Category Archives: Religion

December 18: Joseph, Son of David


In today’s gospel from Matthew we meet Joseph, the husband of Mary, who played an important part in Jesus’ birth and early years.

Matthew’s gospel calls Joseph as a just man, someone who listens to God rather than to himself, and does God’s will. He’s a carpenter, the gospels say, certainly not privileged – but he’s a “son of David” from the royal family who will give the world a Messiah.

During their betrothal, which in Jewish tradition was more than the modern engagement we know, Joseph finds that Mary is pregnant. A just man, he struggles to find a way to divorce her quietly when, in a dream, an angel of God tells him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

Here is the key part of the angel’s message: “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.”

Like Mary, Joseph believes in the message of God. Like Mary, he sees more than human eyes and a human mind see. “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.” What he believed is what we say in our creed: “(Jesus) was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” Jesus became man, and God was with us.

Artists early on pictured Joseph with his head in his hands, listening in sleep to the angel’s message. In a dream later on he heard the angel telling him to take the child and his mother to Egypt to escape Herod, the king. He was a man of great faith.

The medieval artist who painted the picture above seems to capture Joseph and Mary sharing their faith in the Child born in a stable, a gift to the world. They were believers, first of all, and they would care for him with all the love and care they could give him.

Joseph has his hand on his head, as he does in so many portrayals of him at sleep listening to the angel speaking to him in dreams. Is faith like a dreamworld, where God speaks to us in another way?

O Leader of the House of Israel,
giver of the Law to Moses on Sinai:
come to rescue us with your mighty power!

The Family Tree

The Family Tree

My mother loved to go to wakes and funerals. She would sit in O’Brien’s and Sweeney’s funeral homes in Bayonne, NJ for hours at a wake taking in who came to pay their respects and engaging them in talk. She told me once she was needed there because she knew all the Sorrowful mysteries of the Rosary and could recite it when the time came. I also remember her complaint when O’Brien’s shortened the hours for visitation.

But the Tree of Jesse reminds me of something else. She had a remarkable memory for relationships and loved to trace peoples’ family connections. She would be at home with Matthew and Luke tracing the ancestry of Jesus in their gospels. She wasn’t a professional genealogist, she plied her gift at wakes and funerals.

I found myself at a funeral the other day doing the same thing. I recognized a young man who came from a family friendly with mine from years ago and I told him my mother and father met at his grandmother’s house at a celebration after a baptism–maybe it was his father’s baptism. My mother was washing the dishes. He was delighted to hear that little story, a connection enlarging his family tree.

The Tree of Jesse, the Christmas Tree, the Family Tree. Connections are important. We need them.

December 17: The Tree of Jesse


Tree of Jesse, Chartres Cathedral

From December 17th until Christmas, we read on weekdays from the infancy narratives  of Matthew and Luke to prepare for the  Christmas feast.

Today the gospel is  Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ, tracing his ancestry as “the son of David and the son of Abraham.” Jesus descent from Abraham fulfilled the promise God made to him: “in your descendants all nations would be blessed,” As a descendant of David, Jesus is a royal Messiah.

Matthew’s genealogy offers a Messiah whom Jew and Gentile can claim for their  Savior. His roots are worldwide, his ancestors reach beyond Palestine.

He’s not just a Jewish Messiah in Matthew’s listing. His bloodline includes women like Tamar, Ruth and Bathsheba– foreigners, but also women with questionable backgrounds. In his humanity,  Jesus didn’t come from perfect ancestors or untainted Jewish royalty ; he’s rooted in all humanity. His bloodline includes saints and sinners, or can we say he comes from a line of sinners and some saints? He shares our human DNA.

Matthew in his gospel obviously wants us to look at Jesus’ family tree and see it as our own. We can be at home there. The Tree of Jesse, based on Matthew’s genealogy  was a favorite subject for medieval artists working on illuminated manuscripts or creating stained glass windows for churches. A great way to see the humanity of Jesus Christ.

Luke in his genealogy goes further and sees Jesus beyond Abraham, as descended from Adam. He becomes the new Adam. We are born from his side, we share his blood; he is the first born of many like us. So we pray in today’s opening prayer:

“O God, Creator and Redeemer of human nature…your Only Begotten Son, having taken to himself our humanity, may you be pleased to grant us a share in his divinity.” (Collect)

O Wisdom of our God Most High,
guiding creation with power and love:
come to teach us the path of knowledge!

Bless the Tree in Your House


Don’t forget to bless the Christmas Tree. Long ago, God placed a tree of life in the garden of paradise as a gift to all human beings, a tree of wisdom and knowledge and laden with every good thing. Our Christmas Tree reminds us of that tree and the blessings Jesus Christ brings at his coming,



Readings: 3rd Week of Advent

Zep 3:14-18a/Phil 4:4-7/Lk 3:10-18 (9)

17 Monday Advent
Gn 49:2, 8-10/Mt 1:1-17 (193)

18 Tuesday Advent
Jer 23:5-8/Mt 1:18-25 (194)

19 Wednesday Advent
Jgs 13:2-7, 24-25a/Lk 1:5-25 (195)

20 Thursday Advent
Is 7:10-14/Lk 1:26-38 (196)

21 Friday Advent
[Saint Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church]
Sg 2:8-14 or Zep 3:14-18a/Lk 1:39-45 (197)

22 Saturday Advent
1 Sm 1:24-28/Lk 1:46-56 (198)

3rd Sunday Thought: Be Who You Are.

by Gloria Ziemienski

One thought on “3rd Sunday of Advent: Be who you are! Witness to the Light.”

Let Your Light Shine

Let your light shine for all,
Be a spark, make it glow,
Let it burn like a bright,
shining star.
Share the gift that you are,
Reaching out with your heart,
Pass it on, let your light shine
for all.

Let your light shine for all,
Be a spark, make it glow,
Let it burn like a bright,
shining star.
Share your hopes, share your
Share your life, share your love,
Pass it on, let your light shine
for all.