Three lessons from St. Joseph: A homily for the 4th Sunday of Advent (Year A)

go-to-josephToday, as we celebrate the final week of Advent, holy Church offers us the example of St. Joseph. I think we can learn a lot of lessons from this man.  I want to focus on three.

1. First, Joseph was not afraid to take Mary into his home.  He did not abandon her, even when doing so seemed the logical and best thing. We Christians can never abandon Mary, either. We must take her into our homes!  We love our dear mother.  There is a scene in Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey into Night where we find a fallen away Catholic by the name of Mary Tyronne. At one point, she breaks down and says, “I want my faith back. With Mary, life is so much easier.”  It is true!  Mary is our surest intercessor, our most beautiful guide, the mother who takes us gently by the hand to heaven. We love her. We had the most wonderful celebrations for Our Lady of Guadalupe last week on Dec 12. We had Las Manaitas at 5am. Tons of people came and we enjoyed a wonderful breakfast afterwards. Then we had the first-ever school Mass in Spanish. And the big Mass was at 6pm. I wanted to cry it was so beautiful. And then the party….we had 500 chairs but that wasn’t enough, and we ran out of food. Folks: Mary is always bringing people to herself and then to Christ–in droves she does this!  We must love her for that reason!  That little church Our Lady asked St. Juan Diego to build–now it is the biggest Christian pilgrimage site in the world!  Joseph did not abandon Mary, he took her into his home, and he enthroned her-and she took him right to heaven.  We must do the same, take Mary into our homes and hearts. Every Catholic house should have a picture of Mary or a statue of Mary.

2. Second, Joseph loved radically.  Mary must have wondered how he would respond to the news that she as with child. Mary knew she as innocent, that she had not had relations with anyone. But she must also have known it didn’t look so good from the perspective of anyone else–especially her beloved Joseph.  She knew he had every reason to walk away, every reason to suspect that she had not been faithful.  But Joseph stayed.  That didn’t look so good to the town. People probably stopped coming to his carpenter shop. They ousted him from the temple. They looked down on him. But he took all that shame on himself.  Mary must have wondered: Why does this man love me this much?  To believe in me, to treat me like a queen?  My friends: Joseph had a radical love for Mary.  We follow his example. We should love one another so much, so strongly and so generously–that they wonder, “Why is he so good to me?”  Every husband should have plenty of reason to honestly say, “Why is my wife so good to me!  I don’t deserve it!”  And vice versa.  I try to live my life–and fail–in such a way that people might say, “Why is Fr. Mike so good to us?”  We should love people so powerfully that they wonder why.

3.  Third, Joseph controlled his tongue.  Joseph’s silence is worth thinking about.  In all the scriptures he never speaks a word. Nothing in the bible or in our tradition evidences a single word he spoke.  Our words have power–and we can use that power for bad (gossip, condemning, swearing, complaining, tearing down, sarcasm, etc), or we can use that power for good (to praise, to lift another up, to offer a word of kindness).  What keeps us up at night is often what people say to us–or what we said to them.  St. Joseph was prudent in his words and he used them sparingly.  An important sign of humility is knowing that we don’t always have to talk.  Some of the holiest people I know are also the quietest.  Maybe that means I should stop talking now.

We ask through the intercession of St. Joseph that we can let Mary in, that we can love people so radically they wonder why, and that we can use our mouths to bless others and the Lord.  And may God give us a beautiful Christmas.