THE SECRET TO DISCERNING GOD’S WILL
HOMILY READINGS: First: Isaiah 7:10-14; Second: Romans 1:1-7; Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24
Our existence here on earth is basically for a purposeful mission, and that mission is to do God’s Will. Moreover, each person’s mission is very unique and peculiar. But the issue is, how does one know, and understand God’s purpose as well as His Will for his or her life, especially in difficult situations? How does one recognize it, and what does he or she expect to do when God’s will is being revealed?
Meanwhile, in the first reading of this Homily of fourth Advent, Prophet Isaiah enlivens our hearts by giving us the most important detail concerning the Incarnation of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. He says, “Behold, a Virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Emmanuel” – meaning God with us (Isaiah 7:14). Certainly, this prophecy of the Incarnation is a message of hope and assurance that the Messiah will soon come and dwell among us.
Undoubtedly, the Incarnation is a very necessary condition in order for humanity to be redeemed from her precarious and damnable condition, occasioned by the sin of Adam and Eve. It is one of the basic mysteries of our Christian religion (God takes flesh and dwells among humanity) (John 1:14), which lies not so much in how it was done, but rather in the infinite, mysterious love of God for us, in order to make us His adopted children, and thus heirs of Heaven.
Besides, it would be a waste of time for us humans, with our small and limited capacity for real love, even to attempt to fathom this unquantifiable depth of God’s love for humanity. While we wonder at its immensity, all we can do is, to be grateful to God Almighty for it. Being grateful implies, demonstrating our genuine love for God and our neighbours, which is the primary and the most essential Will of God for us.
Similarly, the Gospel of today also gives us a full message of what Prophet Isaiah foretold about the Incarnation of the Messiah, in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary, through the Power of the Holy Spirit. Here, we see both Mary and Joseph exposed to enigmatic situations of what it means to accept God’s Will in one’s life.
As for Mary, when Angel Gabriel brought the news of the Incarnation to her, she humbly accepted it as God’s Perfect Will for her life. Believing that God knows what is best for her. Hence, she says, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your Word” (Luke 1:38). By her acceptance of God’s Will, she allows herself to become vulnerable to a gross misunderstanding, and to be ready for public shame.
Joseph on his own part is being subjected to a difficult situation too; such that, the woman he trusts so much is pregnant outside of him, even without his consent. Under normal circumstances, this can be seen as an abomination, and the woman can be sent packing because of this, and the marriage will definitely crumble.
However, being a just, merciful, compassionate and perfect gentleman par excellence, he did not allow Mary to be subjected to public disgrace, which is supposed to be her lot according to the Jewish tradition (Deuteronomy 22:23-27). He intended to dismiss her secretly, but after an Angel of the Lord visited him in a dream, he accepted Angel’s message as the Perfect Will of God (Matthew 1:19-24).
Obviously, through the intervention of the Lord’s Angel, the situation was solved amicably without the involvement of any third party. In all these, we see God protecting the interest of all who willingly accept His Will for them. Of course, this is one of the ways or rather, the best way of resolving difficult family issues. That is, praying and seeking for the intervention of the Holy Spirit first, for directives on what to do, or the Will of God in any particular situation, instead of taking unscrupulous decisions arbitrarily (Proverbs 3:5-6).
It is worthy of note that Joseph made an immense, unique and indispensable contribution to the saving mission of the Messiah. This shows that it pays to be good, to be considerate, and to show concern for other people’s feelings, reputation, good name and image.
In the second reading, St. Paul humbly acknowledges his mission, as an Apostle chosen by Jesus Christ, to spread the Good News of the Incarnation, which is God’s infinite love for humanity. In his exhortation, he affirms that Jesus Christ obediently accepted to lower Himself to the level of human beings in order to save them from shame and eternal damnation.
Through Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection, we have received grace and apostleship to bring obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all nations (Romans 1:4-5). Unequivocally, only supreme love and benevolence could make Jesus Christ undergo such sufferings, insults, and hatred, which culminated in the humiliating and most painful death on the cross, which our sins brought upon Him.
Finally, my dear brethren, we have seen in this Sunday Homily of 4th Advent, that, accepting the Will of God for our lives is very necessary in order to fulfil our peculiar missions here on earth (Jeremiah 29:11-14). Although there are many voices that tend to speak to us whenever we are in a dilemma to discern the Will of God. This usually happens when we become carnally minded. Nevertheless, by reflecting on the actions of Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saints Joseph, and Paul, in today’s readings, we can learn the secrets of discerning God’s Will. When we know that, we should not hesitate to act promptly like them for our own good.
Furthermore, we can discern the Will of God for us through love, humility, fervent prayer, reading and meditating on the scriptures (Word of God) as well as going to Sacramental Confessions frequently. Always reflecting on the lives of the Saints as well as focusing our minds on spiritual matters, so that we can be on the same frequency with God. Also, we need to show concern for other people’s feelings, reputation, good name and image. Therefore, since the Almighty God loves and cares for us, He will surely come soon this Christmas and dwell among us for our own good.
May the Almighty God, through the Power of the Holy Spirit give you the grace to always accept His Divine Will in your life. Even if accepting His Will exposes you to possible public shame or danger, He will never forsake you, but rather He will definitely crown all your efforts with blessings, favours, and at the end, eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
Peace of Christ be with you…
Rev. Fr. Ben Okala, C.S.Sp.
Amen padre. Thank you for this wonderful homily. We pray for the grace to always listen and understand God’s words especially in difficult situation.
Amen. You are welcome my dear sister Jane. May God Almighty bless you this Christmas and beyond, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.