Friday, March 11, 2011

The Rosary Mysteries for Lent: The Nativity

I often read Luke's account of the Nativity, but today I decided to read the other account, written by Matthew.  Interestingly, Matthew focuses on St. Joseph's role.  He must have been shocked, hurt and perhaps humiliated when he discovered that his fiancee was pregnant.  Even so, he did not want to report Mary's possible infidelity to the authorities as she would have been put to death.  His plan was to "send her away quietly," no doubt to distant relatives who could shelter her until she gave birth.  Fortunately, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him that the child in Mary's womb was the promised Savior.  St. Joseph, no doubt relieved and probably surprised to discover his new role as foster father of the Redeemer, took Mary into his home as his wife.

I think that a good lesson for Lent in this story is to realize that even St. Joseph jumped to conclusions and made an incorrect assumption.  We often quickly make our own judgments and assume that people are guilty of some sin without knowing all the facts.  We can resolve to leave the judging to the Just Judge and to pray for the person we think might be in trouble.  Of course that doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak up or ask what's going on in a charitable manner.  Instead, we should "remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother's eye." (Matthew 7:5)

Note:  There are two theories about St. Joseph and Matthew's Nativity story.  The more popular theory is the interpretation above, that St. Joseph really thought that Mary was pregnant by another man.  The other theory is that St. Joseph knew that Mary was pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit but felt afraid and unworthy to be the foster father of the Messiah.  You can read an insightful and interesting defense of this theory here.  I'm not sure which theory to believe, but I do know that St. Joseph is a very powerful intercessor.  Many Catholics believe that St. Joseph was sanctified at some point, although he was born with Original Sin like the rest of us.  This makes sense because as the foster father of Jesus, he would have to be obeyed according to the Fourth Commandment.  The question then becomes, if he was sanctified, then when?  Perhaps it occurred when the angel appeared to him in the dream.  Lots of food for thought!

It's no coincidence that St. Joseph is the topic of my post today.  Interestingly, yesterday another blogger (John-Paul, what a great name!) sent me an email and asked me to post a link to a novena to St. Joseph.  The novena begins today (his feast day is March 19th, one of the few feasts the Church celebrates during Lent).  Since I am very devoted to St. Joseph, I had planned to post the link at the end of my Nativity reflection.  Imagine my surprise when I felt compelled to turn to Matthew's gospel and his emphasis on St. Joseph.  While you're visiting John-Paul's blog, be sure to sign up for more novena reminders.  I did.

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