Joseph heard the news that Mary, his betrothed, was with child. He clearly knew the child was not biologically his. I can only imagine the thoughts that came to his mind, the anxiety and internal contortions his abdominal region went through. Yet, Joseph worked through the inner turmoil and came to a decision. He was not going to make a public spectacle of Mary, but he was going to divorce her quietly. Before he made the decision final though, Joseph made an excellent choice when discerning serious matters. He slept on the idea before acting on it.
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home (Mt 1:24). During Joseph’s sleep, the angel of the Lord delivered a similar message to Joseph that Mary received. From their encounter with God’s messengers, both Mary and Joseph trusted in God’s will and to quote Robert Frost’ poem, The Road Not Taken, “that has made all the difference.” Because of Mary and Joseph’s yes to God and to family, the Son of God became man and opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.
God often works in the same way with us. What may appear to be absurd, unimaginable, or downright impossible, is indeed possible when we align our will with God. This is the week of Joy in Advent. Joy is more than pleasure or happiness. Pleasure ends when the sensate experience ends. Happiness is experienced with pleasure and can last longer, in that we can recall the pleasurable experiences for a time, but happiness too will fade. Joy, though, like hope, is a gift of the Holy Spirit that wells up from within, from our soul.
The source of joy does not come from external experiences, but from an encounter with and acceptance of God’s invitation. Joy is an experience of communion with the love of God. This has been given to us in greater measure because Jesus became one with us, and so upon his ascension into heaven, we too can experience the loving communion he experiences with his Father who is the Holy Spirit. This is the experience of family, those who bond and give of themselves to one another.
Mary and Joseph both received incredible news, that neither of them fully comprehended. They could have easily responded in a different way to the message that Mary would conceive of the Holy Spirit, and would have a Son who would be called Jesus, his name meaning God Saves. But they didn’t. They trusted, they chose family, and because they did so, we can rejoice this week and all days.
Because of Mary and Joseph’s yes, even in the midst of our trials we can rejoice, not in the fact that we suffer, but because we are not alone in our present situations. We may see no way out, see no cure in sight, no help on the horizon, but Jesus, the Son of Mary, the Son of God, is with us, present and accompanying us. Our family members are there also. We are invited to follow Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and resist the temptation of taking each of our family members for granted, but instead choose to be thankful that we have one another. The gift of communion between God and one another is the gift the Holy Family shares with us, and so we can rejoice in our families, even with all the chaos that entails, and feel the joy of being there for one another, through thick and thin.
We have a choice each day, each moment. We can go it alone, push others away, distance ourselves, and trudge through life with blinders on, or we can seek the path of communion with God and one another. Mary and Joseph chose to trust in the invitation of communion, they were open to family. Was their life easier, not in the least. Did they experience more joy and fulfillment? I would say yes, and about twenty one years ago I followed Joseph’s yes, with a yes of my own, a yes to JoAnn, Mia, Jack, and Christy, a yes to family, “and it has made all the difference!”

Photo: Christy, Jack, JoAnn, and me a few years ago. Looking forward to seeing them in less than a week in California for Christmas with Mia and Ariel too!

Link for today’s reading for Mass, Monday, December 18, 2017.


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