Dec 18, 2012

Joseph the "just"

Ernani Constantini - St. Joseph 
In his most recent work: Jesus of Nazareth: The infancy Narratives, our Holy Father Benedict XVI reflects on the person of Joseph, husband of Mary, in light of this Tuesday’s Gospel reading: Mt 1: 18-25.  A generous parishioner gave me a copy of the book for Christmas and I’ve been trying to read it slowly and reflectively. 

In regards to Joseph being a “just” man, as we hear in Matthew, the Pope writes: “A just man, it tells us (Psalm 1) is one who maintains living contact with the word of God, who ‘delights in the law of the Lord.’ . . . God’s will is not a law imposed on him from without, it is “joy.” For him the law is simply Gospel, good news, because he reads it with a personal, loving openness to God, and in this way learns to understand and live it from deep within . . .” (JN , p. 39-40).

Rather than submit Mary to public shame and ridicule when Joseph discovered she was already with child, he chose to offer Mary a private way out to prevent her humiliation.  As the Pope says about Joseph: “He seeks the path that brings law and love into a unity . . .” (p. 42)

Then God intervened. The Pope goes on to beautifully describe the implied faith of Joseph. Because of his righteousness he was already “inwardly prepared” when he dreamt of an angel coming to him to allay his fear of taking Mary as his wife. Rather than question whether he was just dreaming, Joseph accepted the message given to him by the angel: “The message conveyed to Joseph is overwhelming, and it demands extraordinarily courageous faith . . .” (p. 42).

As we journey through these last days before the joy of Christmas, I think St. Joseph can teach us much about how we should seek to be “just” before God.  We too are called to live by God’s sacred law but to also live by the law of charity towards others; to bring, as the Pope writes, “law and love into a unity.” At times our love for others is challenged. 

Christmas is a time that we often discover family differences. Sometimes those differences are serious and other times just minor slights in personality.  They may involve a clash of values and morals; differing opinions about the Catholic Church and religion in general; opposite views about regular church attendance or not; questions about God’s existence, or how a supposedly loving God can allow such heart break as we have witnessed here this past week in two tragic random shootings at a shopping mall and in a grade school, etc.

Can we temper our tempers with love?  Think of the choice Joseph had and how heart wrenching it must have been for him to decide how best to deal with Mary’s situation.

In the midst of our confusion, if we are open to God’s will, God will step in. 

Prayers as we draw closer to the Nativity celebration.