Sunday, Dec. 23, 2007, is the Fourth Sunday in Advent, Year A.


Diocesan

Many dioceses are taking advantage of “Christmas Eve Eve” by scheduling special Advent-ending events. For instance, Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, will celebrate Mass at a prison.


Parish

SaintLukes- Par- ish.org is the website for St. Luke’s Parish in Temple, Texas. It features “KC’s Christmas Presence,” a program that lasts from Nov. 24 to Dec. 23.

“This program was designed to help the families of St. Luke’s to anonymously give to less fortunate families,” the website explains. “Beginning Nov. 24, after all Masses, tables will be set up in the church foyer, where parishioners may select and sponsor one or more families. The information sheet will contain the number of persons in the family, including specific information on each member. Suggested shopping guidelines and handling procedures will be provided.”


Family

If you haven’t yet been to confession with your family this Advent season, this would be a good weekend to do it. Yes, there will be long lines. That’s why it’s a good weekend for it. Your children have seen long lines at the post office and the toy store. This is one of a few weekends where they can see long lines at the confessional!

The Diocese of Portland, Maine, has created a website to help families celebrate each Sunday. For Dec. 23, it says: “Choose one way in which you and your group or family might be the embodiment of the caritas et amor (charity and love) for one other person during this season. God will be present to that person through your ministry, through your love and caring, even if that person does not recognize it.”


Media

We recommended “Advent movies” about repentance and reform (It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, The Juggler of Notre Dame). Now it’s time for stories about the meaning of Christmas. Of all the “holiday specials” of our childhood, two stand out. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the Dr. Seuss book or the 1966 animated-for-TV version) is an anti-consumerist parable about the admirable charity of the Whos of Whoville. A Charlie Brown Christmas ends with Linus explaining the true meaning of Christmas — by reciting the Christmas story from St. Luke’s Gospel.


Readings

Isaiah 7:10-14, Ps 24:1-6, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24

EPriest.com offers free homily packs.


Our Take

It always feels a little odd to be hearing that one of the main characters of Christmas was planning divorce.

We love Mother Teresa’s take on this week’s Gospel. Joseph “since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose Mary to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”

Joseph knew that some public punishment was due a woman who was found with child. The woman to whom he was betrothed was found with child — not by him. It was therefore his duty to “expose her to shame” by reporting it.

Joseph must have realized Mary’s innocence, because even though he was “a righteous man” he refused to do his duty. Instead, he decided to “divorce her quietly.” He was going to cut off the marriage without mentioning the child.

What would happen then?

The public would see soon enough that Mary was pregnant, and they would know that Joseph abandoned her without a word. They would naturally assume he was the guilty party — and the public shame would fall not on Joseph instead of Mary.

Thus, today’s Gospel shows the greatness of St. Joseph. He was willing to take Mary’s shame onto himself and suffer the consequences that she otherwise would suffer.

It’s a lesson his own foster son imitated on the cross — and one we can learn from, too.


The Hoopeses are

editorial directors of

Faith & Family magazine

(faithandfamilymag.com).