If true joy, as we pointed out yesterday, consists in being united with the sufferings of Jesus, then St Joseph certainly was a joyful man. Indeed, all the mysteries of the hidden life of Our Lord involved a great deal of suffering, and St Joseph was a major actor in it all. From the trial of faith when he thought he had to leave Our Lady because she was the Virgin with Child, to the catastrophe of Bethlehem, the flight into Egypt and the massacre of the innocents, the exile in a foreign land where he knew neither the language nor the people, the return to his home town after several years of absence for which people were no doubt asking indiscreet questions, the hard years in Nazareth providing for the holy Family, and then his death before Jesus was made known to the world. Joseph had many sorrows in his life, but he undoubtedly entered into the spirit of Calvary before the event and knew that Jesus was redeeming the world through the cross.
But there is another aspect of Joseph’s character we would do well to consider on this day, namely his peace of mind, tranquillity of spirit and silence in the midst of the most heart-wrenching crises. It was no small matter to resolve to leave Mary, the most perfect, the most beautiful, the most holy of all women. It was veritable torture to think that he had to leave the one who was the sunshine of his life. Bethlehem was a traumatic experience of the worst kind for which any other man would have spent the rest of his years blaming himself; but Joseph knew how to read it through the lens of Divine Providence who orders all things for the good of the elect. The exile in Egypt had to have been constant worry and hassle, along with the incertitude about the future.
And yet in the midst of it all, Joseph gives us the wonderful example of being the best of sleepers. It’s so true that when the angel wants to convey a message, he speaks to him in his sleep. We may smile at this, but it really holds a deep lesson for us. Our Lord must have thought so too, for among the countless things He learned from Joseph there is the capacity to sleep and trust in Divine Providence, regardless of circumstances – we see this in particular in the midst of a tempest when the boat is being tossed to and fro on the waves, and Jesus sleeps.
The capacity to sleep in the midst of trials is a gift of God; it manifests a soul that knows with the certitude of faith that nothing can happen to us that God in His all-loving Providence has not allowed for our own good. It also bears witness to immense confidence in God and it therefore pleases Him to the highest degree. Those who have that confidence in Divine Providence often receive the gift of sleep, for He gives sleep to His beloved, as the psalm tells us. Cum dederit dilectis suis somnum. –(Psalm 126).