2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16
Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24 or Luke 2:41-51
The first understanding that most people have about today’s Gospel is that Joseph thought he had been betrayed by Mary and so decided to divorce her. The list of reasons why this is nonsense is very long, but we can consider the major points today.
When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, did she tell him about the angel Gabriel? Yes, without a doubt she did. Did he think she was lying? No. The Scripture says that “she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” Her pregnancy and the manner of conception were both revealed to Joseph at the same time.
Indeed, long-standing tradition tells us that Joseph was a widower who was marrying Mary in order to take care of her as she devoted her life to God. What is without doubt from Mary’s own words in Luke is that her marriage was always intended to be unconsummated. Joseph was not a hot-tempered youth who felt betrayed. The intention of this marriage was always that Joseph would be caring for Mary without being intimate with her.
Now we should be able to see what really happened. Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant through the Holy Spirit with a child who would be called the Son of the Most High God. His response was like Peter’s years later, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.” Joseph was afraid. He had taken on the great responsibility of caring for this perfect girl, but he had not realized that he would also have to care for God’s own Son. This was too much. Joseph was a righteous man; the fear of God was in him. Joseph is humble: he knows that he is neither capable nor worthy of being the stepfather of Jesus.
His dream now takes on a new meaning. “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.” The angel does not disagree that Joseph is unworthy or that he is unable, by himself, to care for Jesus. The angel reminds him that this is a work of the Holy Spirit. There is no reason to be afraid. God will provide. No work is too much, even for us sinful people, if God is accomplishing the work through us. We never need to be afraid of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in our lives.