Often in life, things happen whose meaning we do not understand. Our first reaction is frequently one of disappointment and rebellion. Joseph set aside his own ideas in order to accept the course of events and, mysterious as they seemed, to embrace them, take responsibility for them and make them part of his own history. Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.
Joseph’s disappointment in his circumstances would be more than understandable. He doesn’t let it govern him. Even as it piles on like a no-good, very bad year.
The spiritual path that Joseph traces for us is not one that explains, but accepts. Only as a result of this acceptance, this reconciliation, can we begin to glimpse a broader history, a deeper meaning. We can almost hear an echo of the impassioned reply of Job to his wife, who had urged him to rebel against the evil he endured: “Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?” (Job 2:10).
Eventually he does utter a rebellion, but even then, God shows mercy in the very end.
Joseph is certainly not passively resigned, but courageously and firmly proactive. In our own lives, acceptance and welcome can be an expression of the Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude. Only the Lord can give us the strength needed to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions, frustrations and disappointments.
Joseph strikes me as a contrasting soul to the Psalmist. Not that they are in conflict. But the Psalmist is prepared in the lament to make a list of complaints, to bargain with God, to promote in song an example of loyalty. The Psalmist is God’s ally against evil and misfortune.
Joseph is too, but he doesn’t need to trumpet it in the Temple. He listens carefully, and as Pope Francis reminds us, he shows great courage in the face of life-threatening persecution.