On the Holy Family
Saint Joseph has long been mysterious to me since he has absolutely no dialogue in the New Testament. However, due to recently becoming a father myself, I feel that some of the mysteriousness surrounding this great saint has been lifted for me. Though he has no lines of dialogue, the figure of Joseph looms large over the whole of the infancy narratives in the Gospel.
When Caesar Augustus decreed that all peoples of the empire must be registered, this forced everyone, young and old, rich and poor, to travel back to their town of origin for registration. One can imagine the stress that Joseph must have felt. As if having a very-pregnant wife wasn't stressful enough, now government bureaucrats were forcing him to make the long trip from Nazareth down to Bethlehem! He most likely was concerned that the trip could prove detrimental to the health of Mary or the baby in her womb. Yet, through all of this, we see Joseph and Mary exemplifying perseverance and faith- a humble trust in God's providential leading of them through all of life's hassles. Through faith, surely they came to realize the opportunities God was about to set out for them (indeed, the prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem wouldn't have been fulfilled were it not for this bureaucratic hurdle). They needed only to cooperate.
My own recent experiences of fatherhood helped me to better appreciate Joseph's calm navigation of these hurdles. As a foreigner in Japan, our child needed to be registered not only at the local city office and Tokyo Immigration, but he had to appear personally at the US Embassy! That's a lot of responsibility for a little baby (and a lot of headaches for mom and dad). There were many times that the bureaucratic requirements of various documents and forms, coupled with the needs of a newborn, seemed overwhelming. And it was in this context that I began to see glimmers of how Joseph must have felt during all the hassles the Holy Family faced: Cancelling their planned delivery in Nazareth, packing for the long journey to Bethlehem, riding there on pack animals, procuring enough food for the trip, etc. Following the Holy Family's lead, I also decided to try to not waste any time worrying about how our son's residency application would go, or if our infant would be alright through this process. I can't say I was perfectly successful but throwing myself upon God's providential leading and cooperating as best I could certainly helped to reduce my worries.
This Christmastide season, let us remember that even when abrupt changes in life's plans spring up, through faith we can trust that this was God's will, and those plans probably pale in comparison to whatever it is that God is about to set out for us. We need only to cooperate!
by Ryan Hicks