We all know of Joseph’s dilemma. But when did this occur? Mary (and Unborn Jesus) probably returned to Nazareth after visiting Elizabeth (unborn/newborn John) and Zechariah, just as the second trimester of Mary’s pregnancy was getting underway. The first page of the New Testament presents this huge problem and holy solution: somehow Mary “was found to be with child” (Mt 1:19). An angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream:
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”.
Joseph does as the angel instructs him. And he tells Mary what he was told by God’s messenger. This is the pattern, each person drawn into the Messianic Mission shares his or her inspiration or spiritual experience with Mary (or she in fact witnesses it) and as John Paul II says “Mary is the contemplative “memory” of the Church…” Message for 77th World Mission Day #3. She cherishes the revealed information within her heart and memory. Let’s consider four points from the angel’s instruction.
“Son of David” – this is how the angel addresses Joseph. It is as if Joseph is given a “Messianic office” while he will faithfully do the will of God, parenting the true Son of God. Mary can see in this the supernatural dignity of Joseph’s role as adoptive father of her son. Her relationship with Joseph is solidified and they will act as a team, in harmony with God who is closely watching over their lives. Thirty years hence, Joseph’s son will be called by the same title on many occasions (Mt 9:27, 12:23, 21:9, Mk 10:48). This title then is shared between father and son; perhaps Mary sensed that this would be one of her son’s titles.
“Holy Spirit” – this reference to God is a New Testament term, and here it is on the very first page of the New Testament, revealed for the world to hear, by the angel of the Lord to Joseph. But the same term, “Holy Spirit”, had already been spoken to Mary in the same context, by Gabriel. For Mary this is not a coincidence, not even a mere confirmation, it is a holy revelation of the first order – it was fitting that it was revealed to Joseph not by human lips, but by the breath of an angel, commissioned to deliver the message for the glory of God and for the particular good of Mary and her Unborn Son. The angel’s words to Joseph were a sign for him, a sign for Mary and a timeless sign for the universal Church.
“Jesus” – we spoke earlier about this name. Mary sees here the intimate detail revealed to her alone thus far, now being shared by God with one other special person. The family of three is now complete, built up around this Name, this Person; “Jesus”.
“He will save his people from their sins” – finally, here is the reason for the Incarnation, the reason for this Messianic Mission! This is a supernatural remedy for the fallen condition of humanity. Adam and Eve’s misdeeds will be undone by this Savior. Mary is given a ringing proclamation to ponder, a motto for her life which will always give perspective to every event, every question, every hope. Mary can read between the lines here and see one word loud and clear: MERCY. Her Son, as Savior, will embody God’s Mercy.
The early Creed of Christianity, in its embryonic statement is taking shape within the heart of Mary, encounter by encounter, methodically, trimester by trimester. But one other sign came to Mary during this second trimester, not mentioned in the bible, but mentioned by every woman who has ever carried an unborn baby to term; the Unborn Son of God poked her, pushed at her, prodded her – with His hands, His feet, even His elbows – what did she think of that?
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