View all Novenas | March 13, 2021
Journey With a Father’s Heart – Day 4
Day 4 – An Obedient Father
Excerpt from Patris Corde
As he had done with Mary, God revealed his saving plan to Joseph. He did so by using dreams, which in the Bible and among all ancient peoples, were considered a way for him to make his will known.
Joseph was deeply troubled by Mary’s mysterious pregnancy. He did not want to “expose her to public disgrace”, so he decided to “dismiss her quietly” (Mt 1:19).
In the first dream, an angel helps him resolve his grave dilemma: “Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:20-21). Joseph’s response was immediate: “When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him” (Mt 1:24). Obedience made it possible for him to surmount his difficulties and spare Mary.
In the second dream, the angel tells Joseph: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him” (Mt 2:13). Joseph did not hesitate to obey, regardless of the hardship involved: “He got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod” (Mt 2:14-15).
In Egypt, Joseph awaited with patient trust the angel’s notice that he could safely return home. In a third dream, the angel told him that those who sought to kill the child were dead and ordered him to rise, take the child and his mother, and return to the land of Israel (cf. Mt 2:19-20). Once again, Joseph promptly obeyed. “He got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:21).
During the return journey, “when Joseph heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. After being warned in a dream” – now for the fourth time – “he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth” (Mt 2:22-23).
The evangelist Luke, for his part, tells us that Joseph undertook the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be registered in his family’s town of origin in the census of the Emperor Caesar Augustus. There Jesus was born (cf. Lk 2:7) and his birth, like that of every other child, was recorded in the registry of the Empire. Saint Luke is especially concerned to tell us that Jesus’ parents observed all the prescriptions of the Law: the rites of the circumcision of Jesus, the purification of Mary after childbirth, the offering of the firstborn to God (cf. 2:21-24).
In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
“As he had done with Mary, God revealed his saving plan to Joseph.”
“Good for Joseph,” we might be thinking, “if God were to reveal his plan to me in dreams it would be so much easier.” As the saying goes, the grass is always greener on the other side. There will always be excuses to doubt that God really, truly speaks to us—even if he were to do so in ways as “obvious” as a dream. Not even a dream, or even a vision, is exempt from a certain level of doubt.
Despite the challenges involved in discerning God’s voice, of one thing we can be certain: God truly does speak. He is not out to trip us up or hide his will so cunningly as to make it indecipherable. But because he respects our freedom to choose to seek and adhere to his Word in our lives, he does not proclaim his will from flashing billboards. He invites us to demonstrate our desire to follow him by carefully opening our ears to the soft, gentle whisper of his voice.
As he was with Joseph, God is faithful to those who desire to seek his will. He will always give us sufficient light to take the next step. Sometimes, our inability to hear his voice can be due to our insistence on “dictating the terms” to God. We think we know the best way for God to speak to us or the amount of clarity that we ought to receive. And at times, we can be so intent on trying to see what we want to see, that we fail to see the delicate signs of God’s presence already manifest. God is much more concerned about having a living relationship with us than about dictating his will to us as a set of numbered instructions. He will often give us enough light to take only the next step – not more, not less – so that we might be reminded that it is only in relationship with him, founded on trust, that we will be able to continue on our journey, step by step, with him.
Questions for Reflection
- Could I possibly have a pre-established idea of how God should speak to me? Take a moment to step beyond that and reflect on the ways that he actually DOES speak to you, here and now, in the flesh-and-bones circumstances of your life. Are you aware of his voice present in others, in nature, in music, in Scripture? Through your emotions, your thoughts, your longings? Even through your intuitions? Where is God in all of this?
- Do I, like Saint Joseph and the Blessed Virgin, strive to declare my “fiat” before the simplest manifestations of God’s presence in my life? Or do I sometimes find myself waiting for more momentous manifestations to offer that unconditional fiat, unaware that to he who is faithful with a what is little, more will be entrusted?
- Take a moment to become aware of one way in which God has been placing a desire or invitation in your heart of late. Perhaps you haven’t had time to become fully aware of it up until now, or perhaps you have been finding excuses to put it off, waiting for a fuller clarity to arise. Remember that God often allows us to see only the next step, and the following step further down the road may only become clear once we have taken the first. Perhaps now is a good moment to make a decision to act on that small part of the picture that you do see clearly, even if that only means taking one tiny baby step. You may be surprised where just one step can lead!
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy, and courage,
and defend us from every evil. Amen.