Fourth Sunday of Advent Reflection
Dreaming the Divine Will
December 20, 2010
When Joseph awoke, he did
as the angel of the Lord had commanded him...
three weeks now we have preparing for the Lord’s coming.
Beyond the historical remembrance of the birth of Jesus
that is to be soon celebrated, we have been reminded of the
Lord’s continuing desire to be born in our souls and, as
Emmanuel, to be close to our world.
Whatever is happening to us, around us, and within us
this last week of Advent, wherever we find ourselves in our
Christmas preparations and in our expectations and apprehensions
for what the coming days hold for us, the
Divine Child continues to be born, continues to come to
us all to save us.
Often with the
pressure of Christmas preparations and the heightened complexity
of human relationships that the sentiment and nostalgia of the
season evokes, the Reality of Divine presence and intimacy, of
the promise of reconciliation and redemption seems even more
remote than usual. The
events and demands of our lives these last days of preparation
and anticipation can most readily distance us from consciousness
of the presence and the workings of God, of the Divine Mystery
of Formation and the loving and saving utterance of God’s Word.
It is into the midst of this not unfamiliar experience of
alienation from life’s depths born of our stress and anxiety
that the person of Joseph enters through the words of Matthew’s
As we are introduced to Joseph, it is clear that this good and
righteous man has made the decision, with careful and caring
deliberation, to divorce Mary, his betrothed, who is pregnant
with a child that is not his.
His intention and direction are clear, until, like his
patriarchal namesake, Joseph is addressed in a dream by an
resonance for Matthew’s audience is unmistakable.
Here again a Joseph, facing impossible circumstances, is
given direction from a realm that can reach him only in a dream.
The deeper truth of things, the Mysterious source of
transcendent Reality, is available to us, but access to it
requires abandoning ourselves to a capacity that is beyond the
powers of our focal consciousness.
Adrian van Kaam recognizes an aspect of the human
unconscious that he calls the transconscious.
It is our potential to receive the inspiration that
enables us at times to know the Way in a direct and immediate
occurs for Joseph “in a dream” for the busyness of immediate
concerns and focal consciousness must be stilled for us to
receive these Divine inspirations.
Joseph has made a decision and has a clear intention, and
he has these based on his fidelity to the Torah and to his
culture. Yet, what
is really happening cannot be understood in this way.
It can only be known as a gift of grace given when all of
Joseph’s other ways of functioning are at rest.
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.”
So begins the Gospel of Matthew.
Without the “obedience of faith” of Mary and Joseph,
God’s design would not have come about.
Perhaps for many of us as we are worn and frazzled by
these days of preparation for our Christmas celebration, the
ways of God seem more distant and mysterious than ever.
Yet, this day we have the gift of Joseph to invite us to
find some time for rest and some moments of stillness in the
days ahead. It can
be well to remember the words of
Psalm 127, 2: “In
vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat —
for the Lord grants sleep to those he loves.”
In many earlier translations of this psalm we would say:
“For the Lord gives to the Lord’s beloved in sleep.”
It is clear that for Joseph his sleep truly allowed him
to awaken. “When
Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife to his home.”
Beyond all the work and worry that consume us these days,
what does the Lord want from us?
During these last few days of Christmas preparation may
we find time to be still, to rest, and to attend with our
deepest and most distinctively human capacities that we may
dream the Lord’s will for us and our world.