Thursday, December 29, 2016

Being Like Joseph

By Colleen O’Sullivan

My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives.  Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins - a house raised in justice to you.  (Sirach 3:12-14)

When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, "Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you.  Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him."  Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.  He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son.  (Matthew 2:13-15)

Lord, help me to be like your servant Joseph, always looking out for the needs of the most vulnerable among us.

Once, on a retreat, we were each invited to draw the river of our life.  Where is your river's source?  Where is your river headed?  What / who are the tributaries flowing into your river?  Does your river flow smoothly or are there rocks and rapids at some points?  It was a thought-provoking exercise.  One day, I began to ponder the river of Jesus' life on earth.  I realized before long, that were I to draw that river, I would have clouds hanging over it from the moment the angels announced the birth of the Savior. 

Joseph, too, must have felt the clouds gathering and realized that the angels' announcement of glad tidings, the shepherds' adoration, and the magi's visits were all bringing a dangerous amount of attention to Mary's little babe.  The angel's message in his dream probably confirmed what this loving foster father already suspected:  He needed to move his family to keep the infant safe. 

Joseph willingly left his work, his extended family and friends to move to a safer place, although it meant becoming a refugee in a foreign country.  He did what he knew was right.  He followed the angel of the Lord's instructions. So many times in the Hebrew Bible, the prophets spoke of seeing to the needs of the poor, the lonely, the helpless.  And there is nothing as helpless as a newborn.

In terms of belief and behavior, Joseph is a model for us to follow.  He shows great care and respect for life.  He may not be Jesus' biological father, but he loved Mary and Jesus and he gave up everything to lead them to a safe refuge. 

Our first Scripture reading today is also about caring for the helpless, albeit it at the opposite end of the spectrum of human life.  Helpless babies are cute and naturally, draw admirers, but when we grow old and are physically and/or mentally helpless, we are not so revered by much of society.   We live in a throw-away world and, having cared for my father over the last few years of his life, I would have to say there are many who regard elderly people with failing health and dementia as trash they wish they could discard.

Just as God asked Joseph to care for his Son and to keep him from harm, God asks us to wrap the vulnerable of any age in our love and concern and compassionate care.  After all, Christmas is about God sending his Son into the world to save us from the helplessness of our sin and suffering.  Reach out and do something to help someone who can't take care of themselves this week.

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