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  • Sarah Raad

Fear

If only I had the wisdom to listen to the Will of God, how HOLY I could be!

Saint Joseph's Fatherhood

Last Friday (19th March 2021), during Mass on Saint Joseph’s feast day, I heard a beautiful homily. Offering that Mass and that day for the intentions of all of you who pray with me, and for the salvation of souls, the homily struck me as particularly beautiful.


I could go so far as to suggest that what I heard that day was perhaps the most beautiful thing I have ever heard in all my life!


Within his homily that beautiful priest referred to Pope Francis’ apostolic letter, “Patris Corde”, which discusses Saint Joseph in his jubilee year. When I spoke with this priest afterward, he encouraged me to read this letter. How glad I am to have done so!


The insights that I gained brought tears to my eyes. Surely the Holy Spirit is at work in this!


Perhaps the most beautiful insight I have gleaned on reflecting upon this wonderfully inconspicuous saint, is about his FEAR.


Though we are rarely told about Saint Joseph in the Gospels, his influence in the life of Christ – and Christ’s influence in his life – must have been magnificent!


Our introduction to Saint Joseph is simple. We are told… “Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19).


Saint Joseph was righteous. A man who was barely noticed. A worker who did what needed to be done. A GOOD man, a JUST man, a HOLY man – a RIGHTEOUS man.


Upon hearing of the conception of the Messiah, did Saint Joseph wish to reject Our Blessed Mother? Was he angry with her? Did he accuse her?


NO!


Saint Joseph did not wish to “divorce her quietly” (Matthew 1:19) because of anger.


In fact, Biblical scholars suggest that Saint Joseph wished to “divorce her quietly” out of FEAR!


But fear of what?


After all, Our Lady was a young girl, and if there was anybody who had cause to fear it was surely HER, not Saint Joseph. After all, the penalty for adultery – which is the crime that Our Lady would have been publicly accused of had Saint Joseph publicly condemned her – was death by stoning. In accepting her role as Mother of God and Mother of His Holy Church, Blessed Mother risked more than just a bit of Gossip. Like all biological mothers, Our Blessed – though a SPIRITUAL Mother to us and not a physical one – risked death to fulfil her role.

No. Saint Joseph was NOT afraid of his betrothed. He was not afraid of the gossip, which would surely have been in his favour and vilified Our Blessed Mother instead... Saint Joseph was AFRAID OF GOD!

And what is this fear? It is a GIFT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT! It is “fear of the Lord”.


These days, in our world – where we so often seek comfort at the expense of dignity, duty, loyalty and love – the idea of having FEAR of the Lord is almost shocking as it is so unfamiliar to us.


And yet, this FEAR is a GOOD thing.


There are very few times when Christ – God Himself – was angry during His Earthly life. But Christ – who is without sin – did get angry at times.


The most important thing to remember about anger is that it – like any other emotion – is NOT a sin. Righteous anger – anger about things that we should be angry can in fact help us to grow in virtue. For example, being angry about an injustice can help us to develop the virtue of fortitude as it can be the catalyst that INSPIRES us to act more justly.


And Christ’s anger was ALWAYS RIGHTEOUS!


One of the most obvious and startling examples of Christ’s righteous anger is when He cleared the Temple…


“In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So, He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, ‘Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!’” (John 2:14-16).


Just imagine that scene. How terrifying! The normally easy-going Christ, who was so gentle and loving, used whips to throw people out of His Father’s House! He threw their things around and kicked them out!


Saint Joseph’s FEAR of the Lord is his fear of God’s RIGHTEOUS ANGER. He was afraid of offending GOD!


Saint Joseph did well to fear the Lord. If only I feared Him more! Fear of the Lord is RESPECT for Him!


So, when Saint Joseph heard that His betrothed had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, he did not intend to “divorce her quietly” out of anger, He intended to divorce her out of RESPECT for God.


Saint Joseph was a HUMBLE man.


Knowing that his betrothed was carrying the Messiah within her womb, Saint Joseph sensed the presence of the DIVINE and sought to evade this presence. Saint Joseph saw in himself an unworthiness to be the Father of the Son of God… and so, he bowed-out so to speak, he backed away…


Upon reflection I imagine that Saint Joseph’s thoughts must have been… “Surely not me Lord. Surely you do not intend this task for me. I am only a carpenter. I know not how to speak to kings. I know not how to protect this child and His mother. How could I possibly be enough to please you Lord? I am weak. I am sinful. How could I do it? How could you ask this of me? How?”


And on such thoughts as those, Saint Joseph SLEPT.


He HUMBLY drew Himself AWAY from God and he went to sleep.


And guess what? Guess what God’s first words to Saint Joseph were after this initial drawing away?

“Joseph, son of David, DO NOT BE AFRAID.” (Matthew 1:20). That is right! The first words of God to this RIGHTEOUS man, who had humbly withdrawn, were to DRAW HIM IN!

It makes me cry to think of it.


Knowing all of what and who he was, God called Saint Joseph BACK! He calls me back too, and He calls you also!


Every single time I think, “I cannot. Surely not me. I am not equipped for this. How can you ask it of me God, I am so weak, I am so sinful, I am unable? How?”


Every. Single. Time.


God sends my guardian angel remind me… “…DO NOT BE AFRAID”.


He sends yours to you also…


If only I had the wisdom to listen… How Holy I could be!


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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