View all Novenas | March 15, 2021
Journey With a Father’s Heart – Day 6
Day 6 – A Creatively Courageous Father
Excerpt from Patris Corde
If the first stage of all true interior healing is to accept our personal history and embrace even the things in life that we did not choose, we must now add another important element: creative courage. This emerges especially in the way we deal with difficulties. In the face of difficulty, we can either give up and walk away, or somehow engage with it. At times, difficulties bring out resources we did not even think we had.
As we read the infancy narratives, we may often wonder why God did not act in a more direct and clear way. Yet God acts through events and people. Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage. Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in a dream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14).
A superficial reading of these stories can often give the impression that the world is at the mercy of the strong and mighty, but the “good news” of the Gospel consists in showing that, for all the arrogance and violence of worldly powers, God always finds a way to carry out his saving plan. So too, our lives may at times seem to be at the mercy of the powerful, but the Gospel shows us what counts. God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.
If at times God seems not to help us, surely this does not mean that we have been abandoned, but instead are being trusted to plan, to be creative, and to find solutions ourselves.
That kind of creative courage was shown by the friends of the paralytic, who lowered him from the roof in order to bring him to Jesus (cf. Lk 5:17-26). Difficulties did not stand in the way of those friends’ boldness and persistence. They were convinced that Jesus could heal the man, and “finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the middle of the crowd in front of Jesus. When he saw their faith, he said, ‘Friend, your sins are forgiven you” (Vv. 19-20). Jesus recognized the creative faith with which they sought to bring their sick friend to him.
What would have been going through Saint Joseph’s mind when he was turned away once and again from each of Bethlehem’s inns? One can suppose that his imagination jumped to the worst possible of scenarios: how could he possibly bear the thought of his wife giving birth in a dirty alley, of God’s son being born in such wretchedness? Weighed down by worry for his wife, whose condition seemed to become more urgent with each door that was closed before them, his heart must have silently cried out to the Lord, looking for one gesture of mercy, one possible answer to his ever-more-desperate situation.
His cry was heard. A gruff innkeeper, certainly overworked and only too eager to send Mary and Joseph on their way so that he could find some much needed rest for the night, could not bring himself to turn a blind eye to the desperation in their eyes as they turned away into the night. God moved his heart to stretch beyond the comfort of what was strictly his duty to offer the little he had to this young, struggling couple. It would certainly have been easy to justify leaving the problem for someone else to solve, yet he felt called to engage, rather than walk away. Perhaps his small gesture of kindness gave Joseph the strength to trust in God’s providence and continue on.
Once at the stable, Joseph could easily have succumbed to despair as he contemplated the stable’s obvious inadequacy for such an event as the birth of the promised Messiah. He could have blamed himself, blamed the emperor, blamed the long line of uncooperative innkeepers. Yet, his heart did not harbor blame or retreat to take shelter in anger and resentment. With the creative love of a spouse and father, he set about making this meager lodging as welcoming and worthy as at all possible.
Contemplate this scene for a moment. Imagine Saint Joseph as he first sets eyes on the cave, exhausted by the insufficiency of it all. Imagine him as his eyes come alive as he begins to contrive ways to make it a suitable place for Mary and her child.
The Christ Child did not desire soft cushions and luxurious linens for a bed. He did not aspire to make his abode amid the halls of a great palace. The humble, loving hearts of a carpenter and his virgin wife were all the welcome he desired. So too, he invites us to place the meager “stables” of our limited talents at the service of situations and needs requiring far more than what we can offer. He does not ask us to offer him a palace. He only invites us to lend him the little we have and to make ready our hearts to receive him in the person of the needy around us.
Questions for Reflection
- How often does the Christ Child knock on my own door in the guise of a needy brother or sister? When presented with a difficulty or need, is my first reaction to engage or to turn away? What might it look like, in my own life, when I find myself with nothing but a meager stable to offer in the face of a situation of acute need? How might I, too, be offered the opportunity to turn a paltry cave into a cozy lodging for the king of kings?
- Pope Francis reflects that Joseph was, so to speak, the “miracle” by which God cared for Mary and Jesus in their moment in need. Do I realize that in my life, too, God might wish to respond to a difficult situation currently confronting me or someone close to me by inviting me to respond with creative courage? Am I prepared to lend my gifts and talents to be instruments of his action in this world, aware that though I am certainly unable to solve all of the world’s problems, my small “cave” is all God asks for in order to be able to work through me? Am I willing to set about transforming the foul-smelling stables in my life into a place for God to dwell?
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.