From the Deacon’s Desk: Prayer and Inspirational Thoughts
December 18 – Fourth Sunday in Advent
I am not sure we always fully appreciate the role of Joseph in salvation history. Sometimes, he feels like the forgotten man to me. Our gospel this week tells us he was a righteous man. He had a good sense of right and wrong, he had moral principles, and he lived by them. Imagine his surprise – and probably anger and hurt – when he found Mary to be pregnant. Every fiber in his being told him what he needed to do as a righteous man. He needed to divorce her quietly and move on. But this was not God’s plan. Keep in mind – Joseph had free will. He could have said no. He had to set aside his moral convictions – what everything he knew told him was the righteous course. He had to accept God’s plan and God’s mercy even though it went against what his mind and heart likely told him to do. Like Mary’s ‘yes’ before him; and the ‘yes’ from Jesus yet to come, his ‘yes’ opened the pathway for our salvation. Mary and Jesus both submitted to God’s will in their ‘yes.’ Joseph also submitted, but had the added dimension of allowing God’s will for him to ‘override what he knew to be right’ and to create in himself a ‘new understanding’ of what was right guided by God’s mercy and love.
As Vincentians, we are confronted on a regular basis with decisions in ministry that impact the lives of others. It is easy to find ourselves conflicted when asked to give help when someone hasn’t made wise choices, doesn’t live as we might think they should, and we wonder if it really makes a difference. How often I have found my sense of right and wrong seeping into my thoughts when extending assistance. Like Joseph, we are asked to sometimes set aside our righteousness in favor of God’s mercy. For it is not our mercy or compassion that we extend in our ministry. We are but the vessel of God extending His mercy which is rooted not in righteousness but in acceptance, forgiveness, and unconditional love extended to each of His children based not on merit, but on grace.
Joseph – a righteous and good man – found the courage to set aside himself that God’s grace might pour over others whom he did not know. In doing so, he changed our lives making God’s presence evident to each of us. Having received God’s mercy and love in my life, how can I do any less?
Lord Jesus, thank you for your presence in my life. Give me the courage to accept those whom you bring before me in my Vincentian ministry, setting aside my righteousness, making present to each person a reflection of your mercy and love. Allow me, like Joseph, to submit in total humility to your plans. Allow me to be a vehicle for your grace and not an obstacle to it. As we prepare for the coming of our Savior, let my heart be made into a welcoming home and a living tabernacle for your presence before others. We pray all of this in your name. Amen