Saturday, December 17, 2011

Transformed by Faith (Simbang Gabi 3)

The Simbang Gabi is a novena to the Blessed Virgin Mary for the preservation of the Catholic Faith in the Philippines. Thus, we honor the woman of whom was born the Christ. However, let us not forget that beside the Blessed Mother is someone whom we could easily miss – the just man St. Joseph. I said that we could easily miss him because his presence in the story of the nativity is always a silent and a hidden one. He was always in the background, always silently giving his ever reliable support to mystery of salvation that unfolded before his very eyes. The silence of St. Joseph is so uncharacteristic of his high status. He should have been a celebrity. After all, the Scriptures never tire of singing his praises as the son of David. Yes, St. Joseph was royalty truly fit to be chosen by God to be the husband of the Queen of heaven and earth. When the Incarnation was to take place, the Lord saw to it that the virgin would be bethrothed to a man of the House of David. Authors have constantly commented that God could not have chosen a better spouse for Our Lady.

And yet, St. Joseph did not see things this way. In fact, when he found Mary to be with child by Divine decree, St. Joseph found himself unworthy of taking the Mother of the Messiah as his wife. He did not see himself worthy to take custody of the Son of God and of his holy Mother. His decision to divorce Mary quietly was not driven by any doubt about her integrity. His doubt was not about her worth, but about his own. He keeps his pain to himself and decides to fade away quietly.

But such is not God’s will. The Lord has chosen St. Joseph to be the custodian of the great mystery of the Incarnation. Through a dream, the angel reveals to St. Joseph the Divine plan which does not concern Mary alone but also included him. St.Joseph may have planned to maintain a respectful distance from the Divine plan of salvation but God wanted him to take part, a very important part: Joseph would give the Son of Mary a name – not just the name Jesus Son of Joseph but the exalted name of the Promised Messiah – Jesus, Son of David. The message of the angel was the Divine invitation for Joseph to conform his plan to God’s plan and not to be afraid of it. It was a message that dared him to believe. The Holy Father said: “To the extent that he freely cooperates, man’s thoughts and affections, mentality and conduct are slowly purified and transformed, on a journey that is never finished in this life. ‘Faith working through love’ (Gal 5:6) becomes a new criterion of understanding and action that changes the whole of man’s life (cf. Rom 12:2; Col 3:9-10; Eph 4:20-29; 2 Cor 5:17)” (Benedict XVI, Porta Fidei, 6.) With his thoughts and will purified by faith, St. Joseph decided to do what is right: he took Mary as his wife and became a father to her Son. His life was transformed and made perfect by faith.

Fulton Sheen said: “In what does your life consist except in two things: (1) Active duties; and (2) passive circumstances. The first is under your control: do these in God’s name. The second is outside your control: these submit to in God’s name. Consider only the present; leave the past of God’s justice, the future to his Providence. Perfection of personality does not consist in knowing God’s plan, but in submitting to it as it reveals itself in the circumstances of life.” (F. Sheen, The Seven Words of Jesus and Mary.)

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