THIS is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly. Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
Joseph did not harbor ill-thoughts or suspicions about the fidelity of Mary. He was perplexed and could not fully comprehend that Mary “was found with child through the holy Spirit” (Mt 1:18). He did not want to expose Mary to the prescribed Law of Moses that states, “If a man commits adultery with his neighbor’s wife, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death” (Lv 20:10). Joseph thus found himself in a delicate situation: if he brought Mary to a public trial in order to vindicate herself, Mary would surely escape the prescribed death by stoning but she would suffer a lifetime of public gossip and bickering. It was a dilemma for him, being “a righteous man” (Mt 1:19). Joseph should follow the Law of Moses on adultery, but he was mindful of and concerned about the welfare of Mary. He cared so much for her and the child in her womb. Thus Joseph opted for mercy and compassion, and decided to divorce her “quietly” (Mt 1:19), that is, he would not bring this matter before the elders for judgment. Just like Joseph, let us
remember to decide always for what is right, and do what is merciful and moral.
When an angel explained to him in a dream that it was “through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived” (Mt 1:20), Joseph consented. He trusted and cooperated with God’s redemptive plan. To trust God is to surrender everything, even our future and family. To trust God is to renounce what we are and who we are for God. Emptying himself of everything, Joseph conformed himself to God. Joseph did not speak, yet he quietly lived and loved Mary and Jesus deeply and very dearly.
Joseph must have had his own plans. Yes, he had specific plans for Mary and his prospective family. But when God revealed his plan, Joseph abandoned his personal plans and accepted what God wanted.
When God made known to him his divine plan for Mary, Joseph surrendered himself to God and cooperated with Mary for the fulfillment of God’s plan. And with his self-surrender to God, Joseph was called “righteous” (Mt 1:19). Joseph was not only righteous; he fully consecrated himself to God.
We all have plans. We set goals to achieve. We envision projects to accomplish. But remember, God also has plans for us, and they can be better than our plans. For his plan to work in us, we have to empty ourselves for God. We have to surrender everything to God. When we submit ourselves to God’s plan, it is only then that we can unconditionally work for him. When we lose ourselves to God, we can truly live for him.
Renouncing everything–and even loved ones–for God is our consecration to God. Our self-denial of material comfort and security is to live the way of Jesus. To remain only for Jesus, always for Jesus, without any attachment to cravings of the flesh or to worldly allurements is to consecrate ourselves completely to him.
Let us now conclude our reflection with this prayer:
Almighty God, merciful Father, help me learn the examples of St. Joseph and grant me the grace to apply them in my life.
Don’t let emotions take control of me but let me always turn to you and trust in you.
Don’t let biases and prejudices paralyze my decisions but let me always fulfill your divine will.
Don’t let externals sidetrack my actions but let me always follow your commandments.
And like St. Joseph, guide me to live my life quietly and perform my duties righteously. Amen.
– Ruperto C. Santos, DD, Bishop of Balanga
– (Dec. 18, 2016)