Sunday, December 18, 2022

Soothing the Soreness of the Heart

4th Sunday in Advent (A)

Readings: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 23 (24): 1-6; Romans 1: 1-7; Matthew 1: 18-24

Picture: cc Mira Pangkey

My dear friends, has your throat ever felt so sore that it was difficult to swallow, let alone to speak? What did you do? Sometimes lozenges can help, right? Placed in the mouth, and allowed to slowly dissolve on the tongue, a good lozenge can soothe the throat, making it easier to swallow and speak.

Although there is no mention of sore throats or lozenges in our scriptures today, it is clear that both Ahaz and Joseph are having difficulty swallowing God’s will. Shortly after Ahaz is crowned king of Judah, his northern neighbours, Israel and Aram (Syria), join forces to invade him. In a panic, he seeks the help of the mighty Assyrians. The prophet Isaiah tries to persuade him to turn to God instead. But, with his enemies already at his doorstep, Ahaz can’t accept the prophet’s assurances. His fear gets the better of him. Rather than trust in an unseen God, he submits instead to a foreign power.

Like Ahaz, Joseph also finds it difficult to accept God’s will. He wants to send the pregnant Mary away, because he thinks that’s what the Law requires. But he eventually changes his mind, and accepts Mary. And he is able to do this because, unlike Ahaz, Joseph receives the words of the angel the way someone with a sore throat might suck on a lozenge. He truly takes them to heart, allowing them to soothe away his misgivings. Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife

Like Ahaz and Joseph, we too are called not just to keep welcoming the Lord into our hearts and lives, but also to proclaim the good news of his coming. As the second reading reminds us, through (Christ) we received grace and our apostolic mission to preach the obedience of faith to all pagan nations in honour of his name. But, again like Ahaz and Joseph, we may find this call difficult to swallow. Especially if our hearts are sore, burdened by worries and hurts, doubts and misgivings of one kind or another, including the lingering unexamined trauma caused by the pandemic. 

Thankfully, the scriptures offer us soothing lozenges, in the form of three names. The first is David, which appears in all three readings. As we ponder this name, we realise that, in speaking to Ahaz and Joseph, God isn’t just interacting with isolated individuals, but with the single household, which they represent, the House of David. And God’s love is so steadfast, God’s patience so enduring, that despite being rejected again and again, God still keeps reaching out. Until, many generations after Ahaz, a true Saviour and Messiah can finally be born. Isn’t this what the name Jesus Christ means? Not just any saviour, but the long foretold anointed one, born of the House of David. By whose Dying and Rising, God truly becomes Emmanuel, the God who is eternally present to all who have the courage to receive him.

DavidJesus ChristEmmanuel. Sisters and brothers, as Advent draws to a close, how might we allow these powerful lozenges to soothe our sore and tired hearts, making us ever more receptive to the Lord today?

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