18 Dec 2017: The Unsung Hero

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Fourth Sunday of Advent

Reading 1: Is 7:10-14; Ps 24:1-2, 3-4, 5-6; Reading 2: Rom 1:1-7; Gospel: Mt 1:18-24

It is surprising, that in a strongly patriarchal society like that of the Israelites we have a lot more information about Mary, Jesus’ mother, than Joseph, his foster father. In popular devotions, Joseph is addressed as husband of Mary, guardian of Jesus. Only in one place, we see, Jesus referred to by the people as Joseph’s son and that too not explicitly mentioning  Joseph’s name, but as the “carpenter’s son.” One would be tempted to think that he was just an instrument to give Jesus a place in the Davidic lineage; after all, he was just Jesus’ foster father. The Scripture qualifies Joseph in just one term: righteous. And not many – even the most prominent characters  – managed to get that tagged to their name. Joseph remained hidden for many centuries. Why, he even managed find a place in the canon of the Mass (Eucharistic Prayer), only a year ago.

In today’s gospel, we find the Josephine infancy narrative. Angel appeared to Joseph and assured him of God’s hand in the Nativity story. What strikes me most in St. Joseph’s dream, is that he acted upon it. We read: “when Joseph awoke, he DID as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.” It happens again in the context of the flight to Egypt, when Herod declared the killing of the infants. When we all tend to say, “after all, it’s just a dream,” Joseph saw in them much more than just a dream.

Psychology may tend to describe it as protective intuition: his subconscious speaking to him using the symbols of his faith patterns. We see that Joseph had already decided not to shame Mary who was found with a child, and he obviously knew that it was not his child. Being righteous, he was scheming ways to save Mary his beloved from being stoned to death. And that is where the dream comes. Surely, not a believable story; it is not going to save Mary. But, it reassures him that Yahweh’s hands were in it. In the flight to Egypt too, it was a matter of saving the family, and that is where the dream comes and once again he DID as the angel of the Lord commanded him. So, where the dreams protective intuitions?

I am no psychologist, and such interpretations can simply cause a lot of religious unrest. But, one thing is sure, Joseph went ahead with the dream theory and history answers the rest.  And so, St. Joseph shows us the beauty of trusting the Lord and the ability to see God’s hand at work in every situations of life. In as much as we exalt Mary’s YES as a great moment of redemption, Joseph’s concrete but, SILENT YES in his response to God message in the dream has a significant and irreplaceable role in God’s plan of salvation. There is no Christmas, if Joseph did  not do that YES. Truly, St. Joseph is an unsung hero.

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