Fr. Roger J. Landry
Our Lady of Victory Parish
Advent Series of Meditations
“Imitating the Lessons of St. Joseph’s Advent”
December 13, 2016
To listen to an audio recording of tonight’s meditation, please click below:
The following points guided the meditation:
- Last week focused on Isaiah and St. John the Baptist, what they revealed about the Christ who was coming and about how to prepare. Isaiah was the remote preparer, John the proximate. Tonight and next week we’ll focus on the immediate preparation which God himself did through dreams and his angel in St. Joseph and Mary respectively.
- Last week we focused on a double-frame: what each of the great Advent figures revealed about the one who is coming; and how to prepare for his coming. Today I’d like to do that with St. Joseph.
- First about the coming Messiah. St. Matthew is the one who tells us about St. Joseph and he writes:
- Matt 1:18 Now 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 be with child 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. He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.
- Here we see two things revealed to Joseph and then through Joseph.
- The coming Messiah would be called Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. God saves. That’s what Joseph called him. Every time he referred to him it was as Savior.
- He would be called Emmanuel, “God-with-us.” That’s what Joseph recognized.
- Jesus is with us to save us, to save us from sins, to save us from death, to save us from definitive self-alienation. He came to save us for himself, for the good we could do, for heaven. He came to be with us not statically but dynamically.
- What does St. Joseph show us about the proper response? We see Joseph respond with ten virtues.
- First, courageously. Do not be afraid Joseph.… Fear was a real issue, first because of the seeming scandal; second because of what it would mean if there were a miracle.
- Second, with Mary. To take Mary your wife into your home.
- Third, with justice
- Matthew writes that he was a “just” or “righteous” man. He was “holy,” a man in a right relationship with God. He may not have been flashy on the outside but he shone on the inside. As Pope Benedict once said in a rare play on words, St. Joseph “ad-justed” his life to the word of God.
- Fourth, with obedience.
- “He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” and took his wife into his home.
- Later we read:
- “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. 15 He stayed there until the death of Herod
- “When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt 20 and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.
- “But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”
- It would have been easy for Joseph, even in a pre-Freudian age, to deconstruct these dreams according to the standard of his conscious desires. Each dream was asking him to do something totally life-changing: to alter completely his notion of what his marriage would entail, so as to be the chaste spouse of the Virgin and the foster father of the Son of God and savior of the world; to leave his job and his relatives completely behind and journey through the desert to an unknown land; to return once life was settled. But in each of these circumstances, Joseph acted immediately.
- He was so prone to hear God’s word and put it into practice, however, that at the merest indication of the Lord, he didn’t debate or negotiate, but obeyed. St. Joseph never saw obeying God as incompatible with his own good, but rather as the foundation for his own good. God’s omnipotence was not seen as a threat to his manliness because St. Joseph didn’t equate manliness with being in control, but rather in being responsible and responsive to God and others. His obedience made him capable of sharing mysteriously in the fatherhood of God the Father.
- Joseph was humble enough to sacrifice whatever his own plans might have been to fulfill God’s plans, embracing his vocation to help Jesus and Mary accomplish theirs.
- Fifth with faith
- Joseph was docile and obedient because he was faithful
- Joseph believed in God and what God was saying. When the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” he did as the angel had commanded him precisely because he believed.
- To trust God does not mean to see everything clearly according to our criteria, it does not mean to carry out what we have planned; to trust God means to empty ourselves of ourselves and to deny ourselves, because only one who accepts losing himself for God can be “just” and faithful as St. Joseph, that is, can conform his own will to God’s and thus be fulfilled.
- Like Abraham, whose example we encounter in today’s second reading, St. Joseph is a father in faith to us, responding to one of the greatest mysteries. His example invites us to imitate his loving trust, his total abandonment to divine Providence, to take God “at his word”, that is, without clearly seeing his design..
- Pope Benedict said in Cameroon, “Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news.”
- His faith is truly heroic! We need that heroic faith!
- Sixth, with chastity.
- “He had no relations with her until she bore a son”
- Joseph is a model of chaste love. His life shows us that the full gift of self toward another does not necessarily have to involve genital relations. He loved Mary and that meant that he was willing to dedicate himself to what was best for her and for the divine son she was carrying. He put all his love and his life at the service of their vocations, and in doing he fulfilled his own vocation. Chastity is a virtue that helps a person to have self-mastery — to control one’s sexual impulses rather than be controlled by them — so that one can give oneself to others in the way that is best for them. Chastity is what allows man to be a protector of women rather than a predator. In his chaste love of Mary, he learned how to grow as a man, and in her chaste reciprocal love, he was blessed beyond measure.
