Saint Joseph, the Gift

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“’When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife’ (Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, n.3)

In his message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, Pope Francis reminds us that “the life of Saint Joseph suggests three key words for the vocation of each one. The first is a dream”. (Pope Francis, Message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 25, 2021) After talking about the four dreams of Saint Joseph, the Pope explains that the most important thing about dreams is the example of Saint Joseph, who made of his life a gift to God, through obedience. Let’s see:

         “Saint Joseph suggests to us three key words for each individual’s vocation. The first is dream. Everyone dreams of finding fulfilment in life. We rightly nurture great hopes, lofty aspirations that ephemeral goals – like success, money and entertainment – cannot satisfy. If we were to ask people to express in one word their life’s dream, it would not be difficult to imagine the answer: ‘to be loved’. It is love that gives meaning to life, because it reveals life’s mystery. Indeed, we only have life if we give it; we truly possess it only if we generously give it away. Saint Joseph has much to tell us in this regard, because, through the dreams that God inspired in him, he made of his life a gift.

         “The Gospels tell us of four dreams (Mt 1:20; 2:13.19.22). They were calls from God, but they were not easy to accept. After each dream, Joseph had to change his plans and take a risk, sacrificing his own plans in order to follow the mysterious designs of God, whom he trusted completely. We may ask ourselves, ‘Why put so much trust in a dream in the night?’ Although a dream was considered very important in ancient times, it was still a small thing in the face of the concrete reality of life. Yet Saint Joseph let himself be guided by his dreams without hesitation. Why? Because his heart was directed to God; it was already inclined towards him. A small indication was enough for his watchful ‘inner ear’ to recognize God’s voice. This applies also to our calling: God does not like to reveal himself in a spectacular way, pressuring our freedom. He conveys his plans to us with gentleness. He does not overwhelm us with dazzling visions but quietly speaks in the depths of our heart, drawing near to us and speaking to us through our thoughts and feelings. In this way, as he did with Saint Joseph, he sets before us profound and unexpected horizons.                

         “Indeed, Joseph’s dreams led him into experiences he would never have imagined. The first of these upended his betrothal, but made him the father of the Messiah; the second caused him to flee to Egypt, but saved the life of his family. After the third, which foretold his return to his native land, a fourth dream made him change plans once again, bringing him to Nazareth, the place where Jesus would begin his preaching of the Kingdom of God. Amid all these upheavals, he found the courage to follow God’s will. So too in a vocation: God’s call always urges us to take a first step, to give ourselves, to press forward. There can be no faith without risk. Only by abandoning ourselves confidently to grace, setting aside our own programmes and comforts, can we truly say ‘yes’ to God. And every ‘yes’ bears fruit because it becomes part of a larger design, of which we glimpse only details, but which the divine Artist knows and carries out, making of every life a masterpiece. In this regard, Saint Joseph is an outstanding example of acceptance of God’s plans. Yet his was an active acceptance: never reluctant or resigned. Joseph was «certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive” (Patris Corde, 4). May he help everyone, especially young people who are discerning, to make God’s dreams for them come true. May he inspire in them the courage to say «yes» to the Lord who always surprises and never disappoints.” (Pope Francis, Message for the 58th World Day of Prayer for Vocations, April 25, 2021)

         Pope St. John Paul II is very enlightening when he points out to us the greatness of Joseph’s “yes” to the vocation received from God: he demonstrated total availability to the will of God, in a similar way to Mary, his wife. Let’s see:

         “«When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife» (cf. Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.” (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, n. 3)

Pope St. John Paul II also teaches us that “the total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life”. The incessant prayer and the fixed gaze on the very high model of holiness of the poor carpenter from Nazareth, called by the Gospel “just man” (cf. Mt 1:19), can be a source of profound spirituality for us. Let’s see:

         “The total sacrifice, whereby Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home, becomes understandable only in the light of his profound interior life. It was from this interior life that “very singular commands and consolations came, bringing him also the logic and strength that belong to simple and clear souls, and giving him the power of making great decisions-such as the decision to put his liberty immediately at the disposition of the divine designs, to make over to them also his legitimate human calling, his conjugal happiness, to accept the conditions, the responsibility and the burden of a family, but, through an incomparable virginal love, to renounce that natural conjugal love that is the foundation and nourishment of the family. This submission to God, this readiness of will to dedicate oneself to all that serves him, is really nothing less than that exercise of devotion which constitutes one expression of the virtue of religion.” (St. John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, n. 26)

         May Saint Joseph, who made of his existence a gift to God, serving him in the person of Mary and of Jesus, accompany us and strengthen us in our yes to the Lord. Share the words of Pope St. John Paul II: “’When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife’ (Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.”

Prayer for lay vocations and of special consecration so that we can all discover in Saint Joseph a companion on the journey who helps us to remain faithful to the purpose of serving God according to the specific vocation of each one.

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