CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope Francis marks the fourth and last Sunday of Advent inviting the faithful to look to Joseph as a model of unshakable faith and trust in the Lord.

Reflecting on the reading of the day from the Gospel of Matthew, Pope Francis highlighted the role of the meek and humble Joseph, whose capacity to listen to and trust in God provides us with a model to be upheld and imitated.

Addressing the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square for the Sunday Angelus, the Pope reflected on Joseph, “a person apparently in second place, but whose attitude contains the entirety of Christian wisdom.”

Joseph, the Pope recalled, together with John the Baptist and Mary, is one of the characters the liturgy proposes during the season of Advent.

The style of the beatitudes

Of the three, he noted, he is the most modest: “He does not preach, he does not speak, but he tries to do God’s will; and he accomplishes that will in an evangelical style, and in the meek and humble style of the beatitudes.

Joseph’s poverty, the Pope explained, is typical of those who are aware of their dependence for everything on God in whom they put all of their trust.

Today’s evangelical narrative, he continued, presents a situation that is humanly embarrassing and conflictual. Joseph and Mary are engaged; they do not yet live together, but she is expecting a baby through God’s working.

Faced with this surprising news, the Pope said that Joseph is naturally disturbed but, “instead of reacting impulsively or punitively, he seeks a solution that respects the dignity and the integrity of his beloved Mary.”

The Gospel says: “Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly”. In fact, the Pope added, Joseph is well aware that had he repudiated his promised bride, she would have been exposed to grave consequences, even death.

Trust in Mary

“He has complete trust in Mary whom he had chosen as his wife,” he said. “He doesn’t understand, but he seeks a solution.”

Pope Francis went on to explain that this unexplainable circumstance however leads Joseph to question their relationship, and so, “with great suffering, he decides to separate himself from Mary without causing scandal.”

But the Angel of the Lord appears to him to tell him that this resolution is not that willed by God. Rather, he tells him the Lord is opening before him a new path of union, love and happiness: “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.”

Trust in God

At this point, the Pope continued, Joseph shows complete trust in God; he obeys the Angel and takes Mary into his home.

“It is precisely this unshakable trust in God that allowed him to accept a humanly difficult, and in a certain sense, incomprehensible situation,” he said.

Through faith, Pope Francis explained, Joseph understands that the baby conceived in Mary’s womb is not his son, but is the Son of God, and he, Joseph, will be His guardian by exercising his earthly paternity.

“The example of this good, meek and wise man teaches us to lift up our gaze and look beyond, to trust in God’s surprising logic” which consists in openness towards new horizons, towards Christ and His Word.

“May the Virgin Mary, and her chaste spouse, Joseph,” Pope Francis concluded, “help us to listen to the coming Jesus,  who asks that we  include Him in our plans and in our choices.”

Post Angelus

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis had words of greeting for some of the groups of pilgrims present in the Square.

In particular, he acknowledged the presence of some delegations of Italian citizens who live in gravely polluted areas, and expressed his hope that their political and civil administrators take action to improve the quality of the air that they breath and attend to their health care needs.

Finally, noting that in three days’ time it will be Christmas, Pope Francis said his thoughts go to families who gather together during these days of festivities: those who live far away from their parents and return home, those brothers and sisters who make the effort to be together.

“May Christmas be a fraternal time for everyone, one of growth in the faith and of actions of solidarity toward those who are in need,” he said.

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