Dig Deeper into Sunday’s Gospel: Read Matthew 1:18–24
The Christmas countdown is on and the days left to get everything done are in the single digits. If you’re like me, you’re probably reading this as you wait in line at the store, maybe with your Amazon app open on your phone at the same time. I get it. As much as we are trying to be joyful and peaceful, the reality is that this week is anything but. Our to-do lists and our stress levels seem to be growing, not shrinking. Add in a good dose of family drama that always seems to happen around this time, and many of us are somewhere between laughing with joy and crying from exhaustion.
Two weeks ago, my husband and I were invited to a Christmas party. These were his exact words: “We were invited to a party. It’s next Wednesday in the city. We can go, right?” I looked up from making dinner, paused for the rest of the information which didn’t come, and began a litany of questions. “What time is it? Where exactly is it? Who will be there? What is the attire? Will there be dinner served? Should we get a sitter?” All to which my husband said the same thing he says every time we have these conversations, “I don’t know, I didn’t ask follow-up questions.”
I can honestly say that I have grown to love this aspect of our personality differences—albeit 17 years of marriage later.
Imagine for a moment how many questions you may have had if you found yourself in this Sunday’s gospel reading like Joseph: his fiancée is pregnant, and he’s not the father. Because there are no recorded words of Joseph in Scripture, we only know about him by his actions—and as the old adage goes, “actions speak louder than words.”
We learn in Matthew 1:19 that Joseph had made up his mind to divorce Mary quietly after finding out about her unplanned pregnancy “because he was a just man and didn’t want to expose her to shame.” He wanted to do the right thing, and for whatever reason (here are a few theories), he didn’t think he had a part to play in this story.
Everything changes when God intervenes by sending him an angel in a dream and calls him back to his mission as head of the Holy Family. In verses 20 and 21, the angel tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife, that the child is from the Holy Spirit, and that he is to name the child Jesus.
Then, in verse 24, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
Joseph had made up his mind about his situation with Mary, and after hearing a message from the Lord, completely changed course despite not knowing the whole of the story.
Pope Francis said this of Matthew 1:24: “These words already point to the mission which God entrusts to Joseph: he is to be the custos, the protector. The protector of whom? Of Mary and Jesus; but this protection is then extended to the Church…How does Joseph exercise his role as protector? Discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.”
"Even when he finds it hard to understand.”
I can only imagine how many questions Joseph might have had after waking from that dream! But the information God gave Joseph was enough for Him to accept and obey his mission as head of the Holy Family. And he did so with “unfailing presence and utter fidelity.”
I can’t say that I would have done a 180 like Joseph did in that situation. I don’t know about you, but I’ve got lots of questions about how this week is going to go, let alone the rest of my life’s mission (and that one Christmas party invitation). How am I going to get it all done? Did I forget a gift for anyone? Will those family members who aren’t on speaking terms reconcile by next week? What will Christmas feel like without the loved one that we lost this year? How on earth can I remain peaceful and joyful through it all?
The big question we may all be asking is, “How can we celebrate the Lord’s birth at Christmas with peace and joy when this week seems like it may be anything but?”
My answer for you is:
Go to Joseph.
St. Joseph can show us how to accept and obey the Lord with “unfailing presence and utter fidelity” even when we find our circumstances hard to understand—because he has done it. And his actions spoke louder than words.
Food for thought or journaling…
What questions do you have this week? What are you stressed, anxious, or worried about? Write them all down and ask St. Joseph to show you how to invite Christ into all of it.
Lord, You asked much of St. Joseph even when he found it hard to understand. He responded with total trust and faith in You. Help us, in the same way, to trust in You with unwavering faith and recognize Your presence with us always, no matter our circumstances. St. Joseph, pray for us.
 Scott Hahn, Joy to the World. (New York: Crown Publishing, 2014), 74-76.