St. Joseph: An accepting father
Continuing with his Apostolic Letter on St. Joseph, Pope Francis shows how the patriarch loved Mary, Jesus, and each one of us with an unconditional acceptance, even when he didn’t understand God’s plans:
“Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words. ‘The nobility of Joseph’s heart is such that what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity. Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the bigger picture, he makes a decision to protect Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life. In his hesitation about how best to act, God helped him by enlightening his judgment.’
Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.
The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning. We can almost hear an echo of the impassioned reply of Job to his wife, who had urged him to rebel against the evil he endured: ‘Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?’ (Job 2:10)… Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.
Jesus’ appearance in our midst is a gift from the Father, which makes it possible for each of us to be reconciled to the flesh of our own history, even when we fail to understand it completely.
Just as God told Joseph: ‘Son of David, do not be afraid!’ (Matthew 1:20), so he seems to tell us: ‘Do not be afraid!’ We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. In this way, we become open to a deeper meaning. Our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground. Even if our heart condemns us, ‘God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything’ (1 John 3:20).
Here, once again, we encounter that Christian realism which rejects nothing that exists… Thus, the Apostle Paul can say: ‘We know that all things work together for good, for those who love God’ (Romans 8:28)… In this greater perspective, faith gives meaning to every event, however happy or sad.
Nor should we ever think that believing means finding facile and comforting solutions. The faith Christ taught us is what we see in St. Joseph. He did not look for shortcuts, but confronted reality with open eyes and accepted personal responsibility for it.
Joseph’s attitude encourages us to accept and welcome others as they are, without exception, and to show special concern for the weak, for God chooses what is weak (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27). He is the ‘Father of orphans and protector of widows’ (Psalm 68:6), who commands us to love the stranger in our midst. I like to think that it was from St. Joseph that Jesus drew inspiration for the parable of the prodigal son and the merciful father (cf. Luke 15:11-32).
Yours In Christ,
Fr. John Waiss
 Cf. Deut 10:19; Ex 22:20-22; Lk 10:29-37.