March 19, 2013

MISSION MATTERS: Joseph the Carpenter

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When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord 
had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
-Matthew 1:24

Today we celebrate one of the few feasts during Lent: the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary. We know very little about Joseph except that he was a righteous Jewish man, a relative of King David, a carpenter by trade and betrothed to Mary. He is not mentioned in the Gospels after the family trip to Jerusalem, when Mary and he frantically have to retrace their steps to find Jesus, who had stayed in the temple. It has been assumed that Joseph died long before Jesus began his public ministry.

We can gather from the little we know about Joseph, though, that he was a good person trying to follow God's will for him, whether he understood it or not. He was a simple man who listened carefully for God's directions, even though they came in his dreams, and may disrupt his life and plans. If this would happen to some of us, we may be reluctant to sleep for fear of getting another disruptive message.

Like any father, though, we can imagine that Joseph protected and taught the young Jesus, not only the skills of shaping wood but also how to live in a way shaped by God. Joseph, and Mary probably, had the same doubts as other parents about how to guide the development of Jesus, as a person living in faith. They may, like most parents, also have done the best they could with what they had and then trusted in God and their son to fill in the places in his training they might have missed. If we consider Jesus, we would say they did a very good job.

The life of Joseph can teach us that God has always used "simple, ordinary" people, much like ourselves, even, to bring salvation to the world. God invites people like us into His plan, and if they — and we — respond, He uses them to do extraordinary things. "Simple, ordinary" people, like Joseph and us, have always been the way God works His plan for humanity. We are all invited by God to play our part in God's plan.

St. Ignatius of Loyola learned that this was God's plan for all people. Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises are fundamentally about helping us find the freedom to respond to God's invitation to each of us, and to trust that God will always guide us, if only we listen. He kept reminding the early Jesuits, and us, that God does not micromanage His work, but gives us directions and the talent to do what needs to be done. We must trust in God and remember that we are only asked to do what we can, and that we only have a small role in His bigger plan.

Today, let us pray that like St. Joseph, we listen for the ways God is inviting each of us to be part of His plan. Let us pray that we have enough freedom to respond to this call, knowing that God has given us what we need to fulfill the role He has for us. In this we become trusted member of God's Kingdom ...

God's plan, even though — or maybe even because — we are simple, ordinary people.

Annuntio vobis gaudium magnum:
Habemus Papam!

Let us pray in gratitude to God for guiding the selection of Pope Francis, a simple ordinary man known for his humility and service to the poor. May God bless him with the wisdom to help each of us live our lives to follow God's plan, to build God's Kingdom, in this place ... in this time.

Have a Blessed Lent

D. Highberger, S.J.
P. Stark, S.J.

Higher purpose. Greater good.
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