Do You See St. Joseph as Human? – Part 2

by a staff worker

Then one night Joseph had a dream. Suddenly, they were told not to go home.

Already there were designs on the life of this Child. Imagine a murder or kidnap threat to your child. How would you feel?

Joseph was told to arise and go immediately—not home but to Egypt. And in the middle of the night—with no time to plan out the safest way, to collect together all that was needed for this long, perilous, hard journey. All travel was such in those days, and they would be going across a desert.

Moreover, besides the hardships of the journey, after all this time, they must have so much wanted to go home; to get back to a normal life in their own little village amidst familiar surroundings.

There they would be able to sink into the everyday life of the little village, and people would forget the circumstances of the birth. Life could go on quietly and unobtrusively.

But no, they had to travel again—this time to a strange land.

How Joseph must have longed (and needed) to get back to his business as a carpenter! To the old, familiar smell of shavings and sawdust. How Mary must have longed to return, to put the Baby into the little crib Joseph had made for him before they left!

Oh, for the familiar sounds of their own little village! But this was to be denied them for the present.

They were asked to arise and flee into Egypt. To a country they weren’t familiar with. Natural considerations would run something like this, wouldn’t they?

How about Joseph’s tools? Will they be taken care of? He had none to get work with in Egypt! How would he earn a living for Mary and the Baby? How will they live? Where will they live?

Mary and Joseph knew what it was to seek first the kingdom of Heaven and that all else would be added. They lived it before their Son proclaimed it! It is staggering to ponder the significance of their whole response to Joseph’s dream—to God’s will.

But we know that Joseph told Mary about the dream, and together they quickly gathered up what they could and set off into the cold of the night to face the hardships and dangers of desert travel.

It is easy to read about this, set as it is in the beautiful story of the Nativity and forget the grueling ordinariness and the pain of its accomplishment.

But we could lose ourselves in the deep profundity of this meditation. Two simple displaced, hunted people with an Infant slowly traveling across the desert to be refugees in a strange land not knowing what they will encounter. Or when, if ever, they may be able to return home.

Truly all peoples wandering over the face of the earth for whatsoever reasons or from whatever causes, can identify with this sad exodus.

But no place where God is is truly an exile! And they knew that this too was part of God’s plan and that it would unfold in his own time!

In these times, we would do well to let the shining example of Joseph and Mary sit firmly in our hearts. We would do well to ponder the seemingly ridiculous things that were asked of them and their immediate response always to do God’s will.

With the hindsight we have now, we can see how it all fitted into a perfectly logical framework of action that God was bringing about. But they saw only a word or two of the story at a time when salvation history was being spelled out in them.

Pondering all this in our hearts might give us more faith and courage.

Adapted from Restoration, February 1974