Tuesday, December 16, 2014

St.Joseph: Powering us to a higher spiritual realm

St. Matthew 1:18-25
18 Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah[a] took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20 But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” 24 When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25 but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son;[b] and he named him Jesus.

The passage talks about the seldom revealed and exalted Joseph, husband of Mother Mary and father to Jesus. Joseph in comparison with local culture and customs is the man who takes a step back so that the woman he is betrothed to can take a step forward. Today, in all probability he would be referred to as the weak husband who does not speak and remains powerless in front of his wife. Yet Joseph’s powerlessness becomes Mother Mary’s and our power. That he chose not to express his power and his position makes him someone who took the route of equitable spirituality, meaning spirituality for all with special emphasis on exaltation of the vulnerable.

Mary was vulnerable in the position that she was in. She had nothing to let go off. But Joseph could let go of many things and it is this letting go which we can indeed learn from. Joseph lets go of his ego, his manliness, his position of future husband and plan maker. He leaves everything so that God’s will be done on earth. Only those with power and some leverage can let go and become powerless. In terms of countries of the world, it is pointless to expect a country like Nepal to let go of what they have in comparison to the USA. It is only when someone with power lets go that it becomes sacrifice. Joseph here sacrifices and it is a sacrifice which will in our society be looked upon as weakness and the act of a spineless man.

Mary had nothing much to let go off. Joseph on the other hand had something to let go. He was respected, he had status in the eyes of the general public, he had a reasonable amount of money and he had age on his side as signs of a man who had much more than the woman he was betrothed to. His reaction on knowing about the pregnancy of Mary was decent and even unexpected. He was already being a gentleman. But God wanted more. It was not just to be a gentleman but to let go of everything which defined who he was. That was what God wanted of him.

Spirituality is easy to define when everything is from our perspective. It is our God, our church, our family, our blessing and everything is in the singular with the emphasis on I, me and myself. Spirituality becomes more complex when it has to be shared and the challenge is for those of us who are in positions of power to devolve ourselves of the power we have and share it with others.

1. Powerful to power-us- situations where one has to be powerless are criticized especially when people with no power have to further give up what they have. In family, church and societal contexts there should become a guiding principle where we can share power. Individual spirituality then becomes equitable spirituality where everyone is treated the same way and everyone has access to the grace of God. Joseph is powerful in comparison with Mary and yet when the angel tells him about Jesus, the baby who is to be born and is to save people from their sins, he turns this equation around. Immanuel, meaning God is with us leads Joseph to change his situation of power which was individual and unidirectional into power-us and not powerless. When husbands treat their wife’s with respect and give opportunities to them, society sees it as loss of power for the husband. But rather than being loss of power it is sharing of power.

2. Godless to God is with us- we are always expectant of great things in our life. This expectation also goes to the extent of hoping that God be with us, and Immanuel becomes a great hope of God being with us. But our life becomes a sign of us forgetting the immense role of God in our lives. We move away from God and move onto our own thoughts which exclude others from the grace of God. Our acts end up being Godless acts of selfishness and greed which take away the essence of spirituality from us. The understanding that God is with us should also bring us to the understanding that we have become power-us, meaning that we have to work with God and do acts of Godliness in our lives. This brings upon great responsibility in our lives and will allow us to look at things from the perspective of God and God’s willingness to power-us. Amen.

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