Vigil of Christmas 2017
We are called to belong to Jesus Christ. We are called to be saints. We are called to be like our mother, Mary, the just man, Joseph, and especially our Savior, our Messiah, our Lord. In the short time I have today, I’d like to share some thoughts on the oft-ignored member of the Holy Family, St. Joseph. And particularly let’s look at the adjective used about him. He was called “the just man.”
The Greek dictionary translates the word dikaios as “correct, righteous, [and] by implication, innocent”. The original was probably the Hebrew tzadiq. This had “a richness of meaning going far beyond what we would normally understand today as simply being ‘just.’” Joseph was a living saint. The Fathers of the Church believed that he never committed an actual sin. In this passage he is put to the test by the pregnancy of his young wife, to whom he was betrothed but not yet living with. And he passed the test with flying colors, because he accepted God will, and like Mary believed that the son he would be father to would save his people, and all of us, from our sin. In other words, Jesus would enable all of us, like Mary and Joseph, to be living saints.
Let’s just consider for a moment one of the characteristics of Joseph’s obedience to God’s will. Search diligently through the Gospels for the words of Joseph ben Jacob, foster father of Our Lord. Take your time. You will find nothing that he said, only things that he did. I am not claiming that Joseph never spoke. What is clear is that, unlike Mary and Jesus, his words have not been recorded anywhere in the New Testament. But his example shines through. And one thing he can teach us is the value of silence in our following of Christ.
St. Luke tells us that the Blessed Virgin pondered the events of Her Son’s life in her heart. We must also understand that St. Joseph did as well. And often he pondered them in silence. What is it that atheists and unbelievers object to about God? There are two most frequent objections. The first is that God lets bad things happen to good people. The second, however, is something we all experience–when we ask God a question, He is silent.
But the saint understands that if we can’t hear the voice of God, it’s probably because that is the way He chooses to communicate with us. When He appeared to Elijah on the mountain, it wasn’t in fire or tempest or earthquake, but in a still, small voice. So let’s learn the lesson today to turn off our cell phones and radios and computers and just sit in silence, before the Blessed Sacrament if we can, and listen to the silent voice of God.
C.S. Lewis wrote in The Screwtape Letters that the demons thrive on noise: “Music and silence–how I detest them both!….[Hell] has been occupied by Noise–Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile–Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples and impossible desires. We will make the whole universe a noise in the end….The melodies and silences of Heaven will be shouted down in the end.” May God preserve us from such a fate.
Our world is a world of noisy distraction. As we approach the creche tonight or tomorrow, as we contemplate the silence or angelic music surrounding the manger, let’s all ask Our Lord for a real hunger for silent communion with the Holy Trinity. In nomine. . .