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Year of St Joseph: Reflection for February and Lent

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Lent 2021 is about to begin. This year we have a special guide to help us on our journey to Easter: our Patron, St. Joseph.

Pope Francis declared 2020-2021 as a Jubilee in honour of Saint Joseph, so as we begin to consider what to do for Lent, I thought we could reflect on how St Joseph might help us. Hence, I’ve put together a little pack, which you can get at the church, to help you get started. This month’s meditation is part of that pack.

A Journey to Freedom

Lent, of course, is a journey—a journey on which we travel, spiritually, from captivity to freedom. We want to leave behind old ways that trap us and prevent us living life to the full and we want to embrace the freedom of the children of God. We could not have a better companion on this journey than St Joseph.

In the Scriptures, the place that represents all that traps, binds and confines human beings—all that prevents them making progress to God’s promised land—is Egypt. The people of God had to pass over from the land of captivity to the land that God had promised. Lent is the time of their exodus journey.

But, as we know, Joseph made this exodus journey from Egypt too. Let’s ask him to protect and guide the body of Christ again as we set out from captivity and journey to freedom.

The Dream of St Joseph by Anton Raphael Mengs

Listen!
 Up!
   Go!

Listen! Up! Go!

The hardest thing about Lent is simply getting started! Saint Joseph is our perfect example. What does he do?  Well first of all he LISTENS.

He takes time and he LISTENS to what God has to say. At the start of his journey he is pretty stuck. He has a fiancé who is pregnant; he has a son who is not his own, he has someone threatening his family’s life.  Each time Joseph hears the same words: “Listen! Up! Go!”

Every Lent I think—right, what shall I do? What will I give up; what will I take on?  St Joseph shows that there’s an important step before we up and go: to listen and understand what God would have us do.

Listen!
  Up!
    Go!

The hardest thing about Lent is simply getting started! Saint Joseph is our perfect example. What does he do?  Well first of all he LISTENS. He takes time and he LISTENS to what God has to say. At the start of his journey he is pretty stuck. He has a fiancé who is pregnant; he has a son who is not his own, he has someone threatening his family’s life.  Each time Joseph hears the same words: “Listen! Up! Go!” Every Lent I think—right, what shall I do? What will I give up; what will I take on?  St Joseph shows that there’s an important step before we up and go: to listen and understand what God would have us do.

Trust!

St Joseph trusts that the word he receives—the intuition he has is good and comes from God: that it is a word that is guiding him out, keeping him safe and bringing him new life. Take a bit of time to  listen to the Lord this Lent.  Whether you’re a morning person or a night-owl—fix a time to listen—ask St Joseph to help you to hear.

We don’t actually have a lot of information about what St Joseph did. We know, from the Scriptures, that he was a worker; a carpenter. We know, that despite the circumstances, he took Mary home to be his wife, that he went with her to Bethlehem to be registered— that he remained in Egypt to avoid Herod, and that he returned to Nazareth to bring up his child in quiet and safety.  In all this, and in everything else in between we know that Joseph put himself and his own life on hold.  He sacrificed his own desires for those of Jesus and Mary.

Not only this—Joseph’s whole life was fixed on the cross and on  making possible the sacrifice that was to set us free. We learn this from another of Joseph’s journeys and how the Scriptures describe it.

At the time of the Presentation and of the Finding of the Child in the Temple we are told that Joseph “went up to Jerusalem.” He taught his son how to make the journey: the journey of sacrifice that, one day,  Jesus would make for us all; to set us free.

Joseph carried his offering on that journey—the poorest offering that could be made—two turtledoves—a symbol of all the little offerings he had made to date. Yet from this Jesus learned something of the self-sacrifice that is necessary if we are to put others first and to please God. From Joseph, Jesus learned something of the sacrifice that takes our sins away—the sacrifice that sets us free.

Put yourself ...

... on hold!

Put yourself on hold!

Put yourself ...

... on hold!

We don’t actually have a lot of information about what St Joseph did. We know, from the Scriptures, that he was a worker; a carpenter. We know, that despite the circumstances, he took Mary home to be his wife, that he went with her to Bethlehem to be registered— that he remained in Egypt to avoid Herod, and that he returned to Nazareth to bring up his child in quiet and safety.  In all this, and in everything else in between we know that Joseph put himself and his own life on hold.  He sacrificed his own desires for those of Jesus and Mary.

Not only this—Joseph’s whole life was fixed on the cross and on  making possible the sacrifice that was to set us free. We learn this from another of Joseph’s journeys and how the Scriptures describe it.

At the time of the Presentation and of the Finding of the Child in the Temple we are told that Joseph “went up to Jerusalem.” He taught his son how to make the journey: the journey of sacrifice that, one day,  Jesus would make for us all; to set us free.

Joseph carried his offering on that journey—the poorest offering that could be made—two turtledoves—a symbol of all the little offerings he had made to date. Yet from this Jesus learned something of the self-sacrifice that is necessary if we are to put others first and to please God. From Joseph, Jesus learned something of the sacrifice that takes our sins away—the sacrifice that sets us free.

St Joseph the Worker

Work At It!

Two things about St Joseph are helpful during Lent. He’s the  patron saint of workers.  Most of us don’t suddenly break free from our sins—we have to work at it—we need to keep going and persevere until we finally break free.

This isn’t the only reason why St Joseph, the Worker is important in Lent.  Most of the things that ensnare us, keep us mesmerised and fixated are not true. They are illusions.  The Devil always captivates us with lies. Work, and our God-given calling to make and do—to order things in the world—serves to fix our mind on what is real.  Work sets us free from fantasy and keeps our feet on the ground—especially the opus Dei—the work of God, our prayers. This puts us in touch with reality and keeps us free from sin.

Work At It!

Two things about St Joseph are helpful during Lent. He’s the  patron saint of workers.  Most of us don’t suddenly break free from our sins—we have to work at it—we need to keep going and persevere until we finally break free. This isn’t the only reason why St Joseph, the Worker is important in Lent.  Most of the things that ensnare us, keep us mesmerised and fixated are not true. They are illusions.  The Devil always captivates us with lies. Work, and our God-given calling to make and do—to order things in the world—serves to fix our mind on what is real.  Work sets us free from fantasy and keeps our feet on the ground—especially the opus Dei—the work of God, our prayers. This puts us in touch with reality and keeps us free from sin.

And Rest!

The pack I mentioned at the beginning also includes a parish prayer to St Joseph—which you might want to work at saying every day in Lent—to help order your life to God. But in the pack, too, is a little something to help you rest at night—and to leave the work of finding freedom to Saint Joseph. Put your prayers under the sleeping St Joseph—like Pope Francis does—and let him find a way out of your troubles and into freedom. He’s done it before—and I’m sure he’ll do it again, especially in this Jubilee.

Attribution

A Journey to Freedom: Flight into Egypt by Eugène Girardet. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Listen! Up! Go!: The Dream of St Joseph by Anton Raphael Mengs, ca.1773-74. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Put your self …  on hold!: from The Presentation by James Powell & Sons, ca. 1917. Photo by John Salmon. Source: The Victorian Web
Work At It!: St Joseph the Worker. Stained glass window by Webb at Ampleforth Abbey. Photo by Fr. Lawrence Lew OP. Source: Flickr. Licence: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

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