A popular question to ask a child is, “What are you going to be when you grow up?” Most children give a response. They have an image, an idea, a dream of what the future might hold for them.
St. Joseph had his future planned. He was a carpenter with a good financial income. No doubt that negotiations had taken place for him to take Mary as his wife. As was the custom, Mary was considerably younger so that she would have the strength to help Joseph and to give him a lot of children. They might never have met, certainly not alone. But they knew of each other. Marriages were arranged between the parents, elders, the matchmaker. When all agreed, the engagement was announced. A canopy was prepared, and the couple stood before a rabbi to pledge their lives to each other in the presence of God. The marriage covenant resembled the Covenant of God with His people. The groom smashed a glass, symbolic of her gift of virginity to him. And then the party would begin, usually lasting several days. Indeed, the celebration of a marriage was a family affair—a time for the whole community to have fun. There was no such thing as a private wedding! Everything was planned for Joseph and Mary: rabbi, canopy, party. But all of a sudden Mary sent word to Joseph that she was pregnant. The news destroyed all the plans that Joseph had. He knew the law. Mary was to be put death. However, Joseph was kind. He decided just to call off the wedding and to allow her to live. Such was his intention. But God had other plans.
God’s plans are usually different from ours. The news of an unplanned pregnancy is not always welcomed. However, consider what happened to Joseph and Mary. Their lives changed for the better. We acknowledge them as saints who trusted in God. They were the agents through which salvation came into the world. Their lives were interrupted but the result was life-giving grace. Although Joseph and Mary might have experienced bad times, trials, rejection—they never changed their “Yes” to God. There was no internet, yet the gossip connection was intact. Word spread and everyone knew that Mary’s son was conceived before she was married. As an adult Jesus tolerated the pointing of the fingers and the whispers and the rude remarks. Lowering our prejudice is not easy. We have high expectations, especially of our family. If they do not live up to our expectations, we tend to distance ourselves. The birth of Jesus came as a surprise to His family. God set the tone from the beginning—Jesus did not come to meet our expectations.
We continue to expect God to do what we want. Devices give us the illusion that we are in control. While God continues to surprise us. If we trust like Joseph and Mary the surprises will bring happiness, even when they appear to be negative. If we desire only to control, we will be disappointed. True love is best shown when we can respect others, when we can see the beauty of diversity, if we can trust the unexpected. God is never far away. He is in the middle of the surprises. Reflect on all the interruptions of the past—some good—some not so good. Yet, when we trusted, everything helped us to grow closer to God. There is no GPS to find our way to happiness. However, we have the promise of Christ. We have His presence in the Eucharist. We trip, we fall, but we get up and start again. Our greatest obstacle is when we doubt our goodness. God calls us. God loves us for who we are, despite our faults. He chooses in the same way that He chose Joseph and Mary. We are now part of the plan—wrapped up in the mystery of the Incarnation. The story continues. God is looking for souls who are willing to trust—willing to believe in their goodness. There are no perfect people. We are being perfected, even when we sin.
The angels bring the message. “Do not be afraid. Do not doubt. God is calling us to give Him flesh and bone—to love each other as we are loved.”