Much has been written about Mary’s “yes” to God. She delivered to an angelic messenger her acceptance of the role God chose for her. But there was another “yes” that was needed to make Mary’s “yes” count. Today’s readings are a tribute to the “yes” Joseph gave to an angel who filled him in on the significance of Mary’s “yes.” The Holy Family was built on those yeses, which were given in response to seemingly impossible terms.
You want me to be the mother of God? Yes.
You want me to believe that my wife is pregnant with the son of God, yet remains a virgin? Yes.
And you want me to escape with this wife and child to Egypt to save them from the rage of a king who’s jealous of the power this child will embody? Yes.
Then you want me to bring them back out of Egypt when you say the coast is clear so my son can deliver his “yes” to the mission of salvation for which he was divinely conceived? Yes.
This Sunday’s readings are dedicated to the power of the Holy Family’s yeses–delivered in faith and supported by the courage made possible through prayer. They remind us that we, too, are called to build holy families, calling on the same kind of courage that comes through prayer.
“Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard,” states our first reading from Sirach.
Joseph must have prayed for guidance on his mission, because he did all the right things, as our gospel reading from Matthew attests:
“He departed for the region of Galilee.
He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth,
so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled,
‘He shall be called a Nazorean.'”
When Joseph prayed, he was heard. His was the prayer of a father hoping to save his family, and by doing so, he saved succeeding families of the Son of Man. Those families have since learned the tradition of praying to St. Joseph for guidance when their heads ache with trouble.
One of the gifts I received this Christmas was a book of prayers to St. Joseph. It came from a colleague at my company who likewise received it as a gift. For him it came during a time of unemployment. He was hired by our company not long after he started praying to St. Joseph. For me this book comes at a time in my industry when unemployment can come at any time. One passage in the book spoke to my heart and is testimony to the courage that comes from prayer. It was written by St. Teresa of Avila, who explained the power of praying with St. Joseph in mind:
“Those persons who give themselves to prayer should in a special manner always have great devotion to St. Joseph, for I know not how anyone can think of the Queen of Angels during the time she suffered so much with the Infant Jesus without giving thanks to St. Joseph for the assistance he rendered to them then. He who cannot find anyone to teach him how to pray, let him take this glorious saint for his guide, and he will not lose his way.”
The only thing you have to lose is your headaches.