“Do you not yet have faith? (Mark 4:40)”
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ:
I prepare this column for your reading as Father’s Day approaches. It is a perfect time to pray about our relationship with God the Father and pray with gratitude for all those who have been fathers to us. It is a time to reaffirm our faith in God and our love for one another through, with and in God. The core of Father’s Day, after all, is love. God’s love transcends through each one of us for each one of us.
It is also a good time to reflect upon St. Joseph as we are celebrating the year of St. Joseph. This humble man, betrothed to Mary, didn’t really understand all the things he encountered since he grew in his relationship with Mary. His fiat is one of great love. He is known as the provider for the Son of God. In the midst of very difficult human occurrences which could have caused him embarrassment or peril or death, St. Joseph did not abandon God. Instead he embraced what was given to him and continued to offer his fiat throughout all his days.
In QuamQuam Pluries (1889), Pope Leo XIII wrote, “Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded from death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and in the bitternesses of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and of Jesus.”
In St. Mark’s Gospel for June 20, there is a great storm and Jesus is sleeping in the boat. We see who Jesus really is, and also relate easily to the confusion and despair of the disciples. Jesus calms the storm, not just the weather, but He has dominion over our human affairs and calms the storms of our heart. St. Joseph had such faith that he trusted the Lord to provide during difficulties raising Jesus. He listened to God’s messengers to keep Him safe, to nourish Him that He might grow to nourish each one of us. He and Mary taught Jesus about the faith of His people and raised him knowing God’s love not just by the things said, but also by example.
There were many times when St. Joseph could have abandoned God’s mystery. When he first discovered Mary was pregnant before any relations with him, he could have divorced her quietly. Instead he trusted in God’s messenger and allowed himself to be an instrument of God’s plan of salvation. When the angel spoke of the danger toward the infant child, St. Joseph might have disregarded this message; yet, he took his family to Egypt that everyone would be safe. No matter the storm St. Joseph might encounter, he lived out his love of God by caring for Jesus, the Son of God.
During the pandemic or when things are difficult, we, like the disciples in the boat, may question God’s presence, when our faith is uncertain. It is never God who leaves us. It is always we who leave God. In the midst of the storm, Jesus was right with the disciples, sleeping. Christ is present to us in our anxieties. Like St. Joseph, we must have faith that God will provide. St. Joseph made God master of his house, and ruler of all his possessions.
St. Joseph also understood that faith is not simply a thought, but faith means action. He loved his family so much that he made personal sacrifices for the family. This self-giving love is given by God himself, who is love. St. Joseph was called by God to love Jesus in the same faithful, self-giving love in which Jesus was offered to us. Jesus reveals this self-giving love fully on the Cross. It requires what Pope Francis calls “an exodus from self” so that we might focus on the needs of others, even when this causes disruptions or storms or anxiety in our lives.
May we follow St. Joseph’s example offering his family the grace and responsibility of overcoming every storm and moving toward the fullness of communion willed by God. May we always acclaim our faith that His love is everlasting.