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 own unique station 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, more often rather than less actually, 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 practice in action. Joseph has become aware that Mary, his betrothed, is with child and he is not the Father. We can forget about the humanity of the moment, reading now from so many years removed. I am sure there is some serious anguish that Joseph death with even as we read that he is “a righteous man” who 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 and again no mention of the mental maelstrom, intestinal upheaval, or emotional roller coaster as he pondered. Yet, a very good piece of guidance are fortunate to glean from this account. 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? Because Joseph is willing to wait a bit, he receives God’s direction through the angel of the Lord in a dream.
When Joseph arose that morning, he did not dig in his heels feeling he knew best and then return to his original decision, he did not let fear or anxiety or whatever emotions he may have experienced about the possible scenarios that played out in his mind sway him, nor did the very possible and reality of the difficulties he could envision deter him. Joseph trusted God. With the confidence and assurance of who he was and who God called him to do, Joseph acted on the guidance he had received.
This is why St. Joseph is a model for us. When faced with decisions, we need to remember who we are, whose we are, and who we are called to be. We are children of God. 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 and accompany us through many means and ways such as a thought, a family member or friend sharing an insight at an opportune time, experiences, through our dreams, as well as many other ways. God granted Joseph 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 as well.
St. Joseph, pray for us!
Painting: “The Dream of St Joseph” by Anton Raphael Mengs about 1774