In today's Gospel reading, we encounter a St. Joseph full of dreams for the future, "a beautiful family, with a loving wife. Many good children and a decent job. Simple, good dreams of simple, good people. Suddenly, however, these dreams are shattered by a disconcerting discovery: Maria, his fiancée, is expecting a child, and that child is not his."
The Pope invites us to look into the heart of this poor artisan: "What could Joseph have felt? Bewilderment, pain, disorientation, perhaps also anger and disillusionment. The world came crashing down on him.
Faced with this situation, "the law gave him two possibilities. The first was to denounce Mary and make her pay the price for an alleged infidelity. The second, to annul their engagement, in secret, without exposing Mary to scandal and serious consequences, taking upon himself the weight of shame. Joseph chose this second way, the way of mercy.
"In the midst of this crisis," continues the Pope, "God kindles a new light in Joseph's heart. In a dream he announces to him that Mary's motherhood does not come from betrayal, but is the work of the Holy Spirit, and that the child to be born is the Savior. Mary will be the mother of the Messiah and he will be her guardian".
St. Joseph's response
All this caused Joseph to wake up and realize that "the dream of every Israelite, to be the father of the Messiah, is coming true in him in an absolutely unexpected way. To realize it, in fact, it will not be enough for him to belong to the lineage of David and to observe the law faithfully, but he will have to trust in God above all else. To welcome Mary and her son in a completely different way from what was expected.
In reality, the Pope tells us, this means that "Joseph will have to give up his comforting certainties, his perfect plans, his legitimate expectations, to open himself to a future entirely to be discovered. God spoils his plans and asks him to trust Him. Joseph responds and says yes. Francis points out that "his courage is heroic and is realized in silence. Joseph trusts, welcomes, makes himself available and asks for no further guarantees".
Meditating on this reading, Joseph invites us to reflect. "We too have our dreams and perhaps at Christmas we think more about them." We may even long for some broken dreams, the Pope mentions, and we see that "the best hopes often have to face unexpected, disconcerting situations. When this happens, Joseph shows us the way. We must not give in to negative feelings, such as anger and closed-mindedness".
Joseph teaches us, says the Holy Father, to "welcome the surprises of life, including crises. Keeping in mind that, when one is in crisis, one should not decide hastily according to instinct, but, like Joseph, consider all things and rely on the main criterion: the mercy of God".
The Pope affirms that "God is an expert in transforming crises into dreams. God opens crises to new perspectives. Perhaps not as we expect, but as he knows how. God's horizons, Francis concludes, "are surprising, but infinitely wider and more beautiful than our own". And so, together with the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, we learn to open ourselves to "the surprises of Life".