Love & Believe

What better way is there to prepare for Christmas than to reflect on the individuals who were central to the birth of the Lord? Next week we shall look at Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This week I would like to call your attention to that just man, Joseph, who quietly collaborated in God’s plan of salvation. Only the Gospel of Matthew offers details about him. The evangelist contrasts Joseph with Herod, the wicked king, whose sole mission in life was to destroy the New-born King of Israel. In the mind of the gospel writer, Joseph is like his namesake in the Old Testament. Like Joseph of old, he receives God’s message through visions and dreams; and, like Joseph of old, he furthers God’s plan in spite of setbacks and paradoxes.

There are many wonderful lessons that we can draw from the life of the foster father of Jesus. In this column I would like to focus on his boundless love of Mary that gave birth to his relentless trust in her. He did not want to embarrass her even though he did not at first understand her pregnancy. He had different options available to him. He could have denounced Mary – like some other men would have done in a similar situation – and she would have been stoned to death as per the Mosaic Law. He could have divorced her. But divorce would mean that he would have to share his decision with a rabbi and two or three witnesses. In such a case the news would have spread and Mary would have been shamed publicly. He was planning to send her away quietly when God intervened.

To get further insight into the heart and spirit of Joseph, let me reproduce for you an imaginary letter from him. If he were to write a letter to us today, perhaps it may go something like this.

I was just a simple village carpenter. The business was good. From the time I was a little boy, I loved the smell of wood. I was always good with my hands. I knew I would make a good father because I loved children and someday I would have children of my own. I would treat my wife like a queen. I had everything planned out. Everything was going my way… until I met Mary.

She was a beautiful woman. There was something unique about her. I could not put my finger on it at that time but she was not like the other girls in the village. We were engaged to be married and I was the happiest man in the world.

Then came the bombshell… Mary was with child. She told me. The Law of Moses asked us to do away with women like that. But how could I? I loved her. I was sure she would never betray my trust. When you love someone you don’t suspect. You believe. I knew Mary would never damage my love for her. I was confused, of course. But I believed. When you love someone, you believe.

My mind would not rest and the doubts lingered. My friends warned me not to take Mary as my wife. The child she carried, they said, would destroy my life. “If you cannot trust her now, how can you ever trust her?” they queried. But I loved her deeply. I could not doubt her. When you love someone, you believe.

God visited me in a dream and invited me to take Mary as my wife. He set my heart at rest. The child she carried was conceived not by the urge of the flesh but by the will of God. I loved her all the more, and I believed.

My friends never came to know the full story. They thought I was a loser. But I shudder to think what might have happened if I had loved Mary any less! I might not have believed her. I might have been consigned to the dust heap of history and passed off as another good carpenter who lived a good, ordinary life. I would never have known a love so true and loved Love Himself as I did.

Many a married couple forget that love does not doubt. It just believes. Suspicions are born of a love that has died. Faith in your beloved is the boldest manifestation of love. For when you love someone, you believe.

Joseph of Nazareth

As we approach the Feast of Christmas, I invite you to meditate on the example of this great saint. In his humility he loved his wife, Mary, gently and completely. I invite married couples to profess their love to each other. Hopefully we will embrace the truth that if we love, we should believe. May we renew our loves this season and commit ourselves totally to the people in our lives!

Mission Statement: As children of God, living in a Catholic community of faith, we are united by the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. Aware that all we have is gift and grace from our Heavenly Father, we strive to give of our time, talent and treasure to build His kingdom on earth. We live this mission, challenged by the Word, nurtured by the Sacraments, and enlivened by the Spirit, to serve our brothers and sisters in peace, justice and dignity. All are welcome on this journey.

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St. Paul of the Cross

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Park Ridge, IL 60068

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