Monday, March 19, 2012

St Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Confessor

Ecclesiasticus 45:1-6 / Matthew 1:18-21

There are those who will only believe what they can receive by their own senses, who only credit as causes and truths in this world what natural reason allows. For them, appeal to the supernatural, for taking action not in light of the certainty of the noontime sun, but the hazy obscurity of our nighttime dreams, is not even a noble aspiration. Better to live justly by what we can demonstrate to one another than be slave to fairy tales and dangerous fancies.

There are others for whom the world beyond this one constantly beckons. Behind every tea leaf in the cup there lies a hidden message, in every word there is an unintended but profound secret, and in the twilight of our imagination, there are the deepest and grandest truths to be known. For them, to follow the dictates of reason rather than the murky promptings of intuition and the heart is to abandon what is holiest and most divine in human life. Better to have been made a fool now and again by mistaking a toad for a prince than to miss forever the entrance to the inexpressible delights of the world beyond.

In Joseph, in whose care God placed not only the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also his only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, in the fragility of his infancy, childhood, and youth, the Church has a model who refuses both of these visions. With the rationalists and against empty and even deadly superstition, Joseph was ever a just man. Where the best of human reason presented to him what seemed the infidelity of the Virgin Mary, Joseph neither denied what he thought must be the case nor succumbed to unrighteous fury. Rather, not willing publicly to expose her, he was minded to put her away privately.

Yet, against those same rationalists, Joseph did not consider his own reason and his own righteousness to be the final measure and arbiter of human flourishing. As attentive as he was to his conclusions drawn in waking hours, Joseph also attended to the clear voice of the Angel of the Lord who appeared to him in his sleep. For Joseph, right reason did not exclude an openness to God's promptings anywhere in his life, even if they came by angelic messenger in a dream.

It is for this reason that the faithful can be content neither with the false sufficiency of reason nor with the seductive haze of supernaturalism. Like Joseph's, our service to Jesus Christ must ever and always begin with the best that our mind and our heart can know by appealing to the native light of reason this same Jesus Christ has planted in our hearts, and by a clear attentiveness to his public revelation in the Scriptures and their authoritative interpretation in the ministers of the Church. At the same time, like Joseph, we must always remain open to the gracious surprises our Lord has prepared for us, never demanding how and when they may come to our minds or our hearts. To serve Jesus Christ is to be both a clear, daytime thinker marked by uprightness of heart and to be a docile, nighttime dreamer marked by a generous receptivity of spirit. This was the glory of Joseph, and under his watchful protection, may this also be what crowns each of made alive to God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

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