“ Fear not – take Mary”
When the angel appeared in that dream, it would be impossible to describe the state of anguish the good St Joseph had been through. He had come to the most difficult decision of his life, that to leave Our Blessed Lady. The thought, even for us, is hardly conceivable. Leave Mary! Just think about it. Life without Mary. Is it possible? Joseph knew it wasn’t, but he thought he didn’t have a choice.
Let’s dismiss once and for all any thoughts of Joseph being angered, or worse outraged, by what he would have considered Mary’s infidelity. Nonsense. Such a thought not only casts a shadow over Mary’s virtue and Joseph’s integrity, but it also goes against the very text of the Gospel. Joseph was a just man, and it was because he was just that he decided to separate from Mary. According to the Mosaic Law, if Joseph had suspected Mary of being an adulteress, he would have been obliged to denounce her. The fact that he did not, of itself proves that, far from suspecting her, he had come to the right conclusion: the most pure Virgin could only be the one prophesied by Isaiah who would give birth to Emmanuel. The words the angel uses to inform Joseph of what God was wanting him to do also indicate this, for by saying: “Fear not,” he seems to indicate that Joseph was afraid. One is not afraid of an adulteress, one is indignant. Joseph was in awe of a divine mystery he could not bring himself to approach, and so had decided to remove himself at a distance. “Fear not, Joseph” means, “This is indeed a tremendous mystery, Joseph, but you must not be afraid, for God is with you. He has chosen and appointed you to be father on earth to His Son. No man could of himself worthily fulfil this role, but fear not, for the power of God is in you”. What immense consolation this apparition must have been to Joseph. The joy that filled his heart must have been overflowing. Joseph had made the wrong decision – saints can make mistakes – , but God did not leave him there. God knows our limits and if we truly seek to do His will, even when we are wrong, He leads things to a happy conclusion.
St Teresa of Avila tells us that she always obtained from St Joseph whatever she asked him on his feast day. We too should be confident that he is listening intently today to our petitions. So what shall we ask him? We all have our individual needs. I suggest a few that concern us all and at all times. They are based on the grace Joseph received on this day.
The first would be the grace to take Mary into our home, to make sure that Mary always has a place in our heart, that everything we do is done with and through her. St Bernard tells us to “think upon Mary”: “In perils, in dangers, in doubt, think upon Mary, call upon Mary. Let her not leave your lips, let her not depart from your heart; and that you may obtain the help of her prayers, do not fail to follow the example of her life. If you follow her, you will not go astray; if you beseech her, you will not despair; if you think of her, you will do no wrong; with her to hold you, you will not fall; under her protection, you need never fear; with her as your guide, you will never grow weary; if she shows you favour, you will reach your goal”. St Joseph, teach us to take Mary into our homes and to live in her company.
The second would be the grace to not be afraid. We all have a mission in life, one that has great demands on us, one that we cannot fulfill on our own, one that understandably may cause us to doubt, for our human frailty is daunting. There are times when we must speak, there are times when we must act, there are times when we must do something that will not please. Let us not be afraid. God is with us. St Joseph, teach us to not fear, but to have absolute confidence in the mission we have received.
The third would be to revive within us love and veneration for God incarnate in our midst. To St Joseph God entrusted His own Son, the Life of the world, the treasure of the universe. Joseph adored this great mystery, he served it with love, he put himself totally at its disposal. Let us ask him to teach us to revive within all the sons and daughters of the Church the deepest veneration for the mystery of the Incarnation, and its continuation in the Church and in particular in the sacred liturgy.
Fourth, let us ask him for the grace to labour unceasingly at the most important task of our sanctification and salvation. All our individual duties should converge on this all-important work of becoming saints. Such was St Joseph’s constant preoccupation in this life. In imitation of his Immaculate Spouse, he put himself unreservedly at the disposal of God’s plan of salvation. May he obtain for us the grace to work hard at becoming saints.
Finally, as regards all our others petitions, let’s be bold. St Joseph has in his hands the Infant God; he has direct access to the Treasure of the universe. Let’s not insult him by asking for small things. Let’s ask for big things, and a lot of them. But pray with faith, pray with conviction, pray with perseverance. Be importunate, as the widow in the Gospel. God wishes us to be persevering in prayer to the extent of importunity. Few men can bear the importunate; but God not only bears with them, He wishes us to be importunate in praying to Him for graces, and especially for perseverance. St Gregory says that God wishes us to do Him violence by our prayers; for such violence does not annoy, but pleases Him: “God wills to be called upon, He wills to be forced, He wills to be conquered by importunity… happy violence, by which God is not offended, but appeased”.
And so, my dear Friends, let us hear once again the word that Pharao spoke to the Egyptians: Go to Joseph, and do whatever he will tell you. Let us go with faith and confidence to St Joseph, certain that the more we ask him for with faith and confidence, the more he will give.