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The Lord Is My Chef Daily Recipe for the Soul by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II Misa De Gallo III, Monday, 18 December 2023 Jeremiah 23:5-8 ><))))*> + <*((((>< Matthew 1:18-25
“This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about” (Mt. 1:18). I love this opening line of our gospel this Monday. So simple and warm, even magical that we know the whole story it is about to tell not only by heart but because it is now fulfilled.
It evokes in us that scent of Christmas or amoy Pasko whatever that means to you.
Basta, you know that feeling of being so safe and secured that everything in life will be fine, just like with St. Joseph after being told by an angel in his dream of the coming of Jesus Christ.
“Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Feel the solemn note of Matthew’s infancy account from the perspective of St. Joseph, the fulfillment of God’s promise that burned slowly through long years of waiting that burst into light with the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago.
Every prophecy and dream and longings were finally fulfilled because “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home” (Mt. 1:24).
As we enter the final stretch of the week leading into Christmas Day when Christmas rush tries to hijack our souls from its true essence, we are invited to go deeper, to be more intense in our prayers and reflections on the meaning of Christ’s coming to us.
Are we willing to be like St. Joseph?
Very often, St. Joseph is taken so lightly because of his silence. And amusingly, his being portrayed always asleep that God communicated to him at least four times in his dreams about the birth and safety of Jesus Christ.
For anyone fast approaching the senior year of 60 like me, you would exactly know the feeling and frustration of difficulty in having a good night sleep. If my alarm clock were a human, he would have long been fired from the job because I always wake up ahead before it alarms!
First thing we find with St. Joseph sleeping soundly in the midst of a major problem – in fact, a fiasco – which invites us to examine our faith in God.
Many times we find it hard to fall asleep not really because of our problems but with our indecisions.
Our failure to confront and solve our problems make us sleepless. If we can be firm in our decisions due to our deep faith and love for God like St. Joseph which is the meaning of his being a righteous man, we too can sleep soundly like him. Go back to the story and you will find how quickly St. Joseph had decided to divorce Mary quietly so as not to expose her to shame. In making that decision, we find St. Joseph’s selflessness and complete trust in God: primary in his consideration was Mary, his beloved. His love for her was the expression of his love for God too.
As we age, can we start our memoir with the similar lines of Matthew, This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about? Can we unabashedly telling everyone in all sincerity “this is how what I am today came about”? Can we wholeheartedly tell straight what really happened amid all the pains and disappointments we went through when God suddenly changed the course of our lives with his own plans? Would we have regrets or none at all like St. Joseph because he obeyed everything upon waking up?
Now, that is the more important part in Matthew’s short infancy narrative: nothing much was told after the St. Joseph awoke except that he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. The final sentence cemented everything with his total union with God that “He had no relations with her until she bore a son, and he named him Jesus.”
Here we are given a glimpse of the spiritual maturity and holiness of St. Joseph, his being open to God expressed in his taking of Mary as his wife that in doing so, Jesus Christ the Son of God came into the world. What a wonderful flow of events we too must have experienced in our lives when everything falls into its right places simply because we cooperated with God
According to St. John Paul II’s friend, the Orthodox Christian theologian Olivier-Maurice Clement, a lot often we pretend to be real disciples of Christ when in reality we are merely dreaming. He called it “sleepwalking existence”; my Jesuit spiritual director Fr. Danny Gozar calls it “spiritual dwarfism”. Both refer to our spiritual immaturity due to our lack of honesty with our self and with God.
Being righteous like St. Joseph is simply being holy, a spiritually matured person generous enough to confront and consider everything in one’s life with open mind and open heart to set them aside and give way to God’s greater plans. Sleepwalking existence and spiritual dwarfism happen when there are certain things we want to hold on to and pursue or keep even if we could feel it is not God’s will for us. Tendency is to fool ourselves that we delay any decisions as we claim we are not yet certain with God’s will when in fact we are simply hoping against hope God would change his mind.
The angelic annunciations to St. Joseph and to Virgin Mary may not be literal but we can be certain of one truth with God: he is most consistent in communicating his will to us even if he does not speak clearly and directly as humans or angels. Very often, the faintest voice within us that persists, the most ordinary things and events happening daily we take for granted, the simplest truths we realize and deem so little are God’s consistent communication of his will for us.
This Advent Season, let us try to wake up to life’s realities like St. Joseph in order to hear God’s voice in silence. To be silent is to be awake to life’s realities, to be able to listen and discern God from all other voices and noises. It is important that we are awake to life’s realities like St. Joseph because God’s voice may be the very words, silence, tears or smiles of those who love us most but we often take for granted. Amen.