Bread in the Wilderness

Vox Nova is pleased to present a guest post by Fr. Carl Diederichs of All Saints Catholic Church in Milwaukee.

The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent are: Isaiah 7: 10-14, Romans 1: 1-7, and Matthew 1: 18-24.

We won’t go into why Ahaz would not ask for a sign, but his response did give Isaiah the opening to present a whole new vision for humanity: “The Lord himself will give you this sign; the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.”  This is a wondrous statement, but how will it happen?  Who will be the mother of this child? Matthew gives us the answer:  Mary, the woman betrothed to Joseph the carpenter. 

But in the real world in which Mary and joseph lived, this would be the cause of great anxiety.   Can we imagine Joseph after he discovered that Mary was pregnant and he was not the father? He loved her, was bound to her and this happens.  We can imagine the thoughts of anger, jealousy, despair, going through his head and heart.  Even after he was assured by the dream, he must have had grave doubts.

And slowly hope entered in.  We know this not by what Joseph said but by how he treated Mary and her son, Jesus.  All of us go through those dark nights of doubt and anxiety caused by observing a world that seems to be falling apart.  It could be within us, our family, our church, or when we reflect on the human suffering of our brothers and sisters in Syria, large parts of Africa, and yes, even in the hovels of our own city where suffering is acute and stinging.

And like Joseph, we cling to hope, not wishful thinking, but hope.  And we see every moment as that moment where we can begin again without fear.  Catherine de Hueck, a woman “who dedicated her life to the gospel without compromise,” says in a meditation called Hope Personified, these words: “The world has always known that it is in the throes of evil. Human beings are free to choose good or evil, and that is why the Gospel is not fulfilled in us, because we say no to the Holy Spirit. But with God, every moment is the moment of beginning again.  And when we ‘begin again’ with God, we enter the valley of joy, of plenty, of honey, of bread, and of wine.  We do so because, no matter what we’ve done or where we’ve been, we are not lost.  With God, every moment is the moment for us to begin anew.”

This “Hope Personified” is the Christ, who came as a human being born of a young woman, fearful and anxious, betrothed to Joseph also anxious and fearful.  And from the wild hope of this husband and wife, you and I can now walk in the valley of joy and love.  What an awesome God we serve.

I wish you a Blessed and Peace-filled Christmas Season.


Father Carl Diederichs

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