…the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…
Today’s gospel passage has been referred to as the ‘Annunciation to Joseph’. In Matthew’s narrative there is no annunciation to Mary – the angel comes to Joseph – in a dream. Joseph’s world has just been turned upside down with the discovery that Mary,( his betrothed whom he has not had relations with), is with child. As a ‘righteous’ man, he comes up with what he thinks will be a win/win response – he will divorce her quietly, hoping that they both can just quietly disappear, their separate ways.
Asleep that night, he hears “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid…continue with your betrothal….it is through the Holy Spirit…and you will name him Jesus”
Perhaps the most amazing part of this passage, is that Joseph complies. He allows his ‘plan’ to change, he follows through with his betrothal, takes Mary into his home and he named her son Jesus. And God is with us, Emmanuel! We might ask, how could he be so certain? How could he abandon his ‘righteous’ plan and be so vulnerable? How could he be certain God was present in his dream?
Aren’t those the questions we ask ourselves daily? Is God calling me to this? Really? How can I be sure? What should I do? Maybe Joseph can show us the way. His ‘righteous plan’ likely grew from his prayer – Okay God, what am I supposed to do here, I’ve just been blind-sided, how do I navigate this event?!? And he came to a resolution he could live with. But he also listened to the dream, the nudgings, the doubts (the very presence and voice of God) and trusted God to lead the way. He stepped out in faith trusting his heart. Sometimes we need to follow the truth of our heart and step out in faith. Sometimes, we too need to ‘sleep on’ our plan and notice the stress, anxiety, peace or serenity – the nudgings of God. Sometimes we have to set out in the dark night and follow the star that leads to new life, new hope, new energy, we have to ‘right’ the ‘wrongs’ that we encounter as we seek to build the kingdom of God.
Faith Offman is the Associate Director of Ministry at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Retreat and Conference Center in Detroit, Michigan.