Monday, December 18, 2006

18 December
Dreaming unto Salvation

Readings: Jeremiah 23:5-8; Psalm 72:1-2, 12-13, 18-19; Matthew 1:18-25

It is important and helpful for us who continue to prepare for the Lord’s coming to notice the change of focus in our daily Mass readings from 17 December onwards. The spotlight is now shone quite deliberately upon the circumstances surrounding the birth of Jesus. The readings invite us to contemplate ever more deeply how Jesus came to be born more than two thousand years ago. But why is it important to do this? What’s the point? Is it simply out of a concern for more historical information – just like we might be interested in knowing more about the history of Singapore or the life and times of Stamford Raffles?

There is, of course, an element of the historical here. But there is more. This more is expressed in a suggestion found in the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. When presenting the material for prayer over the birth of our Lord, Ignatius suggests that the one praying should reflect on myself and draw some fruit. Could it be that one contemplates the Lord’s birth not only for its historical significance, but primarily in order to better appreciate the ways in which this same Lord is waiting to be born into one’s own life in the here and now?

Doesn't something similar happen to Joseph in the gospel? Which person in his position – however honourable he may be – would see in the spectre of an illegitimate child the marvellous vision of the coming King and Saviour prophesied by Jeremiah? Yet, like his Old Testament namesake so many generations before him, even in the midst of his turmoil and struggle, Joseph dares to dream. And through his dreaming, God awakens him to a new vision. The ominous night of scandal gives way to the glorious dawn of salvation. This same problematic child, so humbly waiting for permission to be born, is the one who is to save his people from their sins. Enlightenment leads to action. Joseph awakes and does what the angel of the Lord told him to do

Even as we continue to prepare for Christmas, what marvelous dreams, what glorious visions does the Lord have in store for us? And how might we respond?

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