In this Sunday’s Gospel, St. Joseph is visited by an angel of God
while he is sleeping. To us, it may seem foolish that the salvation of all
mankind rested on Joseph’s response to a dream, but since it was God’s plan, we
know it was perfect. In a way, it makes sense God would communicate through a
dream. Dreams come from deep within us, and can connect us to our innermost
being, often revealing thoughts and fears we did not even know existed. It is
also in these depths that the Holy Spirit dwells, uniting us intimately with
the Holy Trinity.
Even for those of us who cannot remember our dreams, we can learn
from Joseph’s faithful and immediate response to the angel’s message. When he
awoke, the conditions of his life had not changed: Mary, his wife, was still
pregnant with a child of whom he was not the natural father. Yet his faith
allowed him to know that the message of the angel was from God, and that the child
in Mary’s womb was conceived by the Holy Spirit, would be called Jesus, and
would bring salvation to the world. Joseph’s faith allowed him to hear God’s
words. Joseph’s faith brought him peace and sent him forward with courage to do
the will of God.
It is only when we live by faith that we are able to hear God’s
voice and respond with all our hearts. There will be times in our lives when
this will occur in momentous decisions, such as the one Joseph had after his
dream. More often, however, it is in the small decisions that we allow God to
mold us into the people we are called to be. When we follow God’s will, we find
that we become more virtuous, generous, and joyful men and women. God desires
to speak to us every day so that He can share his plan for us. Living
faithfully can help free us from the obstacles of sin and self-love that keep
us from hearing the word of God.
The key to living a life of faith is prayer. God used a dream to
speak to Joseph, but for most of us, the means of intimate conversation with
Him is prayer. Prayer makes our hearts to be like fertile soil. Prayer opens us
up to listening to the word of God in Scripture, in the people around us, in
the events of our life, in the thoughts and ideas God places into our minds
when we spend time with Him in prayer, whether in front of Him in adoration in
the church, or gathered with our family at home, or even sitting silently in
In our prayers, let us beg God to make us faithful and docile
like St. Joseph. Let us ask that He allow us to hear His will for us clearly
and follow it with courage and joy. When we do this, God will certainly answer
our prayers, for He loves us and desires to reveal to us His plan for our
salvation and this gift of eternal life.
Prayer is our means to opening our hearts to God, and His means
of guiding us and showing us His love. Joseph had a dream that changed his
life, and ours, forever. This week, as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the
Son of God, may we earnestly pray that the Lord enters into our lives and our
hearts and enlightens us so that we, too, may follow His will with our whole
being, and bring the love of His Son to the world.
Fr. Wagner is Arlington Bishop Michael F. Burbidge’s secretary.