Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Joseph Dearest, Joseph Mine

I prefer to be a support person, a servant.  I like my role at my job and in my home and with my volunteer activities to support the roles others play. 

Yet I also realize that I depend heavily on my own network of support people.

St. Joseph has to be one of the best "support staffers" in salvation history.  Obedient servant of the Lord, loving and support husband to Mary, and gentle father to Jesus, he offers us more than the few verses in which he appears indicate.

Consider the young Joseph.  He's a son about to create his own family with the lovely young Mary.  Then he discovers she carries a child.  An angel of God appears to him and convinces him it is right and honorable and pleasing to the Lord to marry Mary.  So.  He does.

What must Joseph's mother have been thinking? 

Joseph returns home after delivering a chair down the lane. His mother waits for him outside their home. She looks troubled, and is worried about the rumors she’s heard about her son’s betrothed bride. As Joseph approaches, she rises to meet him.

"Joseph!" greets his mother.  "Come. Walk with me. We must talk."

Joseph approaches his mother with outstretched arms. He senses the time has come to share his thoughts about his betrothed, Mary, with his mother.  The two share a gentle and awkward Mother-son embrace and begin to walk along the edge of town.

"What is it, Mother?"

"Joseph, your father and I have heard rumors. Now that Mary has returned from her visit to Elizabeth, we see evidence that the rumors are true! Is Mary...  Well, is she with child?"

"You know, Mother," offers Joseph.  "I loved Mary first for her beauty. During our betrothal, I’ve come to love her gentle spirit and faithful ways.  She is so kind.  Always so kind."

His mother smiles at him.  "I've witnessed your growing love for her, but this rumor… Please, Joseph. Is the child yours?"

Joseph pats his mother’s arm as they continue to walk.

Wanting his mother to understand his own thoughts, Joseph doesn't answer her question.  He sighs.  "The trouble started after we were betrothed and signed the marriage agreement. Mary had gone to visit her old cousin Elizabeth in Judea, discovering the miracle of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. She was gone three months, and when she returned the rumors began."

His mother gasps slightly.  "So the child is not yours? Have you confronted her? Will you… divorce her?" She tries to smother a sob.

Joseph continues.  "Itt was a cloudy day when I finally confronted her. ‘Mary,’ I asked, ‘are you going to have a baby?’"

Joseph and his mother stop walking. His mother turns to look at Joseph.

"Mother, she smiled at me. It was a gentle smile. Her eyes filled with tears and she nodded." Joseph turns from his mother. His mother watches him.

"I didn’t know what to say. ‘Who?’ I finally asked. I was very near tears myself."

Joseph turns suddenly to his mother and takes her hands.

"Mother, trust me!  Mary and I never acted improperly – not even after we were betrothed. I honored her and her family at all times."

Heart breaking for her son, his mother asks Joseph, "What did she say? How could she hurt you so?"

"She said there was no way she could explain – no way she could make me understand. She said she’d never cared for anyone but me, and kissed my hands. She looked at my hands as if - it's so difficult to describe!  She held my hands as if I held her very life in them.
She kissed my hands as though I would never see her again, and she whispered 'I've never cared for anyone bus you.' She must have been dying inside. I know I was."  Joseph turns and walks away from his mother.

"I finished my day – completing chores, eating dinner, washing. It’s a wonder I didn’t hurt myself in the woodshop. At first, I was angry. I pounded out my frustrations on the door frame I was making. My thoughts whirled so fast I could barely think about my work."

His mother sobs softly.  "Son…"

Joseph looks at his mother and smile gently.

"Don’t worry, Mother. This isn't the end of the story."

His mother looks at him questioningly.

"I decided the only thing I could do was to quietly divorce Mary. I couldn’t bear the thought of her facing a public trial and possible death by stoning."

Joseph looks at his mother.

"I really didn't think I could talk to you or anyone.  I'm about to be a husband!  I believed I needed to trust my judgement and make the right decision for Mary and I.  Still, that night as I went to sleep, her words kept replaying in my mind; ‘I’ve never cared for anyone but you… I’ve never cared for anyone but you…’ Though I wished to, I couldn’t believe her."

"Did you have difficulty sleeping?

Joseph grunts a laugh.  "That’s an understatement! But when I did fall asleep, God sent a message. An angel of the Lord came to me. His words thundered through my body so boldy, I could feel them as well as hear them."

"'Joseph, son of David! Do not fear to take Mary home as your wife. What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'"

Joseph looks at his mother.  She sees the joy and love of the Lord on his face.  "I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. But the angel had more to say.

'She will give birth to a Son, and you are to call Him Jesus. He will save His people from their sins.'

"That angel, Mother, smiled with the joy of the news. I couldn’t sleep anymore that night. I knew the angel’s joy. I would take Mary and care for her and the Child.

"But Joseph… Are you sure you're not being deceived by the longing of your heart?

Joseph laughs.  "Oh no, Mother! That was the voice of God. When I considered what the angel said and what I know of Mary, I knew the truth. I knew I would marry Mary."

His mother embraces Joseph with the age-old mixture of pride, love, and fear only a mother can feel for her son.
I have a Joseph in my life.  I remember him as a young man intent on spending his life with me.  When I imagine St. Joseph, I see my Joseph's characteristics as husband and father, and I hope Mary knew how blessed she was. 

Joseph dearest, Joseph mine!  You've been such a gift to me this Advent season.  You take so much joy in finding ways to make others happy.  You planned and purchased, wrapped and labelled.  And you did it all with a happy little grin on your face.  God bless you for all the blessings you've heaped on our twenty-four years of shared advents and for all the small ways you show me that you'd willingly sacrifice yourself for my safety and happiness.