Sunday, December 18, 2016

Joseph, man of prayer

4th Sunday of Advent year A 2016:
During this season of Advent we have been talking all about prayer.  We’ve discussed what prayer is all about, obstacles to prayer, different prayer styles.  But, today, I want to talk about putting prayer into action.
Today we hear about Joseph.  Notice, I said we hear about Joseph, because we don’t actually hear any words from Joseph.  I find it interesting that the gospel never records and words from his mouth, but we certainly see his actions.  His actions speak louder than words.  He is a great example for us.  I think what we hear about Joseph in this story can give us a great plan for growing in our prayer and in our life of faith.
First, we hear that he is a righteous man.  He was going to divorce her quietly.  This is because if Mary had been found with child out of wedlock, she could have been stoned for her “crimes.”  But, Joseph wasn’t that kind of person.  Joseph was merciful.  This is the first thing we learn about him.  We find out that he is merciful and righteous.
Next, we learn that he has a great life of prayer.  Why do I say that?  Because, he literally hears from God.  He hears from an angel in a dream what he is supposed to do.  In other words, he receives direction and guidance from God.  Now, he certainly received it in an amazing way.  But, we learn from this story that Joseph was in communication with God.
Finally, Joseph shows that he is a man of great faith, not by what he says, but by what he does.  As I’ve said, no one would have blamed him for separating from Mary.  But, rather he trusts in the message of the angel, and he follows the instructions he received.  Joseph believed, and this belief turned into his actions.  He heard a message from God, and he carried it out.
I think I said last week, the difference between a goal and a wish is a plan.  I think most of us would say that we would like to trust God more.  I hear it often in the confessional: I need to put more trust in God.  But, that is just a wish unless we have a plan.  So, what is the plan?  Just to be like Joseph.  He shows us the blueprint. 
First, Joseph was righteous.  Where do we need to change our actions?  Advent is a great time for conversion, for confessions.  We priests have been hearing zillions of confessions, and it’s great.  If we want to trust God and grow in our lives of prayer, conversion and righteousness sets the stage.  Joseph teaches us that if we want to hear God’s voice, it helps to turn away from our sins.  Sin makes it hard to hear God.
Second, we make a commitment to being people who are in regular communication with God.  Now, God might not speak to you in the dream through an angel, but he will speak to us if we give him a chance.  Joseph heard this pretty amazing message in an extraordinary way; but, God still speaks to his people, he will speak to each one of us if we are ready to listen.
Third, when God speaks, take action.  Joseph was not an amazing saint because God spoke to him.  Joseph is an amazing saint because he took action.  He not only heard the message of the angel, but then he acted on that message.  Can we always say the same thing? 
I remember praying at one point in my life: am I supposed to be a priest?  When I got the yes message back, I hesitated for a long time to take action.  But, I finally did, and the rest is history.  My life hasn’t turned out exactly as I planned it, but it’s been way better.  Following God can be a bit of a wild ride sometime, but we have to trust that he’s leading us somewhere we want to go.

So, trusting and following God is the goal.  The plan is to be like Joseph.  Number 1, Joseph was righteous, we are in need of constant conversion.  Number 2, Joseph communicated with God through the angel, we communicate with God through our prayer.  Number 3, when God asked, Joseph acted; when God asks something from us, we should take action as well.  Following this plan of life, Joseph saw amazing things, like the birth of Christ the savior.  If we follow Joseph’s game plan, we will see amazing things in our lives as well.

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