In ranking the best baseball movies of all time, Field of Dreams would certainly be high on any critic’s list. In that movie, an unlikely farmer finds himself standing in a hot Iowa cornfield when suddenly, he hears the VOICE: “If you build it, he will come.” After asking the typical questions one might ask an unknown voice, such as Who are you? and What do you want? the VOICE fades away. In the silence, the farmer is left hanging and wondering what he should do next. For the balance of the movie, he is found exploring what the VOICE wants him to do. Driving a 1960s vintage Volkswagen van, he travels from Iowa to Boston to Minnesota and back to Iowa. In doing so, he brings others along, as well. They, too, are inserted into the action. For the story is not just about one person; the VOICE had something to tell others, as well.
During Advent and Christmas, as a community of believers, we encounter many voices and questions in the Holy Scriptures. In a reading written seven-hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah’s (7:10-14) bold voice proclaims that God’s salvation will be marked by the extraordinary event of a Virgin giving birth to a child- Emmanuel– God with us. We are told that child, who is Christ the Lord, will be born in the line of the House of David, a reality that St. Paul expands on in his Letter to the Romans (1:1-7). Paul powerfully proclaims that Christ has come for the Gentiles, too. In the Gospel of Matthew (1:18-24), Isaiah’s prophecy meets the practical and St. Joseph finds himself inserted into a situation which he cannot understand. Truly, St. Joseph is a man with many questions and concerns. In that gospel passage, we read: “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.”
Now given that Joseph was a carpenter, he was most likely a practical and logical person. Having acquired skills in woodworking and creating structures that people could use, his profession dictated that a certain logic (e.g., types of wood, angles, etc.) be used in the construction of objects. And so, as Mary’s pregnancy became increasingly visible, Joseph’s logical side made him painfully aware that he was not the father. He knew that while continuing to respect Mary, preparations must be made for their separation. But suddenly: “…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.’…When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
For Joseph, the angel’s soft and reassuring voice laid rest to his many doubts—and questions. And from that point on, Joseph, a man of great faith, never turned back. He now understood the plan for his life. God had asked him to build a home for Jesus and Mary, one that would provide them with the safety and stability to grow so that God’s plan for humanity would flourish. Because of his abiding trust, St. Joseph has been raised to patron of the Universal Church and is held up as a role model—for us!
What message should we take from this story? With Christmas upon us, the Savior of the world has come into our midst. Given this, perhaps we should be like St. Joseph and reflect upon that which has been given us by the Lord himself. Our family…Our friends…Our health… Our livelihoods…Our faith…Our very lives. In what ways have we nurtured them? Have we been like St. Joseph and built for them a strong foundation in order that God’s divine plan might take root and flourish around us? Have we acknowledged that God desires that we grow in holiness not only for ourselves, but also for the sake of others? Have we considered that we have been placed here to make a difference in the lives of others? In thinking about these things, may we emulate St. Joseph—and listen. And in listening, may we hear God’s soft voice speak to us and answer our every doubt and question.