What a difference a year makes! Last year during Holy Week we were separated; we were in lockdown; we participated in Holy Thursday and Good Friday through live stream; there were no public celebrations of our Lord’s Resurrection; and all the new Catholics who were received into the Church were initiated privately. There was a strong experience of fear and death. It was a year we will never forget. It was the year of COVID-19. Although we are not fully there yet, since we still need to social distance and wear masks, this year things are different. We have a treatment plan and vaccines; we are able to celebrate together; and all the new Catholics (congrats to all of you!!) get to receive the Sacraments publicly. This is the year of St. Joseph.
While we associate St. Joseph much more with Christmas than Easter, I think we need to focus on him right now. What do I mean? There is still a heavy pall hanging over so many. We are still on edge. Stop for a moment and identify what you are feeling as you look at the world. Rather than getting discouraged, let’s focus on Joseph for the correct response. Pope Francis has proclaimed this a special “Year of St. Joseph.” In his Apostolic Letter Patris Corde (With a Father’s Heart), he describes St Joseph as a beloved father who was tender, loving, and accepting. Joseph is creative and courageous.
St. Joseph’s life wasn’t a bed of roses. He may not have had to deal with a pandemic, but he endured many sorrows in his chosen role. Imagine what feelings rose up when he heard the priest Simeon’s prophecy that the Christ would suffer and that his wife’s heart would be pierced. He had to be pretty savvy by scurrying the holy family to Egypt to protect the Christ child from the blood-thirsty Herod who sought to destroy Jesus in his infancy. Imagine the anxiety Joseph must have experienced as he and the Blessed Mother searched for the adolescent Christ for three days before finding Jesus in the temple.
St. Joseph understands the sufferings that accompany being a disciple of Jesus Christ. Regardless, St. Joseph was amazingly obedient. He promptly obeyed the voice of the Lord when the angel directed him to take Mary into his home. The Scriptures say he, “Did as the angel of the Lord commanded” (Mt. 1:24). When he found out that Mary was pregnant, what was his response? St. Joseph teaches us to reserve judgment (even for a long time!) in situations which we cannot comprehend. The Lord will reveal his will for us in is time according to His Word. We have to remain faithful in the face of uncertainty knowing the Lord is fulfilling his will in our trials.
In introducing the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, the Vatican News mentioned: The Holy Father wrote it against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which he says, has helped us to see more clearly the importance of ordinary people who, though far from the limelight, exercise patience and offer hope every day. In this, they resemble St Joseph, the man who goes unnoticed, daily, discreet, and hidden presence, who nonetheless played an incomparable role in the history of salvation.
It’s a new year. Let’s celebrate Easter. I invite all of you to read the Pope’s Apostolic letter. It is very brief. I hope that you will find it inspirational and answer for yourself: “What is the Lord commanding me to do in this world? How should I respond more like St. Joseph?” May the good St. Joseph be our example and guide in trusting God. Alleluia!