December 27, 2009


Son, why have you done this to us? – Luke 2: 48

Notice, it is Mary who asks this question. What about Joseph? He has no speaking parts in this drama about Jesus’ birth & boyhood. Not one word. He even gets the news second hand, suffers humiliation & embarrassment in silence. He is famously always in the background, just being there. So far as the Gospels are concerned, he is hidden, ordinary & obedient. He is someone caught up in the grand purposes of God without really understanding what was going on.

Even in later art work anonymous Joseph is often pictured in the background or in the shadows while the spotlight falls on Mary & Jesus. We know nothing of his death, except it was likely before the deaths of Jesus & Mary. That’s St. Joseph , & I suspect most of us can identify with him. We live & work in ordinary places, & are rarely the first to get the news. We too live the hidden life. We’re background people. But it is into such hidden lives that grace comes. Yes, it is in the hidden lives that the true stuff of living, learning & loving are to be found. It is in the ordinary lives where daily, quiet heroism flourishes, where saints are made.

Take Steve. He struggled to get through Advent with all the Christmas parties, but he made it. Steve, you see, is an alcoholic who has fallen off the wagon several times but he stops in Church & prays for strength. He sees himself as a rag-tag lowly shepherd in need of redemption. He’s way ahead of those think they are self-made & need no one.

Then there is Valerie. She has Alzheimer’s. She was one of those very bright, talented vivacious outgoing persons – a delight to be with. It’s easy to picture her husband, Ray, as a Joseph, quietly ministering to his wife, there in the background, faithful in his devotion as he was in marriage. The quiet man who will be there to the end. A saint.

Finally, there is Marge. Her son Michael is 45 years old & in a nursing home. He has been schizophrenic since early adolescence. She sees him every day, whether he knows her or not & she is so proud when he looks so handsome, as she puts it. She looks at the Christmas crčche & thinks of the baby who didn’t turn out as she had hoped, but she still keeps the faith.

This is the stuff of being human. Victory lies with the Josephs of this world, the hidden presences who make our beds, put food on the table, who were there when we needed them most, cried & laughed with us. They are the behind-the-scene saints who live in the soft shadows of our hearts. Today we remember them, members of our holy family; & because of them, we can say, “May God be blessed & praised!” AMEN!