- He welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing.
- Seventh, with perseverance, overcoming obstacles:
- Luke 2:1 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town. 4 And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
- Eighth, with silent amazement and adoration
- Lk 2:15 “When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. 17 When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. 18 All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.”
- Lk 2:33 The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him
- Joseph never says a word in Sacred Scripture and yet his actions are remembered to this day. He knew that the body language of his deeds was far more eloquent than his words. He was a “doer of the Word” and not just an “idle listener” of it (Jn 1:22). Like his foster son according to the law, he put his stock in “truth and action” more than in “word or speech.”
- But his silence is also important, because it shows us he was steeped in contemplation of the mystery of God, a silent listening to the Word he was raising, a silence woven of prayer and adoration of God’s holy will. Pope Benedict said back in 2005 that we should all allow ourselves to be “infected” with St. Joseph’s silence in a world that is often too noisy, that encourages neither recollection nor listening to God’s voice.
- Ninth, with poverty and humility
- “When the days were completed for their purification according to the law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, 23 just as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male that opens the womb shall be consecrated to the Lord,” 24 and to offer the sacrifice of “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons,” in accordance with the dictate in the law of the Lord. They didn’t even have a Lamb to redeem the Lamb of God.
- How intimidating it must have been to be surrounded by the Word of God incarnate and the sinless Virgin Mary! And yet Joseph accepted that responsibility and did what he needed to do with great humility, figuring that if this was what God was asking of him, God would help.
- He must certainly have taught Jesus to pray, together with Mary. In particular Joseph himself must have taken Jesus to the Synagogue for the rites of the Sabbath, as well as to Jerusalem for the great feasts of the people of Israel. Joseph, in accordance with the Jewish tradition, would have led the prayers at home both every day — in the morning, in the evening, at meals — and on the principal religious feasts. The great third-century theologian Origen wrote that “Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph.”
- Jesus was already at 12 capable of dazzling the greatest masters of the law, and yet he went up to Nazareth and was obedient to Joseph and Mary. What an incredible mystery!
- Like every child, Jesus learned about life and how to act from his parents. How could we not think, with deep wonder, that he must have developed the human aspect of his perfect obedience to the Father’s will particularly by following the example of his father Joseph, “a just man” (cf. Mt 1:19)?
- Tenth, through work
- 13:55 Is he not the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother named Mary and his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?
- He was a tekton, which is bigger than a carpenter, but refers to a construction worker, someone who was able to build things will various types of materia.
- John Paul II said about him, “In this human growth Joseph guided and supported the boy Jesus, introducing him to the knowledge of the religious and social customs of the Jewish people and getting him started in the carpenter’s trade, whose every secret he had learned in so many years of practicing it. This is an aspect that I feel compelled to stress today: Saint Joseph taught Jesus human work, in which he was an expert. The Divine Child worked beside him, and by listening to him and observing him, he too learned to manage the carpenter’s tools with the diligence and the dedication that the example of his foster father transmitted to him. This too is a great lesson, beloved brothers and sisters: if the Son of God was willing to learn a human work from a man, this indicates that there is in work a specific moral value with a precise meaning for man and for his self-fulfillment.”
- John Paul II called him, the “very epitome of the Gospel of work,” making not only things, but forming himself and his family in virtue in the process. Icon of the synthesis of faith, life and work.
- In the rhythm of the days he spent at Nazareth, in the simple home and in Joseph’s workshop, Jesus learned to alternate prayer and work, as well as to offer God his labor in earning the bread the family needed
- For every worker, Joseph has shared their experience, can understand their problems; take up their anxieties, direct your efforts toward the building of a better future. Saint Joseph stands before you as a man of faith and prayer.
- Ite ad Joseph
Go to Joseph. That’s been the great motto of the Church for the past five centuries with regard to devotion to St. Joseph, taken from the phrase in the Book of Genesis referring to Joseph the patriarch. This Advent, that is what we do. We go to St. Joseph to help us to be not afraid with response to Jesus or to receiving Mary into our life. We go to Joseph to adjust ourselves to Jesus’ justice, to grow in obedience, in faith, chastity, perseverance, silence, wonder, spiritual poverty, humility and to be able to offer Christ for Christmas our work done in union with him. St. Joseph is, par excellence, the “wise and faithful servant whom the Lord put in charge of his household (Lk 12:42) and he remains from heaven a helpful foster father in charge of getting us ready at Advent.