Last week we proposed that the “conversion of heart” that we are striving to achieve this Lenten season might be more successful if we could recruit a helper. Someone who knows, in themselves and their own experience, what this conversion—what this “holiness”—looks like. Since holiness is our objective, our helper had best be a saintly one, and we proposed that, for this year, God is suggesting that St. Joseph is a good choice.
But what do we want from St. Joseph?
Well, we want him to take us “under his wing.” We want him to guide us; we want him to be our role model. And we also want him to intercede for us; asking Jesus to send us the graces we need to persevere in our Lenten practices and succeed in slaying our bad habits and addictions. As an intercessor, it is hard to believe that we can do much better (except for our Blessed Mother). After all, St. Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father. While Jesus took none of his genetic human nature from St. Joseph, his earthly father would have played a major role in the development of Jesus as a human person. For example, Jesus learned how to be man from his father, St. Joseph. Now, of course, St. Joseph is the role model par excellence for men, husbands, and fathers, but the virtues he mastered are valuable to any Christian striving for holiness.
Using the framework prayer introduced last week (see sidebar 2 below), we can now consider the first verse, which describes St. Joseph as: “that ‘wise and loyal servant’ whom the Lord placed over His household.” Two important themes leap from this text: “servant” and “vocation.” In our modern world, with its emphasis on individualism and glorification-of-self, these two words are antiquated and hard to grasp, but they were core to our Saint’s self-understanding.
St. Joseph understood that he was part of a larger plan. And not just “a plan” but rather “the plan”, “God’s plan” (see sidebar 1 below). While not knowing the full extent of that plan, St. Joseph knew he had an important role in it, and he worked to discern it and fulfill it. As a Jewish man raised in the religion of the Chosen People, he also knew that the role would be one of service and obedience. What he did not know was exactly what form the service and obedience would take. The Torah (the Law) outlined the broad principles, but it was up to St. Joseph to discern how these principles applied to the specific details of his life.
Each one of us is no different than St. Joseph. Each one of us has a role to play in God’s great plan. Each one of us is called to service and obedience, both in the objective sense, defined in the Eternal Law (e.g., the Gospels, the Prophets, the Ten Commandments, the Precepts of the Church) and in the personal sense, defined by our own specific gifts, talents, opportunities, and crosses. The Church calls our “role in God’s great plan,” our vocation. As it turned out, St. Joseph’s vocation was to be the head of the Holy Family.
Do you believe you are part of God’s great plan for the Universe? How loyal are you in fulfilling it?
St. Joseph did. And he was very loyal to it. Ask him to show you how he did it.