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Monday, March 19, 2012

St Joseph

"Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." Mt 1:19

A wise person once wrote, "Expectations are the seeds of disappointment." (1) How true this must have been for St Joseph. Although we don't want to impose our understanding of marriage on people who lived two thousand years ago, since marriages long ago were arranged not with a view towards romance, but with the desire to continue the family name, Joseph surely expected Mary to be a virgin. When it is apparent to him that she is not, after all she was pregnant, he responds gently and decides to divorce her quietly so that she would not be subject to the ultimate punishment of the law: death by stoning. Joseph's natural compassion, which is reenforced by the message of the angel who assures him that Mary is pregnant, not by another man, but by the Holy Spirit, is a powerful sign and challenge to us. Joseph's assumptions about Mary's behavior are shattered by grace.

All of us have expectations for ourselves, our families and, for those who are parents, for their children. It is natural, and most of the expectations are good ones. We want to succeed in life, to make our parents proud, to contribute to the society in a significant way, to please God, but almost always these expectations get us in trouble. We berate ourselves for failing and judge those around us for matters over which they have no control. Though we know that God's ways are not our ways, we make the fatal error of expecting God to see things as we see them. In other words, we act as if God is made in our image, and because we make this mistake over and over, we turn to people like St Joseph who, when his world was turned upside down, managed to trust God. Joseph's trust in God and compassion towards Mary give us the strength to be joyful even when our expectations remain unmet.

Today, ask God what God wants for you. Don't tell God how to act.

Who has impressed you most in life with the ability to do God's will despite overwhelming obstacles?

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