Thursday, December 19, 2013

Misa de Aguinaldo December 18, 2013: Joseph Accepts God into his house

Joseph took Mary into his home.
Praised be Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

When St. Joseph chose Mary to be his wife, he probably had plans for their life together: a modest family supported by his job as a carpenter, a house which he had built himself, and perhaps a simple life which he had always lived. I am so sure that the child that Mary bore in her womb before they came together as husband and wife was not part of that plan. It is not that St. Joseph did not plan to have children with Mary, but rather, the circumstance of her pregnancy made it so clear to him that the woman he intended to marry was no ordinary maiden. She was chosen for something great as she conceived even without his help. She conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. This was clearly a heavenly sign of something great and awesome – something so very different from the simple and quiet life he first planned. Definitely, this was not for him, for he was a simple carpenter, a devout and just man who was content with a quiet life. He could not see himself as part of this Divine Plan that God had for Mary his betrothed wife.

It was an angel that appeared to him in a dream that assured him that God wanted him to be part of this plan: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary for your wife for she conceived by the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son and you shall name him Jesus.” Mary will give birth but it would be Joseph who would take the responsibility of fatherhood for that child. He will name the child Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.

In Mary is the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah: The virgin will conceive and bear a son who will be named Emmanuel, meaning God is with us. The point of wonder here is not only the fact that a lowly virgin becomes the Mother of God. Even more wonderful is that God comes down from heaven to dwell among us. God dwells among us – and for St. Joseph, it will even have a greater implication: God will dwell in his house.

And St. Joseph need not fear that a mystery so great is coming into his house because God does not intend to destroy the simplicity of Joseph’s house. As his coming into Mary’s womb did not compromise nor destroy her virginity, so also his coming into Joseph’s house will not destroy its simplicity and silence. He does not intend to come as He did on Mt. Sinai amidst cloud and lightning. He will come in the simplicity of a little baby. He will not disturb his silence with peals of thunder. He will come in the tranquility of a silent night, holy night. And later on, St. Joseph will see it for himself: God the Son will grow up learning the trade of a carpenter in his house. His house will not be disturbed by curious onlookers because the child will not pursue a celebrity status. The child will grow up in the anonymity of Nazareth. In his house, God will not flaunt his divinity. Rather, God will humbly submit himself in filial obedience to him and to Mary.

And this is the humble way which God incarnate will teach us: the way of humility and silence. This is the way that he wants his Church to tread. Pope Francis warns us against spiritual worldliness in the Church: “… this spiritual worldliness lurks behind a fascination with social and political gain, or pride in their ability to manage practical affairs, or an obsession with programmes of self-help and self-realization. It can also translate into a concern to be seen, into a social life full of appearances, meetings, dinners and receptions. It can also lead to a business mentality, caught up with management, statistics, plans and evaluations whose principal beneficiary is not God’s people but the Church as an institution. The mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present; closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes who thirst for Christ. Evangelical fervour is replaced by the empty pleasure of complacency and self-indulgence.” [Francis, Evangelii Gaudium, 95.] Pope Francis criticizes this as something which is not truly according to the path taught to us by Jesus: “How often we dream up vast apostolic projects, meticulously planned, just like defeated generals! But this is to deny our history as a Church, which is glorious precisely because it is a history of sacrifice, of hopes and daily struggles, of lives spent in service and fidelity to work, tiring as it may be, for all work is “the sweat of our brow”.  [Evangelii Gaudium, 96.] I think that Pope Francis’ choice that he begins his Petrine Ministry on the Feast of St. Joseph should signal for us that he intends to lead the Church back to the path of simplicity that first shone in the house of Joseph. And we should not fear to take up this task: the task of welcoming Christ into our home as Joseph did. And Jesus will teach us what he learned in the house of Joseph: the lessons of sacrifice, service, fidelity to work…work as the “sweat of our brow.”

Jesus, I trust in you. O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.

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