Its one thing to be called a righteous man as St. Joseph was. Mary, his fiancée, is pregnant. The law would have punished her severely. That is not what Joseph wants. He chooses to divorce her privately. Something special happens with the appearance of an Angel who tells him that Mary is pregnant through the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a baby son. Call him "Jesus" because he will save his people from their sins. Joseph is told to take Mary as his wife. He did exactly that.
Righteousness is something that we all are asked to develop. That comes through honesty, reflection, conviction and action. The three readings at the Third Sunday of Advent Mass just two days ago faced us with three persons trying to help the people around him to deal face to face with righteousness. Remember? Zephaniah, a prophet, was guiding a small group of fellow Jews through some painful times of being cast aside by fellow Jews who chose to follow an alien god. He encourages them not to give up. Paul, the Apostle, was writing a letter to the Christians in Philippi. "Rejoice, rejoice" Paul writes them. "Don’t give up." This letter was being written in a Roman prison! John, the Baptist, is out in the desert ministering to several groups of people, trying to get them to think about what they are doing: "don’t cheat," "don’t extort," "don’t falsely accuse," "be content with your wages," and "share your food and clothing."
Facing problems, difficulties, decisions, actions that carry consequences are part of our growth in truthfulness and righteousness. It begins when we learn the meaning of the words, "yes" and "no." The possible depth of the consequences continues to be revealed as we continue to grow in our relationships with God, with those around us and last, but not least, our own selves. What are you facing at this moment or time of your life? Who is it that you need to trust to work through your decisions that will definitely result in consequences? Jesus comes as the baby of Bethlehem. He promised to walk with us as we continue our daily trek toward heaven. Notice the hand that grasps yours bears a wound? His decision to come to live among us carried serious consequences. He wanted us to know the depth of His love that would eventually lead to the consequence of giving up His life for His friend…you!
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is the associate pastor of Immaculate Conception Parish in Chicago, Illinois.