When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.
~ Matthew 1:18-19
Last month I was at dinner with a young couple, the parents of three children. They are people of faith and integrity, family-oriented and morally true. Matthew might have called them “righteous,” the word he uses to describe Joseph. We got to talking about our kids, as parents do, and they confessed their fear that their sons and daughter (the oldest of whom is not yet a teenager) would one day suffer from addiction. Looking at them across the table I could not imagine that such misfortune would happen to these good people.
But as today’s Gospel suggests, righteousness is no guarantee of a smooth life. Joseph, a Jewish man who faithfully observed the precepts of Torah, finds himself in a shameful predicament. The woman with whom he has a binding marital contract is pregnant. By Jewish law, he has every right to terminate their contract, and determines to do so quietly. But God sends a night messenger with a counter-command. Joseph neither questions nor resists; rather, he does exactly “as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.”
Even when we follow the rules and live as faithful Christians, sometimes things simply go wrong. We lose our job to a restructuring. A child encounters difficulty in school. Someone we love cannot break the cycle of addiction. But if we place ourselves in God’s hands, as Joseph did, these times of suffering can become times of trust. When our soul encounters a dark night, we need to listen carefully and deeply to God’s message, and put our confidence entirely in his word, holding onto the promise that he will be with us always, even to the end of the age.
Lord of Love, Lighten the darkness that surrounds me with the luminous power of your kindness and mercy, and help me to trust in you at all times. Amen.
For today’s readings, click here.
You can access the complete collection of the Advent 2015 Reflection Series here.