What a great example of faith we have in St. Joseph. Our passage today says that when he awoke, he did as the angel commanded. Perhaps this did not occur the very next day, though it was presumably very soon after. Following the direction of God when we cannot see where He is leading us gets at the core meaning of faith.
As is the case with Mary, Joseph had the disposition of character to respond positively to God. We can surmise this because, even before he is told that Mary is miraculously pregnant through the Holy Spirit, Joseph had resolved to divorce her quietly so that she would at least not be exposed to as much shame. I think there is a great deal for us to learn here. The more disposed we are toward humility, the more ready we are to listen, the more ready we are to serve, the greater potential exists to draw closer to God and participate in the building of His Kingdom.
The context around today’s passage is illuminating. For an engaged woman to become pregnant before the wedding was enough for scandal. What would amplify this and bring about great public humiliation, perhaps severe punishment, was to become pregnant by another man. As everyone with a basic understanding of biology knows, two people must come together for humans to multiply themselves. This was as well understood in ancient Israel as it is today, however much some people in our society contrive obfuscations of this fact or subvert it with medical processes. So, Joseph thought something went wrong. Mary had chosen someone else. He must have felt devastated. Unfaithfulness is extremely painful. Rejection, humiliation, contempt. All these feelings must have been pulsing through Joseph’s veins. However, we read that his actions were loving. Even when he would have had good reasons, by human standards, to be angry and vengeful, Joseph chose another way. He did not want to make a scene out of the situation and bring about dire consequences for his (soon-to-be-former) fiancé.
After waking up from the revelatory dream, Joseph realizes that Mary had not chosen another man. She had chosen God. It was not a competitive situation. There is never a truly competitive situation between God and man. The ways of God are not the ways of man. We walk by faith because, if we are honest with ourselves, we simply cannot see very far. Pretend we might, we do not even know what tomorrow will bring. God does. He sees from beginning to end and only asks us to trust Him as Mary and Joseph did. May we have the faith of Joseph to trust God when doing so does not make immediate, comprehensive sense to us. May we let the Holy Spirit bring calmness and quiet to our souls when our understanding is limited.
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