Who do we want to be? It is so easy to get caught up in being busy, taking care of children, the home, school assignments, work, as well as a myriad of other activities that each of us, experiencing our unique vocation in life, can add to the list. These can all be good things, but we can lose ourselves in our busyness and responsibilities such that we slip into a state of survival mode or merely existing. One day can move into one week, into one month, into one year, and then we wake up one morning and wonder where the last ten years went!
We can fall into the trap of being defined by what we do instead of who we are and who God is calling us to be. God has a plan for us with the end result being eternal communion with him in heaven. Living a life of holiness and becoming saints is our call. We need to remind ourselves of this from time to time, by assessing where we are now and listening to the guidance of God.
Our Gospel account from Matthew today gives us an opportunity to see this holiness in action. Joseph has become aware that Mary, his betrothed, is with child and he is not the Father. Joseph, “a righteous man” follows the law, but is “unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly” (Mt 1:19). Joseph’s life of righteousness pulls him to follow the law, yet he shows that discernment in matters of the dignity of the person is just as important. Joseph not only was unwilling to make Mary into a public spectacle but was also unwilling to allow the possibility of her to be stoned to death.
Joseph pondered the idea of divorcing her quietly. Before he made his final decision, Joseph slept on the matter, which is often a good course of action when weighing such a heavy issue. How many times do we rush into decisions only to regret them later? Joseph receives God’s direction through the angel of the Lord in a dream.
When Joseph arises in the morning, he does not dig in his heels feeling he knows best and return to his original decision, he does not let fear or anxiety about the possible scenarios that could play out in his mind regarding what others may say or think sway him, nor do the possible and real difficulties he can envision deter him. Joseph trusts God. With confidence and assurance of who he is and what God calls him to do, Joseph acts on the guidance he has received.
St. Joseph is a model for us. When faced with decisions to make, we need to remember who we are, whose we are, and who we are called to be. We are children of God, and that means we belong to God, a God who loves and cares for us. He has a plan for each of our lives. Every decision and action is a step in fulfilling that plan.
When we are discerning, no matter how large or small, we are invited to gather information, look at the reasonable options available, all the while, continuing to seek God’s guidance. God will guide us through many means and ways such as a thought, a family member or friend sharing an insight at an opportune time, as well as through our dreams. Joseph followed these steps and God granted him not only the guidance he sought but the support to fulfill the commission he received. We can be assured that God will do the same as we discern his direction too.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
Painting: “The Dream of St Joseph” by Anton Raphael Mengs about 1774