Dominica IV Adventus
by Fr. Jerome Molokie, O.Praem.
God could have redeemed us from Original Sin and banished death, restoring things to like Eden – but He didn’t…We hear great saints and the words of the liturgy referring to death as a “remedy,” St. Ambrose said that, and in the words of the Exultet at the Easter Vigil, Original Sin is called a “happy fault”…pretty bold words.
So as we prepare for Christmas it would be a good idea to see in what ways we can get as close as possible to our Redeemer as we can in the next few days and the rest of our lives, as we prepare to be reunited with Him.
The focus on the way to prepare will be to look at St. Joseph as closely as we can. Here was a man who lived and died so well that we call him the patron of a happy death, and we can learn from him if we know how to look closely and be very quiet. The reason for the necessity of silence is that St. Joseph is so humble that, unless we look at the Gospels with all of our senses calmed, we will probably miss the point.
St. Joseph knew how to accept life on life’s terms, and be attuned to what God wants – his betrothed was with child before they came together; he thought of quietly putting her away – let me go a bit off subject here for a moment: different writers say different things about this – some suggesting that Joseph had no idea of how the Blessed Virgin came to be in this position, others insisting he understood and was simply too humble to step into the position of being foster father of the Messiah. I tend to agree with that latter opinion, but for our purposes, these do not matter – the point for our consideration is that St. Joseph, when in a dream an angel told him to take Mary as his wife, he obeyed. And regardless of the true condition of the virgin birth, he obeyed in the face of what was a difficult thing, demanding a complete disregard for human respect.
St. Joseph, later on, obeying the civil authorities regarding the census of Israel at the hands of the Romans, found himself with Mary in Bethlehem – and he could not find lodging for them. As the provider for his family, this also was a stressful and embarrassing position for him. And we see him doing no less than we would expect: he did the best he could in the circumstances, worked with the reality of what he was given, and did not give up until he had found the manger. And the rest is literally, as they say, history. He did not let the most discouraging of circumstances discourage him, but kept on doing what he needed to do.
St. Joseph, again obeying God, abandoned everything (home, career, economic stability) at the words of an angel to flee with the family to Egypt, in order to keep the Christ Child safe. The Gospels give us not one word about his reactions to this upheaval, nor how long he had to keep his family there, we are simply told he obeyed.
These things that St. Joseph did are like a road map for us on how to get closer to Christ: to obey the law of God even when it is very difficult and life presents us with confusing circumstances; to persevere through those difficult times. Honestly, it all comes down to that.
But, you might argue that we are not as holy as St. Joseph – and have not the same spiritual manifestations that he did. This is a point, and a good one. But rather than dwell on that, and giving ourselves a way out, I am going to suggest something a very wise priest once told me, as a way we can prepare for Christmas and be more peaceful than usual. Do any of you remember as kids being encouraged during Advent to prepare a crib (a spiritual crib) for the Baby Jesus in our hearts to prepare for His birth? This is a lovely custom – yet as we age, we can forget to do it or be so bogged down in our sins and struggles that we figure such a practice is beyond us. We have lost the innocence of childhood after all, if we even had it as children. But Christ is our Savior – He came precisely to die for our sins, and in order to do that, this priest made a fantastic point: we have to give them to Him. This is humiliating stuff, but if you and I get into the habit of not only going to confession regularly, but also of talking to Christ very frankly and honestly about our temptations – as they are happening – how can we doubt He will help us? And in this way, we will be following in the example of St. Joseph, not as holy as he was for sure, but working with quiet strength, a strength that admits its weakness, to accept our lot humbly and work closely and perseveringly with what God gives us. It might not be a bad idea to start to get close to St. Joseph right now. In the short term, I am sure he will help us to prepare for Christmas; and long term – it will be a great way to insure that we will go to meet our Savior at the hour of our death in the best of ways.
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