“Life doesn’t have to be perfect for God to work. In fact, He does his greatest work with absolute messes!”

Today is a big day in the Church – the Solemnity of St. Joseph in the middle of the Year of St. Joseph. No only do we get to eat meat today (see the Code of Canon Law, 1251), there is a plenary indulgence given today, under the usual conditions, to anyone who prays “any lawfully approved prayer or act of piety in honor of Saint Joseph.”  There are many opportunities for plenary indulgences this year (you can find more here) because the Church wants to offer us grace!

It reminds me of Romans 5:20, a verse that has come to my mind often during the last year: “…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more…” In the moments of confusion, divisiveness, challenges to faith, or attacks by the Evil One, we must cling to the reminder that God is giving us the grace we need. He is always offering us the grace we need in the present moment, if we are faithful and open and obedient.

This is why Joseph is the perfect saint for our times, as we move slowly out of the pandemic. You are probably still maneuvering through times of confusion and uncertainty. Perhaps there are still questions in your mind regarding the future. Joseph is our model.

While we may not have the words of Joseph in Scripture, we have his actions. And repeatedly, we see that Joseph is a man of obedience. Even in moments of questioning and darkness, Joseph is faithful and obedient, even when he might not understand. Pope Francis says, “In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat’, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane” (Patris Corde)

We don’t have his words, but we have his actions. And his actions are one of selfless, courageous obedience – even in the face of confusion. We know the end of the story; Joseph did not. Mary is pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Go to Egypt, of all places. Come out of Egypt. Don’t settle with your family in Bethlehem, go to Nazareth. He did not have all the answers. He took it one step at a time. One obedient step at a time.

Joseph had to trust in the dark of doubt and uncertainty. He was not even given an angelic visitor in the bright of day like Mary. Rather, he was asked to trust a dream. Four dreams!

He was a just man, a man of prayer. But God challenged even his discernment. Joseph was asked to accept plans quite different from the ones he had discerned. Instead of being attached to his own plans or even his own discernment, he walked forward in humility.

This is one of the most beautiful sections of Pope Francis’ letter on Joseph. How do we react to the plan of God, especially when it’s so different from what we imagined or planned? “Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events, and mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them, and make them a part of his own history” (Patris Corde)

Francis continues by reminding us, “We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation but with hope and courage. … It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. God can make flowers spring up from stony ground.”

This is why Joseph is our model in 2021. Maybe life hasn’t turned out the way you planned. Perhaps you have some big questions for God. Maybe you wonder what the next few years bring for our Church, our country, or for your own life.

Rather than allow this to scare us, we should look to the example of Joseph.

Courage. Sacrifice. Obedience. These are the virtues Joseph models for us, even in confusion, darkness, and suffering.

Life doesn’t have to be perfect for God to work. In fact, He does his greatest work with absolute messes! Pope Francis says, “All too often, we think that God works only through our better parts, yet most of his plans are realized in and despite our frailty.”

Perhaps that’s our lesson for 2021. Look to Joseph – both for his intercession, but also for his example. He reminds us that nothing – not even whatever might have happened to you in the past year – is too big for God to work through. Not around, but through.

“Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.” (Pope Francis, Patris Corde)

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