre said.