Thursday, March 20, 2014

St Joseph & Lent

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

In this season of Lent, what does St Joseph of Nazareth have to teach about self-denial? In St Joseph we have a man who set aside whatever plans he had for his life to be obedient to the will of God. Tradition tells us that he was an older man at the time he first planned to marry Mary. His disappearance from the Gospel narratives in the early chapters gives weight to the tradition. Another part of the tradition of the older Joseph is that Mary was already a consecrated virgin at the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of her betrothal; and that Joseph was chosen by the Temple authorities to give the young woman the protection of his name so that she would be left in peace for her life of prayer and devotion to the Lord. In this scenario, Joseph would have foreseen himself as playing a very minor role in the day to day life of the young woman he was betrothed to.

Whatever the accuracy of the traditions, we can be sure, I think, that up to the moment of the dream that he had soon after his decision to quietly set aside the young woman he was betrothed to, that his plans had not included being the foster father to the promised Messiah. They had not included visits from wise men from far countries to worship the child and bring him gifts. Nor had they included fleeing from the wrath of a jealous and ungodly king to Egypt to live the life of a refugee among the Jewish diaspora there. They had not included returning to his homeland with the worry that he and his little family might still be in some danger.

The night he had that first dream, Joseph's whole life was turned upside down. But he was, as the evangelist tells us, a righteous man. He did not hesitate to walk away from the plans he had for his life to follow God will; and to play his part in the story of salvation that God had set in place for all mankind. In this season of Lent, we would do well to reflect on the difference between the life we would like to have, a life filled with all the empty pleasures the world has to offer, and the life that God calls us to, a life of doing his will by following the teaching of his Son, and the true and eternal joy that it offers. That was the path that St Joseph followed. I pray that the example of his life will help you to follow that path also. Amen. 

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