LENT WITH ST. JOSEPH (Part 2)

premium website buildersLast 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.

SIDE BAR 1
God’s Plan The notion that God “has a plan” is not intuitively obvious because there is so much evil in the world. We cannot bring ourselves to believe that our good God would create such an awful plan, and he didn’t—at least not directly. It is important to recognize that theologians speak about God having two types of will—a Sovereign Will and a Permissive Will. God’s sovereign will is eternal and unchanging. So, for example, the objective of the plan—to renew and restore all creation in his Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 8:19-22) —and the rules underlying the plan— everything from the laws of physics to the Torah to the Law of Love found in the Gospels—are part of his sovereign will. God's permissive will are those areas where God states his will but permits human beings to operate contrary to it. When we are disobedient and follow our own whims, God must re-plan as necessary to ensure that his sovereign will is still accomplished. While God wants all of us to be part of the final renewal and restoration in Jesus Christ, he permits us to opt out of it. And sadly, many choose to do so.

 

SIDE BAR 2
Prayer to St. Jospeh Saint Joseph – San Jose, we honor you as our Patron. We revere you as that “wise and loyal servant” whom the Lord placed over His household. With faith you trusted God’s message and acted on it. With a husband’s love you cherished Mary, our Mother. With a father’s care you watched over Jesus, our Savior. With honest labor you provided for your Holy Family. Pray for us now in this Diocese which bears your name that we may nourish each other in faith, support each other in our temporal needs, and renew our Church in the pattern of your own Household. Amen.