|Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband
Second Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16
Psalms 89:2-3, 4-5, 27, 29
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24, or Luke 2:41-51
Today we pray with Jesus and with Joseph, the only earthly father Jesus knew. I invite us to pray in terms of a text that has been enlightening and encouraging for me over the years, especially as I have sought answers. It comes from a letter written by the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke:
I want to beg you, as much as I can, dear sir, to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer. (Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet, translated by M.D. Herter Norton, NY: W.W. Norton & Co., 1962, pp. 34-35)
It would have been so easy to give pat answers to the questions that swarmed around him from that moment: "What kind of woman is this? Whose is this child? Am I a fool for trusting her and my dreams? What does this life of mine amount to?" His culture, like ours, supplied him with ready answers to all of those questions--and none of the ready answers would have revered the mystery into which he had been swept. As I pray with Joseph, I like to think that he "lived along some distant day into the answer." He trusted the mystery which he did not understand. He did not see the revelation of Jesus as Messiah, but he lived into the revelation of himself as God's faithful servant.
Life held the same invitation for Jesus. We prayed a week ago at our Sunday liturgy with Jesus transfigured. How might Jesus have felt as he faced the ending of his ministry? I think he also was living the burning question of his life. God had called him to be a patient, gentle, encouraging servant like the one evoked in the later sections of the book of Isaiah. While Jesus had touched many people, his life was not a wild success. His disciples seldom understood, the people were fickle, and the authorities of his religion were dead set against him. As I pray with Jesus going up that mountain to pray, I can hear him asking God in his heart "Is this really what you wanted?" He hears, I think, a resounding "Yes!" in the transfiguration experience. Yet even that "yes" does not take away the question that he is walking into: "Has the life of this grain of wheat been worthwhile?"
He lived along into the answer to that question--an answer we now
know better than he could have known then.
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