RELIGION: There is a temptation to lash out, to get revenge, to hurt as we have been hurt


There is part of me that feels a bit sorry for St Joseph. No matter how wonderful things turned out for him, chosen by God to be the foster father of the Son of God, there was a time, no matter how short, when his world seems to have come crashing down around him. That period between finding out that Our Lady was pregnant and the angel appearing to him in a dream must surely have been the worst time of his life. Everything must have been thrown into confusion for him; his plans for his life were at an end and he must have felt immensely hurt, and betrayed. Yet he acts with honour and integrity; he doesn’t make a fuss; he acts to protect Mary, to keep things quiet. You can see why God chose him for the job. Still, you can’t help but wonder if the Angel’s message was a tremendous relief for him; a way to believe again in the goodness of his beloved Mary, a way to set the world to rights after a period when everything must have seemed to have been turned upside down for him.

Perhaps there is a message there for us about trusting in God, about remaining true to what is right, even when we are hurting or when life seems to have betrayed us. There is a temptation to lash out, to get revenge, to hurt as we have been hurt, or simply to withdraw from others or from God. That wasn’t an option for Joseph, nor should it be an option for us. But in the face of the confusion that comes down on us, it is not easy to keep faith, to keep hope, it is not easy to keep trusting when we are worried-or anxious or fearful, when life seems to have run away from us. The lesson of St Joseph is that if we are faithful to God, if we hold on to him, then a new light will appear in our life. There is no easy way round that, we can’t jump into the good times, we just have to keeping walking through the darkness till we come to the light.

It isn’t only Jospeh who had that experience; we hear of King Ahaz in the first reading; he was facing war and the invasion of his country by an enemy that they could not hope to withstand. He was asked to trust, to believe in God, but it was too much for him, he was too frightened of life and what might happen, he was too frightened by what he knew of his enemy to put everything in God’s hands and believe they would survive. Sometimes all we can do is keep going forward and trusting in God to get us through things, trusting that he is close by even when we can’t be sure that God is with us.

That presence of God with us is what we are preparing to celebrate. In Christ’s birth, death and resurrection, God wants us to know that we are not alone in our journey. Christ took on flesh and lived, sharing in our life so that we would know we were not left alone in the midst of the confusion in the world. He asks us to walk with hope, to walk in trust that no matter what happens, no matter how dark life can be, there is light awaiting us; he wants us to know there is a true and lasting joy if we trust and hope in him.

All of St Joseph’s life was lived in that trust; he never lived to see the work that Christ did, he never saw the revelation of Christ’s glory in his miracles or heard the words of hope he gave to people. His whole life was lived believing what he had been told by the angel, trusting in God’s word. Only in death did he understand what had been asked of him. May we too receive that grace of trust and hope in God even if it is only in death we finally see what we have hoped in.

Canon Conroy is the parish priest of St Patrick’s and St Peter’s parishes in Dumbarton

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