December 18, 2022
The simple words of the Gospel hide the extreme suffering of St. Joseph when his betrothed is with child. What was that trial like? What can it teach couples, and all of us?
- Some marriage problems are caused by circumstances permitted by God.
- Maria Valtorta’s writings help us sense what this trial was like for St. Joseph and our Blessed Mother.
- This was the Passion, the great suffering, of St. Joseph.
- This was a terrible struggle against suspicion, doubt and despair.
This is a computer-generated transcription that has been included to make the homily searchable. It has not been verified by the author.
One thing I just noticed in reading this gospel was that it says, “They were betrothed, but before they lived together,” and how different that order is, from so many couples today, who live together, and then perhaps contemplate marriage. And so just that simple example is a big lesson. Joseph being a just man, and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. These are very simple words, but they hide an intense suffering, even in the Holy Family, and it’s a suffering that doesn’t come from either one of them’s fault. And we know that there’s a lot of opportunities for problems in marriages, in families, in friendships, a lot of opportunity for misunderstandings, sometimes suspicions. And sometimes there are factors beyond the control of either of them, which is the case here. It’s a circumstance beyond their control of either one of them. And, in fact, it’s God Himself, who in this case, is the cause of this misunderstanding, of this terrible suffering and that’s also helpful to understand. I hear in a lot of couples, sometimes they feel their own guilt, sometimes, more often they feel that the other person is doing wrong. But there’s also a lot of other circumstances, which might not be caused by either one of them, which can be contributing to the problem. And then of course, satan is always eager, always attentive to try to use whatever opportunities he has to separate, to cause divisions. So, this is an important gospel to consider. What was that like for our Blessed Mother? And what was that like for Joseph? For her, she has a secret that only God can reveal. She can’t explain it herself. And even if she tried who would believe her, because it’s something that has never happened, in fact, that would have seemed unthinkable for most Jews. And it has potentially fatal consequences for her, that the punishment for adultery was stoning. And so, she has to have extreme trust in God. And like we were talking about last week; she has to wait on the Lord. And Joseph also is faced with a terrible dilemma. And the gospel doesn’t give many details. And that’s probably part of the discretion of Joseph himself. But what was this like for Joseph? And I wanted to share with you a meditation from Maria Valtorta. We’ve often used the meditations, from this mystic. So, the situation is that the situation of this passage I’ll read to you, is that Mary went down to help her cousin Elizabeth, and Zachariah. And then when John the Baptist was born, she was with them when they came to Jerusalem for the presentation, of the right of presentation of John the Baptist. He wasn’t a known as John the Baptist, little John. And so, Joseph comes down from Nazareth at that point, to meet Mary and to take her back to Nazareth. And so, he hasn’t seen her in a number of months, and at this point, it becomes apparent that she is pregnant. And so, I’ll read you that passage, and feel free if it’s helpful for you to close your eyes as I read this. “My Joseph suffered his own passion, passion in the sense of suffering a cross. It began in Jerusalem when he noticed my condition. It lasted three days, exactly as it had happened to Jesus and to me, nor was it less painful for his soul. It’s only because of the holiness of my just spouse it was contained in such a dignified and secret form, that it’s hardly been noticed throughout the centuries. Our first passion. Who can feel it’s intimate and silent intensity? Who can describe my pain when I realized that heaven had not yet heard my prayer, by revealing the mystery to Joseph.” So, she’s carrying a secret from the Lord, and she realizes that the Lord hasn’t revealed the secret yet. “I understood that he was not aware of it, when I saw that he was respectful to me as usual. If he had known that I bore in me the word of God, he would have adored that word and closed my wound with the acts of veneration, which I do to God, and which he would not have failed to accomplish, as I would not have refused to receive, not for my own sake, but for Him who was within me, and that I bore. Who can measure my struggle, against the dismay that endeavored to overwhelm me, in order to convince me that I had hoped in vain in the Lord. The temptation to believe that I had hoped in vain in the Lord. I think it was the furious rage of satan, I perceived doubt, rising behind my back, and stretching its icy claws to