Lenten Contemplations


Day Thirty-five (Saint Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary)

"Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  When his mother Mary
was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child
through the holy Spirit.  Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet
unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.  Such a was his
intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. 
For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.  She will
bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because, he will save his people from
their sins."   All this took place to fulfill what the Lord has said through the prophet:
"Behold, the virgin shall be with child
     and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,"
which means "God is with us."  When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord
had commanded him and took his wife into his home.  He had no relations with her
until she bore a son, and named him Jesus."
Matthew 1:18-25 - The New American Bible

This day is the Feast day of St. Joseph, earthly father of Jesus the man.   This day we collectively dedicate and recognize Joseph's role in the miracle of Christ to the world.  When reflecting upon Joseph and his path with the Lord, we realize what he was called to do was not an easy thing.

In those days having a child of your own was so important, more important than your own life  -  for it represented God showing great favor upon you as posterity was a greater blessing than life itself.  For Joseph to receive his child not through his own, but through the holy Spirit, we can realize this must have been a difficult thing to accept - not only in action, but in belief. 

Before he was told the truth about Mary by the angel of the Lord, Joseph learned she was with child and that would be considered adultery.  His love for Mary was so great that he chose not to expose her, for the act of adultery was punishable by death - Mary would have be stoned to death.  He chose to keep her truth private, but was going to leave Mary and spare her life.  Then, an Angel of the Lord visited Joesph and revealed to him that his betrothed was with child and this child was God's; that Mary conceived through the Holy Spirit. 

It would take not only a great act of faith to accept such a thing but a great act of humility to know that this child you were to nurture, love and raise, was not your own.  And yet upon the revelation of this truth, he graciously accepted Mary, the child and the path that was yet to be revealed to him.  He accepted the honor given unto him and his family and set forth in life to raise this child as one of his very own. 

It is the role of step-father that we see in Joseph, a role he exhibited with so much generosity.  It's not always in our hearts to treat those not of our blood lineage with the same loving rights as we do our own children.  Many times, step-children and even step-parents, are thought of as extensions of the family, not really "family", and yet Joseph took in Jesus and raised him as his true father.

I see the beauty of a soul who provides so much for his family even if he did not birth that child.  The generosity to share one's wealth with the children.  The generosity to support those children, love and care for them even if not of your own heritage.  This is a great act from souls who follow the example of Joseph - to love even if not required. 

It's a beautiful thing to celebrate the gifts Joseph brought to mankind.  He could easily have left Mary.   And here we realize how fragile our choices can be.  For if Joseph had decided that Mary was in the wrong, and if he had no faith in God, what then would have happened on the path of Jesus?  God will always provide, but how different it may have looked and how many beautiful lessons could have been lost.

For through Joseph we see the adoption of children.  We see him graciously accept a child that was not of his own progeny.  We know he took him in as his own, raised him, nurtured him, shared with him, taught him skills and social behaviors, gave him nourishment, shelter, love, work, companionship, family and so many other things.  But what's so beautiful in this, is that he was the human example of exactly what our Heavenly Father is bestowing upon mankind. 

For while Christ came into this world for the lost "sheep" of Israel, he also came to bring all of God's children home to the Father.  For we know that God chose Israel and Jesus chose the apostles to go out into the world and share the gospel; to bring home to the kingdom, the adopted children of God - the gentiles.  Jesus came to lay the foundation, to put the rock in place, and those whom he called "friend", those whom he walked with for years teaching the word of God, had the mission of bringing into the Kingdom all those who God wanted home.  Just as Jesus was sent to bring home the Israelites, God's desire was to welcome all children into his home. 


Day Thirty-six

Praying the Stations of the Cross. 

When I was a child I was introduced to the Stations of the Cross in school - a requirement in Catholic school.  I always had problems with the stations for each station I approached was this reality of how Jesus, whom I love very much, was so tortured.  I thought how cruel man is and the terrible things they did to Christ.  I never liked participating, except for the group.  It was the group I was with, (my classmates, our priests, and our nuns who led us through the prayers), it is they who I enjoyed.  It seems a strange thing to love the group, but fear the path we were walking.  But the group gave me a sense of comfort and protection - a realization that I wasn't alone.  I could be at their sides and know we were all in this together. 

For years I sat in church hearing a prompting to pray the stations every lenten season.  My memories kept me from responding; it wasn't something I wanted to do, or so I thought.  One time while contemplating praying the stations, I recalled the joy I had walking with my classmates in prayer.   I felt a peace stir inside me and a yearning to make the journey.  My heart wanted to be there -  it bypassed the intellectual knowledge in my mind and with a child's heart I wanted to embrace my matured knowledge of the Lord.  So I started to pray the stations of the cross. 

As you read and pray, the scriptures reveal the story of his passion - a story of suffering for no wrongs; a story of abuse for kindness; of brutality and injury for mercy and healing.  So much is revealed to the soul as you walk this path - for it is not only your personal relationship you are praying in, but the group as well.  A group of compassionate souls who seek to walk with Christ and offer their love to his mission, his people and his purpose.  The stations give an opportunity to go inside the journey of Christ on such a deep level and experience his mission as you walk with those who walked with him then, and who walk with him now. 

It is this group that held together when death was following them, hunting them down and killing them grotesquely, brutally and in mockery of their great faith in God.  It is the group that continues to this day to share the teachings of our Lord Jesus and pass the torch to all of us to continue to keep the fire blazing - purifying with his word and truth and purging impurities in the consciousness of mankind. 

I've learned what I felt as a child about the stations is the truth. The Passion was a frightening experience to have endured for anyone, of any age.  I've learned that those present were scared, hurt, confused and had no one to turn to except themselves as a collective whole in the Faith of God.  I've learned they had to stay together despite the mocking, accusations, man hunts, persecutions and betrayals.  They were burned alive in Nero's courtyard on stakes as if party torches; they were held captive in prisons for years; they were stoned and even crucified.  Peter, the rock, the foundation of Christ's church, was caught and the Romans chose to crucify him for his crime of teaching Christianity. 

Praying the stations opens up this channel of revelation for you to reflect upon what happened that day - to Jesus, his apostles, his followers, his Mother Mary, Mary Magdalene and the many he healed, the Pharisees and Sadducees who sat and ate with him, who watched him grow from a young boy into the man he became; the men who listened to him in the temple and were amazed at his unfounded comprehension of deep spiritual laws and the numerous other things Christ did - your heart opens to see not just a crucifixion, but the resurrection - the Victory of his journey and the reason he gave his life for his "friends".    For we realize as we walk, that Christ was a man.  He was terrified.  He suffered.  He hurt physically, emotionally, spiritually.  He was mocked by the devil and his own community and his enemies despite the miracles and the wisdom he imparted.  How he loves us indeed.




"My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?
Why so far from my call for help,

from my cries of anguish?

My God, I call by day, but you do not
by night, but I have no relief.

Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One;

you are the glory of Israel.

In you our ancestors trusted;

they trusted and you rescued them.

To you they cried out and they escaped;

in you they trusted and were not disappointed.

But I am a worm, hardly human,

scorned by everyone, despised by the
All who see me mock me;

they curl their lips and jeer;

they shake their heads at me.

"You relied on the Lord - let him deliver
if he loves you, let him rescue you."

Yet you drew me forth from the womb,

made me safe at my mother's breast.

Upon you, I was thrust from the womb;

since birth you are my God.

Do not stay far from me,

for trouble is near,

and there is no one to help."

Psalm 22; The New American Bible






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"Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960,1962,1963,1968,1971,1972,1973,1975,1977,1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission."

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