Dec. 18: Planning the work, working the plan

Dec. 18: Third Monday of Advent

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home” (Mt 1:19-20).

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Joseph had a plan. Faced with the prospect of unwarranted shame—his fiancée appeared to be pregnant by another—he decided that the best course of action would be to seek quiet separation from the young woman in question. He would not exercise his right by Jewish law to repudiate Mary publicly, nor would he put her on trial for adultery. He simply wanted this unexpected and painful situation to be over and done with.

Joseph’s mind was made up; his plan was sound. But a funny thing happened on the way to implementation: God intervened with a different plan. Speaking to Joseph in a dream, God changed the trajectory of this man’s life. And in doing so, he required Joseph to surrender his cherished self-image as a rule-obeying and law-abiding “righteous man” and replace it with complete trust in God’s sometimes disquieting ways. Many of us garner comfort and a sense of control from making plans—for tomorrow, for the next five years, for the rest of our lives. We lay out goals and objectives, we sketch out the actions needed to achieve them, we plan the work and we work the plan.

But our human plans are by definition imperfect and partial, and sooner or later God is going to let us know the real plan—and he may send us in a completely new direction, as He did Joseph. But when we receive that message, whether in a dream, through Scripture or through someone we encounter who acts as an “angelic” messenger, we should be prepared to let go of our own agenda and release ourselves, as Joseph did, into the hands of God.

Prayer: All-knowing, all-loving God, Make me humble, attentive and receptive to your guiding wisdom in my life. Amen.

For today’s readings, click here.

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