imprison my soul, and prevent it from praying. Doubt is so dangerous, and lethal to the Spirit. It is lethal because it is the first agent of the deadly disease called despair, against which we must react with all our strength, so that our souls may not perish, and we may not lose God.” So that’s a big temptation today to doubt and despair. “Who can truly tell Joseph’s pain, his thoughts, that perturbation of his feelings, like a little boat caught in a great storm. He was in a vortex of conflicting ideas, and a turmoil of reflections, of which one was more piercing and painful than the other. He was to all appearances, a man betrayed by his wife, he saw his good reputation and the esteem of his world collapse around him, because of her, he saw scornful fingers, pointed at him, and felt pitied by the village people. Above all, he perceived that his love and esteem for me had fallen, struck to death, before the evidence of a deed. In this respect, his holiness shines brighter than mine. And I give this witness with the affection of a spouse, because I want you to love my Joseph, this wise, prudent patient and good man who has not separated from the mystery of redemption. On the contrary, he is closely connected to it, because he suffered for it, consuming himself and sorrow for it, saving your savior, at the cost of his own sacrifice, because if his holiness had he not been so holy, he would have acted in a human way.” And acting in a human way, which is always our tendency is very dangerous, when we’re dealing with Divine mysteries. The more we draw close to Divine mysteries and there’s Divine mysteries, all throughout our world, our life, and the more we’re close to Divine mystery, the more human ways are completely inadequate. “If he had acted in a human way, denouncing me as an adulterous so that I should have been stoned, and the Son of Man should perish with me. If he had been less holy, God would not have granted him his light as a guidance in his trial. But Joseph was holy, his pure spirit lived in God, his charity was ardent and strong, and out of charity, he saved your Savior for you, both when he refrained from accusing me to the elders, and when he saved Jesus in Egypt, leaving everything with proper obedience.” Joseph and his family were saved because of his obedience. “the three days of Joseph’s passion, were short in number, but deep in intensity. And they were tremendous also for me, those days of my first passion, because I was aware of his suffering, which I could not alleviate. In fact, I had to obey God’s command who said to me, be silent. And after we arrived in Nazareth, I saw him go away with a brief goodbye and bent as if he had aged in a short time. And I noticed that he no longer came to see me in the evening, as he used to do. Then I tell you, My children that my heart wept, very bitterly, closed in my house, all alone, and the house where everything reminded me of the Annunciation, and the Incarnation, and where everything reminded me of Joseph, married to me with spotless virginity. I had to fight despair and satan’s insinuation and hope, hope, hope and pray, pray, pray, and forgive, forgive. Forgive Joseph’s suspicion, his disturbance, and just despair. My children you must hope, pray, forgive, in order to obtain God’s intervention in your favor. You must live your passion. I can teach you how to overcome them and turn them into joy. Hope beyond measure, pray with confidence. Forgive to be forgiven. God’s forgiveness will be the peace you desire my children.” And then I’ll skip to the next part, which is when Joseph asked for forgiveness, after he’s had the revelation of an of an angel. “I see the little orchard in Nazareth. Mary is spinning thread in the shade of a very thick apple tree, overloaded with apples, which are beginning to redden. But Mary is not rosy at all. The beautiful color that brightened her cheeks has disappeared. Her face is pale as ivy, under her lowered eyelashes. There are two dark shadows, and her eyes are swollen, as if she had cried. Her head is bowed, intent on her work. And even more on a thought which is obviously distressing her. She jolts at a loud firm knock at the door. She lays the staff and spindle down and rises to go and open. Joseph is standing in front of her. Mary turns pale. She looks at Joseph with sad and crying eyes. He looks at her with imploring ones. They are both silent, looking at each other. Then Mary says, ‘At this time, Joseph, is there anything you need? What do you want to tell me? Come in.’ Joseph enters and closes the door. He is still silent. Speak Joseph. What is it you want from me? I want you to forgive me. Joseph bends down as if he wanted to kneel down. But Mary, who was always so reserved in touching him, seizes him resolutely by his shoulders and stops him. Mary’s face blushes and blanches in rapid succession. One moment it is all red, and immediately afterwards, it is white as snow as it was before. You want me to forgive you? I have nothing to forgive you Joseph. I can but thank you once again for everything you have done here while I was away and for your love for me. Joseph looks at her and I can see two large tears welling up in the cavity of his deep eyes. Then roll down on his cheeks and his beard. Forgive me Mary, I mistrusted you. Now I know. I am not worthy of having such a treasure. I lacked in charity. I accused you in my heart. I accused you unfairly because I did not ask you to tell me the truth. I sinned against God’s law, because I did not love you as I love myself. Oh no Joseph you have not sinned. Yes, I have Mary. If I had been accused of such a crime, I would have defended myself But you I was not giving you the possibility of defending yourself, because I was about to take a decision without questioning you. I have been unfair to you because I’ve offended you with my suspicion. Also, a single suspicion is an offense Mary, who suspects does not know. And I did not know you, as I should have done. But for the torment I suffered three days of torture. Forgive me, Mary. I have nothing for which to forgive you. On the contrary I asked you to forgive me for the pain I caused you. Oh, yes, it was a great pain. What a torture. Look. I was told this morning that my temples are white haired, and my face wrinkled, these past days have been more than 10 years of my life. But why Mary Have you been so humble as to conceal your glory from me, your spouse, and thus allow me to suspect you. Joseph is not on his knees, but he has bent so low that he is as good as kneeling down. And Mary lays her tiny hand on his head and smiles and she whispers. If I had not been humble, in the most perfect manner, I would not have deserved the conceived the expected one who was coming to pay for the sin of pride, that ruined man. And then I obeyed. God had requested such obedience. It cost me so much because of you, because of the pain that you were to suffer. But I could but obey. I am the handmaiden of the Lord. And servants do not discuss the orders they receive. They fulfill them Joseph, even if they cause bitter tears. Mary is, weeping quietly while speaking. Joseph lifts his head, and he presses Mary’s little hands and his dark strong ones. And it kisses the tips of the rosy slender fingers that protrude from the circle formed by his own hands. He says, Now we shall have to arrange for Joseph did not say anything else. But it looks at Mary’s womb. We shall have to make haste. I will come here we will complete the wedding next week. Is that alright? Whatever you do is alright Joseph, you are the head of the family. I am your servant. No, I am your servant. I am the happy servant of my Lord who is growing in your womb. You are blessed amongst all women of Israel. This evening I will alert my relatives. And after when I am here, we will work to prepare everything to receive. Orhhow can I receive God in my house? God in my arms, I will die of joy. I will never dare touch him. I will never be able. You will be able Joseph as I will, by the grace of God. But you are I’m just a poor man, the poorest of God’s children. Joseph, Jesus is coming to us, poor people to make us rich in God. He is coming to us too, because we are the poorest and we admit it. Rejoice, Joseph, the house of David has the king long awaited for and our home will become more splendid than Solomon’s palace, because heaven will be here. And we shall share with God the secret of peace that men will be acquainted with later. He will grow among us. Our arms will be his cradle for the Redeemer. And our work will procure bread for him. Oh Joseph, we shall hear the voice of God calling us father and mother. And Mary is crying with joy with happy tears. And Joseph who is now kneeling at her feet is weeping with his head almost hidden in Mary’s white dress.” There is a lot of lessons in this event. And we can each one ask the Holy Spirit what He wants to teach each one of us lessons of obedience to God of charity, forgiveness, humility, patience, faith which permit God to act in our relationships. So many relationships are disastrous, today. I say, when we act in a human way, the devil is always attentive to try to destroy. And it happens so often. But by the Holy Spirit’s grace, by our cooperation, God can be acting. And this is the great example here. And, and I just want to focus on one other aspect which is especially for our Mass today that we have this hidden mystery here of our Lord present in the Holy Eucharist, revealed to Joseph by the message of an angel that our Lord had become flesh in our Blessed Mother. And here we have our Lord, who will become present in the flesh, but still hidden in the Holy Eucharist. And so, we can ask with St. Joseph and with our Blessed Mother, this grace of faith, to recognize and believe with faith and to adore Him, to adore Him with St. Joseph, to adore Him with our Blessed Mother. Oh, come, let us adore Him.
KEYWORDS / PHRASES:
St. Joseph’s Passion
The Gospel as Revealed to Me
Poem of the Man God