“The grounds for belief and unbelief are same today as they were two thousand or ten thousand years ago.” If Joseph had lacked faith to trust God or humility to perceive the holiness of his spouse, he could have disbelieved in the miraculous origin of her Son as easily as any modern man; and any modern man who believes in God can accept the miracle as easily as Joseph did.” — C.S. Lewis
By Fr Martin Connor, LC
Holy scripture is an extended story of the fidelity of groups of believers in relationship with God. The stories within the canonical text of the Bible are enduring tales of human beings trying to figure out the messages of God within the reality of their lives. These stories were powerful enough to be written down so that subsequent generations could learn from their ancestors’ struggles of faith.
The story of Christmas is THE story in a sense, because it is God´s story:
His entering in the world, His plan to change the story of every human being.
Yet it involves the most human of characters, the most human of situations and circumstance, the most human difficulties.
The characters are men and women like you and I, special in their own way but living ordinary lives. Human beings, flesh and blood, temperments, feelings, etc… who struggle with themselves and with God to “see” His plan.
St. Joseph’s Story
1) Joseph was upright.
He wanted to do the right thing in every situation. Not a question of what was convenient for him or more advantageous. He was a single hearted, single minded man, always with one clear thought that guided his all his action: What is the right thing now for me to do?
2) Like all of us, Joseph had his dilemmas and struggles.
His bethrothed became pregnant. This was scandalous – even worse it was deserving of death by stoning. Yet he was prayerful and he also knew in his heart that Mary was different. Joseph understood God was at work in the situation, somehow, and through that, God was working a miracle. Even though he could not understand how or why, by knowing this much, he opted to leave her quietly, drawing no attention to her or to the situation.
3) Joseph’s faith opens him up to the unexpected ways of God.
Joseph diligently responds to the Lord’s invitation, sent in a dream by an angel. Even still, all is not clear and easy. In fact, it seems everything begins to go wrong: having to go down to Bethlehem from Nazareth for the census when Mary is ready to give birth; his inability to find a decent place for Mary to give birth leaves them in a cave with animals; the persecution of Herod forces them to flee in the middle of the night to a foreign country.
Unexpected inconveniences, Dissappointments from high expectations.
Joseph exercised his faith in real life situations, and that faith was his guide throughout. Each step of the way meant a new surrender, a new renunciation of his own “common sense” perhaps, and an opening up to the very different ways of God.
4) Joseph’s quiet, faithful obedience to God’s plan.
Joseph’s faithful obedience helped make the plan of God become a reality. The Gospel never records a single word from the lips of Joseph. Very quietly and without fanfare, he was a man who simply and lovingly, did whatever it was the Lord asked of him.
Our own stories carry some of the same potential and power. In the sharing of our stories we can reflect on our own experience and glean valuable insights for our own lives as well as for the benefit of others.
The notion that in sharing our stories we contribute to history may sound somewhat grandiose. Yet, in the telling of our stories we pass on the tradition of our attempts to be faithful within the context of the age we live in. We offer our own insights about the journey of faith to present and future generations.
When we hear other people’s stories and tell our own, we often discover companionship in our vulnerability. We connect with each other through that vulnerability and bond with one another. We discover that we are not the only ones who have suffered. Personal storytelling may serve as a check-and-balance for our perceptions of being alone in the world with our troubles. A new form of solidarity can emerge. We may even be able to contextualize our struggle within the broader historical struggle in the human family, the church, and the world.
A word to listeners may be appropriate here. In the intimacy of the sharing of stories, we step onto holy ground. God’s revelation is spelling itself out for the one who speaks and for the ones who listens. Those who behold this revelation are asked to remove their shoes and honor the sacred space that is created in the telling. Judgment has no place here. Listeners become the face of God for the speaker in this intimate encounter. With the same compassion and care that God would offer, listeners can give feedback about what they hear. The speaker is transparent before them and God. This transparency can lead to a profound experience of humility and transformation for both the speaker and the listener. It is a circumstance of intimate investment by the speaker and requires the respect and reverence that such a trust deserves.
We can easily see how the sharing of our stories contributes to the transmission of the faith tradition, cultivates honesty and renews humility.