Mar Yawsep: 19 March

Mt 1: 18-25

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1. The Testing Time

Today’s Gospel passage gives us a glimpse of the terrible conflict that St. Joseph has undergone. His was a life of testing – testing of faith in God and in Mary. The dream of the simple carpenter from Nazareth has shattered into pieces when he understood that his fiancée is pregnant with someone else. For an ordinary man that might have been the end of the road. Suppose she was sick or ill he might have easily understood. How can an engaged woman get pregnant? Where can he find the reason? What might have been the mental struggle that he has undergone? For how long he was in the darkness of not knowing the truth. 

 

 

 
2. Faith as God’s assurance

The way in which he saw the light in the dark moments of his life makes him a true saint, a dear saint. Yes, his faith and his trust in God and Mary are far too great.  He believed the divine words and took Mary to himself. The long exhaustive journey with the fully pregnant Mary to Bethlehem was not easy. How much he might have struggled to get a place for Mary to stay. How often his self- respect as a husband and a father would have wounded on the way? The search for the lost child was not an easy road for an ordinary householder of Judea (Lk 2:41-51).  The internal struggle that he has undergone during those years is worth reflection. 

 

3. Meditation with St. Joseph

Can we not take such issues of our daily life and ponder over them in the company of St. Joseph? It will teach us, it will humble us, and it will make us grow in faith and trust.

 

4. A Man of Hard work

The name ‘Joseph’ in Hebrew means, ‘he increases,’ ‘he nurtures.’ The life of Joseph speaks volume about us too. Joseph was a man tested by God; even in his struggles he was magnanimous towards others. He received the word in full faith and trust. Like the Joseph of the Old Testament (Gen 37-47), St. Joseph too was a man who nurtured others- here Blessed Mary and Jesus. We too must nurture others and grow through others. Jesus surely was a Carpenter the way his father was (Mt 13:53-58). That was the tradition of that time.

 

 

5. What is St. Joseph’s vision of life found reflected in today’s passage?

It is heard of an epitaph now found attributed to Stephen Grellet: "I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again." Doesn’t it reflect the vision of St. Joseph? Mt 1:19 “Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly.”

5.1 So Joseph decided to dismiss her secretly. Why?

  1. He was a righteous man
  2. Unwilling to expose her to public disgrace

5.1.1 He was a righteous man

It was a time when justice was law. Recall the symbolic presentation of justice as found in the picture that is indicative of justice - a blindfolded person having a weighing machine in the hand - A justice that gives the due.

The fiancée, getting pregnant without the knowledge of the fiancé - who can bear it? None can. What is the lawful punishment or justice? Kill by stoning. How much the whole thinking on this episode might have bruised his heart? But he decides to dismiss her. In fact it is a violation of the law. Why he did not an honour killing, something that happens even in our times. In one sense, by not exposing her and deciding to dismiss her secretly, Joseph disobeys the law. Can a righteous man of law do that? Yes, he did not obey a blindfolded law. He was a man who has gone beyond the bounds of the law of stone. Is he not finding a reason to save her? Joseph is a man of heart and not of the law. He is a man with open eyes and not one affected with cataract of the heart.

5.1.2 Unwilling to expose her to public disgrace

Why he was unwilling? He knew of her as a girl of good character. They how come this is so? He did not understand a thing. Surely he might have loved her. How can someone ill-treat a person who he/she loves? He loved her, so he decided to dismiss her secretly. But we have a host of stories how the separated couples or lovers takes revenge on each other.

 

A remarkable Hasidic rabbi, Levi Yitzhak of Berdichev in theUkraine, used to say that he had discovered the meaning of Love from a drunken peasant. The rabbi was visiting the owner of tavern in the Polish countryside. As he walked in, he saw two peasants at a table. Both were gloriously in their cups. Arms around each other, they were protesting how much each loved the other. Suddenly Ivan said to Peter: "Peter, tell me, what hurts me?" Bleary‑eyed, Peter looked at Ivan: "How do I know what hurts you?" Ivan's answer was swift: "If you don't know what hurts me, how can you say you love me?

 

Joseph surely understood the pain of Mary’s heart. So he planned to dismiss her quietly (19). Only love can reveal such a kind of understanding – a love that transcends justice and human thinking. Joseph did not make any disgrace to her. He is a merciful and understanding person. Joseph of OT gave to his brothers, who sold him out of envy, the most fertile land of Egypt, Goshen.

 

The God whom we encounter in the Bible is a God of mercy. He conceals our shame. He is passionately in love with us such that he cannot leave us. He can never abandon us, even if we do.

 

 
 

Credits: Father George Edayadiyil, CMI

 

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