We are all called to be everyday saints, not superheroes

Fourth Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 7:10-14

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God? Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Romans 1:1-7

Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised previously through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, the gospel about his Son, descended from David according to the flesh, but established as Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness through resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ; to all the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Matthew 1:18-24

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit. Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “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. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.

For many winters, I have been taking grade nine students downtown on special missions – to share friendship, food and winter supplies with some of the loneliest, neediest, invisible and marginalized individuals in the city, the homeless who roamed the busy streets of Toronto every single day; rain (snow) or shine. We would begin our journey at Nathan Phillip Square and continue eastbound along Queen Street all the way to the Good Shepherd Mission just east of Parliament Street. The city-scapes quickly shift from the surreal, glamourous shopping district around Yonge and Queen to the shabby reality for so many living in a big city. Along the way, we would visit three to four homeless shelters, and various parks and street corners frequented by many homeless individuals. Before the trip, most students would feel apprehensive, to say the least! To these young people who spend most of their time in Scarborough, a journey to downtown Toronto is challenging enough. Many admitted that they were afraid.

“What are your fears?” I asked.

“Well, everything! Where is Parliament Street? Is it dangerous? Are they [the home-less] scary? Are they violent? They must be really dirty and smelly!”

The students’ fears are not unfounded; however, when one delves deeper into the heart of the situation, they would discover that homelessness is not a choice for the majority but forced due to domestic violence, addictions (drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc.), and mental health issues. Through their interactions with the less fortunate, participants are gifted with a glimpse of the real humanity buried under layers of grime and dirt; grinded down by poverty, illnesses, and pervasive stereotypes. Therefore, this venture challenges participants to not only reexamine their personal biases and expectations, but also to open their hearts to new (and sometimes strange) encounters that may result in a complete turn-around of their hearts and minds – a conversion! They would realize that even individuals as young as themselves can accomplish great things by a simple “yes” as well as their mere presence and willingness to physically walk with and among the poor.

This week’s Gospel has offered us a poignant reflection of the intricacy between what we think we know is true and what is the truth. Matthew tells us that Joseph, “being a righteous man”, has found out about Mary’s pregnancy and plans to quietly call off the marriage to preserve her dignity (Mt 1:19). In the eyes of the world, Joseph has made a noble choice. However, God has a very different plan for him, for Mary, and their child. God wants Joseph to be so much more than an ordinary father and husband; God has chosen Joseph to be a saint!

At the pivotal moment when Joseph is “resolved” to dismiss Mary, the angel appears to tell him, “do not be afraid” (Mt 1:20). What are Joseph’s fears? The scandal of marrying a woman who is already with child? Of breaking the social norms? Of what others may think of him? Of losing respect from his peers? If Joseph follows what he thinks is right and just according to the social and religious expectations of his time, then he would have missed out on the greatest gift of his life! Perhaps moved by the Spirit, Joseph has a complete change of heart – a conversion of sorts – together with Mary, he has become a participant in God’s salvific plan. God calls Jo-seph to be a “saint”; not a superhero. Joseph is to fulfill his call through the most ordinary means – being a husband and father. In this story, we see two ordinary individuals who have accomplished the most extraordinary mission: they help ushering into the world, Emmanuel, God is with us, with a simple “yes”!

Just as God has a plan for Mary, for Joseph, and for His only Son; God also has a plan for each one of us. St. Paul tells the Romans that they are “called to belong to Jesus Christ and […] to be saints” (Rm 1:6-7). Each one of us, too, is called to “belong” and “to be saints” (Ibid). With humility and trust, we can accomplish the most extraordinary mission with the most ordinary means.

Posted: December 22, 2019

Susanna Mak

 
Susanna深信,信仰需要在日常生活中顯露出來,尤其是當與別人相處時,需要分擔對方所面對的困境、抉擇和挑戰。她有着很多不同的身份:女兒、姐姐、朋友、姨姨、妻子、老師、校牧、終身學習者和偶爾替《生命恩泉》寫作的作者。在每一個身份當中, 她努力為天主的愛和希望作見証。 她在多倫多擔任高中教師近二十年,擁有英語、學生讀寫能力、青年領袖活動、校牧組等經驗。 她是多倫多大學商業和英語學士,教育學士,亞省Athabasca大學綜合研究碩士,以及擁有多倫多大學Regis學院神學研究碩士證書。她對於成為《生命恩泉》寫作團隊的一份子, 深感榮幸。 Susanna has a deep conviction that faith needs to be manifested in daily life, particularly, in one’s encounters with others as well as amidst dilemmas, choices, and challenges. She strives to be a living sign of God’s love and hope as a daughter, sister, friend, aunt, wife, teacher, chaplain, life-long learner, and occasional writer for FLL. She has been a high school teacher in Toronto for almost 20 years, with experiences in English and literacy, youth leadership initiatives, the Chaplaincy Team, to mention a few. She has a B. Comm, B.A. in English, and a B. Education from University of Toronto, an M.A. in Integrated Studies from Athabasca University, and a Graduate Certificate of Theological Studies from Regis College, U of T. She is humbled by the opportunity to be part of the FLL Writing Team.


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