The coming weeks are a great opportunity to consider the Rescue Plan that God executed just over 2000 years ago when his beloved Son, Jesus, came to save us. After all, the name Jesus means “God Saves”. This position and the ability to ponder the greatest story ever told presupposes that you believe that Jesus actually did exist and is not some mythical figure like Santa Clause. If you are in the Santa Clause camp, that’s ok, check out Trent Horn’s short article about the Four Reasons why Jesus Existed.
One of the fundamental truths of Christianity is that Jesus, the God Man, was born of a virgin named Mary. As we ponder the story of how this went down, I often find myself leaning towards looking through the eyes of St. Joseph. Personally, I rather like the image of Joseph that Fulton Sheen wrote about in his book The World’s First Love;
“Joseph was probably a young man, strong, virile, athletic, handsome, chaste, and disciplined; the kind of man one sees sometimes shepherding sheep, or piloting a plane, or working at a carpenter’s bench. Instead of being a man incapable of love, he must have been on fire with love”
As recently as 1998, St. Joseph appeared to a man named Edson Glauber in Brazil. In the Church approved apparition, Glauber described St. Joseph’s appearance as having
“brilliant green eyes and a beautiful smile – he appeared to be very young with an indescribable beauty”.
With this backdrop we can enter the story as Joseph and Mary have fallen in love with each other in a unique way. Together they developed a distinct plan for their marriage by dedicating themselves wholly to God primarily and each other secondarily…it was a Holy plan! But God broke into their lives with a different plan…one that was unimaginable. God loves surprises.
It had to have been that early on in their relationship, Joseph and Mary were well versed in the language of love and respect which are essential to the bond between men and women. Author, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, shares his understanding of the essential nature of love and respect in relationships in his ministry called Love and Respect Ministries. In his work, Eggerichs describes how men communicate by an honor code and respond to language tilted towards respect. Women on the other hand, while obviously needing respect, communicate primarily through a language of love and respond by connecting with the other. Men and women often get crossways with each other when one stands on the “air hose” of the other. During a conflict, women tend to step on the air hose of men that supplies respect and honor and they can come off as being disrespectful. Men respond during a conflict by stepping on the air hose of their spouse which supplies a steady stream of love and men can come off as unloving.
This insight is significant because when St. Joseph discovered the news that Mary was with child, but they had not consummated their relationship and had no plans to, he must have felt like Mary was stepping on his air hose and had disrespected him. He was likely in disbelief that something like this had happened since he knew Mary’s heart, or so he thought.
Then God radically broke into Joseph’s life through a dream and He reveals a plan for them which Joseph could have never imagined. It is a plan that is spontaneous and goes far beyond the expectations of their former plan…as Holy as it was. When Joseph woke up from that dream he must have been elated and scared to death at the same time.
Elated because his bride hadn’t disrespected him, and their fire of love for one another was true. Scared to death because being one who knew well the anticipatory prophesies and writings of the Christ who was to come, Joseph was suddenly aware that he had been picked for a star role in the Theo-drama of God’s rescue plan.
Discovering how God was acting so dramatically in their lives, Joseph must have experienced the ultimate communication of honor and respect, since it had been communicated to him directly from God. All men, like Joseph, respond to being respected and honored in profound ways. It moves us. St. Joseph’s reaction to being honored by God and Mary was one of sacrificial love, chastity and devotion.
We can gleam from this story several insights. First, we can’t sit around and wait for a plan from God to fall in our laps. Joseph and Mary made a plan that was based on their solid relationship with God and began to move in that direction. Secondly, expect God to break into our lives and make His plan known. This will inspire us to move in a direction that can be surprising. Lastly, look to St. Joseph’s response when he was honored, respected and entrusted by God, and know that God delights in honoring each of us and awaits our response.