Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter's Square before the Wednesday general audience Dec. 11, 2013. Credit: Kyle Burkhart / CNA.
St. Joseph “was not stubborn in following his own life plans, he did not allow resentment to poison his soul, but he was prepared to make himself disposed to the news that, in a disconcerting way, was presented to him,” said the Pope on Dec. 22.
Referring to the gospel story which recounts St. Joseph’s plans to divorce Mary quietly after learning about her pregnancy, and his subsequent dream regarding the miracle of the Incarnation, Pope Francis reflected on “the greatness of St. Joseph’s soul.”
“He was following a good life plan, but God had kept a different design for him, a greater mission. Joseph was a man who always listened to the voice of God, profoundly amenable to God’s secret will, a man attentive to the messages that came from the depths of the heart and from above,” explained Pope Francis.
St. Joseph’s faithfulness did not mean that his path was easy, however. When he became aware that Mary was pregnant, “he remained disconcerted.”
“The gospel does not explain what his thoughts were, but it tells us the essentials: that he seeks to do the will of God, and he is ready for a radical renunciation,” noted the Pontiff.
The decision to then divorce Mary quietly represents for Joseph “an enormous sacrifice,” when “we think of the love that Joseph had for Mary!” Pope Francis exclaimed.
This was “a trial similar to the sacrifice of Abraham, when God asked for his son Isaac: to renounce the most precious thing, the most loved person.”
In preparation for Christmas, “we must meditate on these words (of the gospel) in order to understand the trial that Joseph had to sustain in the days preceding the birth of Jesus,” encouraged Pope Francis.
“But as in the case of Abraham, God intervened. He found the faith that he was looking for and opened a different way, a way of love and happiness.”
The Pope continued, “accepting the Lord’s plan, Joseph fully found himself, beyond himself… his full interior openness to the will of God challenges us and shows us the way.”
“Let us thus prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas contemplating Mary and Joseph: Mary, the woman full of grace who had the courage to entrust herself fully to the word of God; Joseph, the faithful and just man who preferred to believe the Lord rather than listen to the voices of doubt and human pride.”
“With them, let us journey together toward Bethlehem,” urged the Pontiff.
After praying the Angelus with the crowds filling St. Peter’s square, Pope Francis offered his greetings to various pilgrim groups.
Upon seeing one group holding a banner that said in Italian, “The Poor Cannot Wait!” Pope Francis noted the difficult life of the homeless, whose situation is not unlike that of Mary and Joseph who had to flee their home with the infant Jesus to seek safety in Egypt.
“I call on everyone,” said the Pope, “individuals, organs of society, authorities, to do everything possible to assure that every family has a place to live.”