Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reflection for Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary 

2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16
PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29
ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22
MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A

St. Joseph and the Child Jesus
St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church

When I was growing up, I did not pay much attention to Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, except around Christmas time. I loved to arrange the nativity figures in our family's crèche, sing Christmas carols, and listen to the Gospel narratives of Jesus's birth. But I usually placed Joseph in the background of the crèche and my own imaginative reflection on the Christmas story. After I became Catholic several years ago, I gradually became more aware of how the Church understands and venerates St. Joseph, this holy and humble man.

I've found some Catholic traditions related to St. Joseph to be delightful (and delicious!). For instance, when I worked as a graduate assistant at Villanova University, several of my Italian-American co-workers brought zeppoles for everyone to enjoy on St. Joseph's feast day (And, for the record, today is a Solemnity—the highest form of liturgical celebration—so if you gave up sweets for Lent, you can break your fast!). Other traditions, such as burying a St. Joseph statue upside down in one's yard to sell a house, have seemed more bizarre to me. Most recently, my appreciation for St. Joseph and his intercession has deepened thanks to a friend who invited me to pray a novena with the Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph.

As I have prayerfully reflected upon events in the life of St. Joseph, I have been struck by the humanity and holiness of the man God chose to protect and parent His Son. In today's Gospel, we read how Joseph—doubtless deeply hurt by what he perceived to be the infidelity of his beloved—decides to divorce Mary quietly and spare her from shame. But an angelic messenger dispels Joseph's fears with the assurance that God will save His people through Mary's child, who has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Joseph awakes, he welcomes Mary into his home as his wife and cares tenderly for her and Jesus.

I find Joseph's actions and reactions in this vignette to be so relatable! When God does something unexpected in my life—even something joyfully and beautifully unexpected—I often find myself constricted and paralyzed by fear. God does not always show up in ways that feel safe and familiar, which is why Joseph, Mary, Zechariah, the shepherds, and other characters in the "Christmas story" all hear the angelic announcement, "Do not be afraid!"

This Lent, I have been praying with the idea of "magnanimity," and asking for the grace to receive God's expansive love, which drives out the fear that narrows my heart and limits my ability to love. And I can think of no better model for large-souled generosity than Joseph, who does not utter a single word in Scripture, but whose loving, courageous actions speak volumes. Joseph shows us how to give our pain, disappointment, and fear to God, and how to welcome Christ into our hearts and homes with obedient trust. Today, let us turn to St. Joseph and request his intercession for "the grace of surmounting all anxiety" so that our own hearts "may become a living crib" for Christ our Lord. 

Rachel Kondro is a campus minister in Reinert Hall.

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