“[Saint Joseph] also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.”
It’s not always easy to accept the fact that we’re not in control of our lives. We want to be, and the message from the secular world is often that we can be, or should be. If we’ve learned anything from 2020, though, it’s that we’re not in control of our lives. We find ourselves in situations good and bad that we didn’t choose. Yet we can trust that even in the storm Jesus is still in the boat beside us. In the gospel Jesus calms the water of the storm. He is always there to calm our hearts, even when the storm still rages, when we trust that He is in control of all things in our lives, and that all things work for good for those who believe in Him.
Saint Joseph discovered that God was in control of his life. Joseph had a plan for his life with Mary, and God had a better one. Surely it didn’t seem that way to Joseph when he first heard the news of Mary’s pregnancy. But God gradually revealed His plan to Joseph, and Joseph, of his own free choice, acted in accord with God’s plan.
“Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.
The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning.
Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.
Just as God told Joseph: ‘Son of David, do not be afraid!’ (Mt 1:20), so he seems to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid!’ We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, “God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything” (1 Jn 3:20).”
In my last post I talked about the first part of Father Gaitley’s three word prayer, “Ecce” (“Behold”). (1) The second word is “Fiat.” As Mary says to the angel, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” A model of humility, Saint Joseph never speaks a word in the gospels, but he continually gives his Fiat to the Lord, when he takes Mary to be his wife, when he travels with her to Bethlehem, when he flees with Mary and Jesus to Egypt, when they return to Israel and settle in Nazareth. Indeed, he gave his Fiat daily by being a husband, father, provider, protector and teacher to Mary and Jesus. What humility he must have had to do this, taking on these roles for the Son of God and His Immaculate Mother! Did Saint Joseph ever think, “What could I possibly have to teach this kid?” But Joseph taught him how to be a carpenter, and Jesus, obedient Son that he was, respected and listened to his earthly father. In every situation, Saint Joseph accepted God’s will and then acted courageously to do what God was calling him to do in that moment.
Heavenly Father, when we come before you and say “Thy will be done,” give us the grace to accept and the courage to act upon your will, as Saint Joseph had. And may we forever praise and give glory to your Holy Name. (This, the “Magnificat”, a song of praise to God in imitation of Mary our Mother, is the third part of the prayer.) Amen.
The quotations above are all from Pope Francis’ apostolic letter, “Patris corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”).
(1) Michael E. Gaitley, MIC, Consoling the Heart of Jesus.
Image: Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus by Guido Reni (downloaded from Wikipedia Commons).