Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday word, 19 Dec 2010

Advent Sunday 4 A (19 December 2010)

Is 7. 10-14; Ps 24; Rm 1. 1-7; Mt 1. 18-24

Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.

Speaking Faith

Where was Joseph when he had that dream of his? From my youth I placed Joseph in his home. He need not have been there. He could have been at his workshop where he repaired, designed and constructed out of wood and stone necessities for daily living.

What were his thoughts before he dreamed? He may have been pondering the house of David from which he traced his descent. Would not that have been likely: Joseph considering his roots as he gazed forward into his future with his betrothed, Mary?

That sort of wholesome, absorbed self-reflection opens us, and God recognizes a time to reveal us to ourselves. Our bible often calls such divine revelation a dream. Our experience tells us we have both sleeping dreams and waking dreams. How attentive are we to how God desires to communicate to us? Consider Joseph.

Joseph was in a bind when he learned that Mary was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Perplexed as he was, he refused to be anything but humane toward her. He courageously responded to God inviting him to stand by Mary. In his dream Joseph received heaven’s messenger revealing God’s desire for him: that Joseph—like us—welcome God-with-us as Joseph found himself, especially at Mary’s side.

Joseph reminds me of words of Pope Pius XII I keep before me: “True religion and profound humaneness are not rivals. They are sisters.” Not demanding explanations, their sisterhood seeks the most real, Messiah Jesus, whom we await as Joseph, son of David, long awaited.

Considering Joseph adreaming in his workshop urges us to consider Emmanuel in our workplaces. Companies like Tom’s of Maine, Timberland, Whirlpool, Intel Corporation and Ben & Jerry’s began last century to promote social responsibility by encouraging religious diversity and local community service. As a parish we, too, translate religious practice into ever more humane and effective action.

Many people are dreaming on the job for what really lasts. Business Week magazine ran a cover story on religion in the workplace in its Nov. 1, 1999, issue. It included these four statistics:

  • 48 percent of working Americans said they had discussed their religious faith at work in the past 24 hours.
  • 51 percent felt modern life leaves them too busy to enjoy God or they'd like.
  • 78 percent felt the need to experience spiritual growth (up 20% from 1994).
  • 60 percent said they have absolute trust in God.1

Until Business Week repeats its study, I remain impressed that workers speak about religion. We need not know if and to whom Joseph may have spoken about his dream. His behavior testified his need to grow more and to enjoy God’s presence in his life.

This much we do know from no less an authority than St. Paul: asleep and awake, we have received grace and apostleship. God desires to send us (apostleship) to proclaim with both our deeds and our words the gift (grace) of God-with-us. We can discuss our faith when we cultivate both its gift and its message. We engage God when we make time and room for God in our lives, that is, when we act on our feeling and awareness to expand our spirits to grow in Holy Spirit. That offers us Joseph-like trust in God. Joseph became another partner in the Incarnation. Without manipulating either Joseph or Mary and always respecting our personal freedom, God recognized in them and us the divine image and likeness in whom all are created.

In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week place yourself in the presence of the Trinity. Ask St. Joseph to present you to Jesus and to accompany you in prayer.nAfter composing yourself with Joseph, ask him what it’s like to be a partner in the Incarnation with the Trinity and with Mary. Ask Joseph to intercede and help you welcome the grace to renew your partnership with the Incarnation and to renew your joyful trust that the Trinity invites you to give birth to Messiah Jesus where you live and work. Close saying slowly the Lord’s Prayer. Smiling as you say it can help you welcome divine joy into your waking life.


1. That 1999 article and two others (2005 and 2006) are gathered at this website.


Wiki-image of St. Joseph's Dream is in the public domain .

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