St. Joseph shows us how to “welcome surprises” when things do not go the way we expected, Pope Francis said Sunday in his weekly Angelus message.
Like St. Joseph, “we too have our dreams, and perhaps we think of them, we talk about them more at Christmas,” the pope said Dec. 18 from a window overlooking the Vatican Christmas tree and nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square.
“Perhaps we lament over some dreams that have been shattered and we see that our best expectations need to often be put together with unexpected, disconcerting situations,” he continued. “When this happens, Joseph shows us the way.”
Pope Francis reflected on St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus, on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, the period of preparation leading to Christmas.
When it feels like our life has been turned upside down, the pope said, “we do not need to give in to negative feelings, like anger or isolation — this is the wrong way. Instead, we need to attentively welcome surprises in life, even crises.”
He said the solution to these situations is to “not make decisions quickly or instinctively, but, like Joseph ‘consider everything,’ and base ourselves on the underlying certainty of God’s mercy.”
The Sunday Gospel for Dec. 18 focuses on the story of Joseph and how he came to know that Mary, through the Holy Spirit, was pregnant with Jesus.
When St. Joseph first learned that Mary, his betrothed, was pregnant, his dreams for the future must have been shattered, Pope Francis said.
“What would Joseph have felt? Shock, pain, confusion, perhaps even irritation and disappointment,” the pope said. “He experienced his world falling apart all around him. And what was he supposed to do?”
Pope Francis explained that the Jewish law at the time gave the carpenter two choices: he could accuse Mary and let her pay the price of her supposed infidelity, or he could “secretly annul their engagement without exposing Mary to scandal and harsh consequences.”
St. Joseph chose the second option, which meant taking upon himself the burden of shame. Pope Francis said St. Joseph chose “the way of mercy.”
“And behold,” he said, “at the height of his crisis, right when he is thinking and evaluating all this, God shines a new light in his heart — he declares to him in a dream that Mary’s motherhood did not come about because of a betrayal, but by the work of the Holy Spirit, and the baby that would be born is the Savior. Mary would be the Mother of the Messiah, and he would be his guardian.”
Upon waking up from this dream, Joseph understood that in a totally unexpected way, he was to be the father of the Messiah.
But, the pope said, for this to happen, St. Joseph had to accept a disruption to his own plans while trusting in God’s.
“His courage is heroic and is exercised in silence,” Francis said, noting that this is something everyone can learn from.
“When someone experiences a crisis without giving in to isolation, anger, and fear, but keeps the door open for God, he can intervene. He is an expert in transforming crises into dreams…”
“Yes, God opens crises into new horizons, perhaps not as we would expect, but in the way that he knows how. And these, brothers and sisters, are God’s horizons: surprising, but infinitely more grand and beautiful than ours,” he said. “May the Virgin Mary help us live open to God’s surprises.”