Fear not, Joseph, Son of David. Fear not to take Mary your betrothed wife into you home. Fear not, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. Fear not, for you will be as father to this child. Fear not, for you will give Him the Name above all names, the name that will be loved and adored to the ends of the earth until the end of time. Fear not, for God is here.
The words of God realise what they express. When God speaks to a soul in turmoil: “fear not”, then that soul ceases to fear. Just as, at the dawn of creation, God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light, so when God says to a soul, “Fear not”, that soul no longer fears.
The presence of God is enough of itself to remove all fear. Who could be afraid when conscious of the loving protection of the Almighty? This is all the more necessary when one receives a mission from God. God calls us to perform a task, to go on a mission, to stand up for the truth, to lead others. He sometimes gives tasks that are nearly impossible, as He did to Joseph when He put him into the impossible situation of figuring out what was going on with Mary. St Jerome says it well when he writes that Joseph resolved to bury in silence the mystery he did not understand. An impossible situation that only humility could resolve. Fear not, Joseph.
And so it is with us. We each have a mission. None of our missions will ever come anywhere near the dignity of Joseph’s. Joseph is the only man on earth whom the Son of God looked up to. God Himself called Joseph “Papa”. It is only with emotion and trembling that we can become conscious of that awesome reality. The sanctity of Joseph should make our head spin, so far does he tower over us in grandeur. And yet, we all have our mission, a mission that we alone can perform, that will remain eternally undone if we do not perform it. Whatever it might be, let’s make sure that we do not fear. Let us ask St Joseph to help us hear those divine words: “fear not; go forward, I am with you. And if I am with you, what is there to fear”?
The patriarch Joseph had reason to fear. His brothers wanted to kill him. His master’s wife falsely accused him and he found himself in prison though innocent. But when we read the story through its happy ending, we know he had no reason to fear. God was with him in those darkest hours of his life, and those hours are precisely the ones which helped him grow in holiness, that is, in humility, and become the great patriarch we look up to in admiration.
St Joseph had reason to fear. His wife is pregnant, and he is not the father. His wife tells him nothing, leaves him in the dark. In that dark hour, Joseph makes the wrong decision. He thinks he has to leave, but God wants him to stay. When we look back and read the story through its happy ending, we know that he had nothing to fear, not even from his mistake made in good faith. God guides and blesses the humble soul who is always ready to change course when the divine will becomes clear, when the word is spoken through those who speak to us on God’s behalf. It is consoling to know that the saints were sometimes mistaken. After much prayer and discernment one can still be mistaken. It remains that the hallmark of the holy soul is the capacity to acknowledge that it can be wrong, and the readiness to adjust its position. God blesses the humble.
God wanted Joseph to stay. At other times, God wants us to move on. There is a time for staying and a time for going. “May the Lord bless your coming in and your going out”, says the psalm. Is not life composed of such goings and comings, of doors opening and others closing? Through it all, all that really matters is that we are seeking the Face of the Living God. Joseph was one of those seekers of God, who really want to see God. Quite unexpectedly he would be the first, with Our Lady, to see God in the face of a newborn Babe. He would see Him a short time later in the paths of the exile into Egypt, and still later in an unexpected three day runaway of the Divine Adolescent. In all things, Joseph sought the face of the Living God. May we, like him, be among those who not only seek, but also find; those who know that the path of God leads to the Cross, or rather through the Cross, to the Resurrection.