Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Diocesan Day of Stewardship

March 19, 2022
St. Michael Catholic Church
Bedford, Texas

2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a,16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

In Sacred Scripture, we see several instances where God chooses to reveal Himself and His plan for salvation through the dreams of human beings as visions of light amidst the cloudy darkness of the night: Joseph and his coat of many colors, the call of Samuel, the prophet Daniel, and in our Gospel today, Saint Joseph the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster father of Jesus.

It is the dream of Saint Joseph, a son of Abraham, and as a man of faith that presents him to us as an example of what we heard about in the second reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans, that is, the man of “righteousness that comes from faith so that it may be a gift” which enables Joseph to “hope against hope” amidst fears that God keeps His promise.  Saint Joseph exemplifies discipleship and stewardship that there is a difference between a dream and a fantasy. Dreams are anchored in our experience of reality in the present moment of daily life, but they are found deep in the human subconscious. Dreams are unclear but meaningful; a meaning that requires discernment and a listening heart born of prayer. Dreams require interpretation for understanding what is true about them amidst their obscurity. Dreams, when brought to prayer and discernment, can enable us to envision the future through our desire to know and to love something lasting that is beyond our immediate pleasure or satisfaction. Authentic dreams gradually take shape and develop our lives through our decisive actions in response to the eternal call and promptings of the Holy Spirit.

Fantasy is not based in our experience of reality. Fantasy restricts us from growing and developing as human beings. Fantasy leads us to see the world unrealistically only through the prism of our passions and compulsions. Fantasy numbs us to the sensitivity required for the compassion and empathy needed to flourish as human beings in family life and society. Dreams can reveal a purpose. Fantasies are conjured. The Lord chooses at times to invite us to follow Him to do His will in our dreams; He never speaks to us through our fantasies.

The description of Saint Joseph offered by Saint Matthew in today’s Gospel underscores the relevance of the distinction between dream and fantasy for the purpose of vocational discernment and formation as stewards. Saint Matthew’s Gospel reveals that Saint Joseph was a righteous man. This means that Saint Joseph was a man with a moral character shaped not simply by the natural virtue of justice as understood by human reason and developed by the effort of human action. Rather, to say that Saint Joseph was righteous means first to say that he was a man who listened, believed, and lived by the Covenant between God and Israel as present in the Law and as given by the Lord to Moses. He did not live simply by private religious experience or entrepreneurial initiative but by faith.

As Pope Francis observed as he began his ministry as the Pope nine years ago today, “Saint Joseph, by being constantly attentive to God, was open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own. This is what God asked of David, as we heard in the first reading. God does not want a house built by human beings, but faithfulness to His word, to His plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Saint Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping.” 

This righteousness of Saint Joseph was what formed his imagination through his faithful worship of God, his study of the Law, and his keeping of the Ten Commandments as the Covenant, confident that God would not tolerate the oppression of His People and that God would intervene victoriously on their behalf delivering them from evil. This well-formed imagination was the necessary condition and the fruit of grace that enabled Saint Joseph to hear the call of God to recognize and to accept humbly his part in God’s plan of salvation as delivered by the angel of the Lord amidst the cloudiness of a dream. The silence of Saint Joseph represents his attentiveness for hearing the call of God.

The benefit of attending to a dream, rather than becoming lost in fantasy, is that a dream can lead to aspiration, to the desire and necessary action to realize the dream. Aspiration without action is merely a wish. Aspiration and a pattern of intelligent action leads to the virtue of magnanimity, the virtue of stewardship. Righteous Saint Joseph is the exemplar of this virtue, as he is a steward of the dream of redemption on God’s terms and not his own. Saint Joseph sets a good example for us and intercedes that we might do as he does as the Lord asks us to do it.

Our vocation to evangelize the world as stewards of redemption requires us to allow God to inform our own imaginations and those of our families with the righteousness offered by Him to us fully in Christ. We cannot do this through private revelation or Scripture alone. We can only do this as faithful members belonging to His one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic Church. We do this only first through prayer that is attentive in silent adoration of God in His Sacred Word and in His real and sacramental presence in the Church. Secondly, filled with gratitude, we practice natural and right reason with the faith of the Gospel as revealed to us in Scripture and the authentic Tradition for a moral life lived well in care for our neighbor as members of His Church. Thirdly, we respond to this call through loving service to the poor and weakest among us, including the unborn, the homeless, the imprisoned, the elderly, the terminally ill, the mentally debilitated, and the immigrant and refugee. Finally, and most importantly, we accomplish this in our attentive participation in the worship of God as the Church through the celebration and sacrifice of the Eucharist from which we are sent into the world for its salvation.

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