As I looked over the second half of section 2, I was thinking of that passage from Sirach, “The sum of a person’s days is great if it reaches a hundred years: Like a drop of sea water, like a grain of sand, so are these few years among the days of eternity. That is why the Lord is patient with us and showers upon us his mercy.” (18:7-9) The Lord shows patience, but also tenderness. What does this have to do with Saint Joseph?
The evil one makes us see and condemn our frailty, whereas the Spirit brings it to light with tender love. Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us. Pointing fingers and judging others are frequently signs of an inability to accept our own weaknesses, our own frailty. Only tender love will save us from the snares of the accuser (cf. Revelation 12:10). That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness. Paradoxically, the evil one can also speak the truth to us, yet he does so only to condemn us.
This is the point of Ignatian discernment of spirits–to see how darkness manipulates us. It takes whatever tack–the brutal truth or the most believable lies–to sink us.
Joseph is an icon of good fatherhood, a parent we can see, and who like us, was fully human, fully frail, yet depicted as having a quiet and confident trust in God.
We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us. That truth always presents itself to us like the merciful father in Jesus’ parable (cf. Luke 15:11-32). It comes out to meet us, restores our dignity, sets us back on our feet and rejoices for us, for, as the father says: “This my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (v. 24).
The annunciation to Joseph (Cf. Matthew 1:19-20ff) finds the man at a low point: concerned and fearful about following through with a plan for marriage. He trusts God’s messenger, and in future dealings with angels, he persists in a pattern of turning control over to God:
Even through Joseph’s fears, God’s will, his history and his plan were at work. Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.