Total Abandonment

Day 7

The Lord can accomplish marvels through souls who abandon themselves completely to his will! Abandonment, properly understood, includes a full and total gift of self. We give everything. It requires heroic humility, deep interior faith, unshakable confidence and radical obedience. The irony is that in abandonment, we find perfect fulfillment of our greatest desires. When we lose ourselves, we find ourselves.

As men, we often feel a duty to “man the ship”, so to speak. We naturally lead, guide and protect. Perhaps the responsibility is at times overbearing. We can regularly feel as if so many people depend on us to steer them with all the right answers. While we often times bear the obligation to be the compass for other people, abandonment can sound unpractical and unachievable.

Ironically, Saint Therese insisted, “It is abandonment alone which guides me. I have no other compass” (Manuscrits Autobiographiques, 207). As her spirituality matured, St. Therese found that she was no longer driven by her own desires. The two competing compasses of her past had been reduced to one: doing the will of God. In our lives, jobs and families, there is only one person who should be steering the ship, and we should follow his every order. When God finds souls like St. Therese, he is free to accomplish whatever he wills through them. Pause for a moment to consider: what would life be like if you surrendered everything, and I mean everything, to the Lord?

We cannot know for certain, but I believe Joseph possessed heroic virtues and sanctity long before he knew of his historical vocation. Joseph had long before united his own will to the will of God. Therefore, God knew there was an open vessel to carry out his most beautiful plan for the salvation of souls.

When we abandon our lives to the will of God, no matter what happens, we experience a profound inner peace. St. Joseph’s very life was a testament to this reality. Reflect on the events surrounding the birth of Christ and his infancy. The Holy Family fled on a donkey to a town called Bethlehem and could not find a room to sleep. I don’t know many women who would be thrilled to be nine months pregnant, about to go into labor and be forced to sleep outside. Imagine telling your bride, “Don’t worry, dear! We can lay down our newborn in this feeding trough after the birth.”

Things did not get any easier after the birth. King Herod was infuriated that he had been tricked by the wise men and decided that the only way to ensure his reign continued would be to have all the males under the age of two killed (Matthew 2:16). The infamous Massacre of the Innocents is hard to imagine even 2,000 years later. Joseph fled Israel and had his wife and child on the run once again. In obedience, they went to Egypt, where they waited for further instruction from the angel of the Lord. After Herod’s death, he took his family back to Israel, but then was forced to withdraw to the district of Galilee and finally to the small, obscure town of Nazareth. God’s plans for Joseph didn’t always make sense, but as long as the Lord was at the helm, Joseph knew he was on the right track.

Through Joseph’s journey, a profound peace was born from the fruit of trust, obedience and abandonment to the will of God. The peace in the hearts of Mary and Joseph did not remain internal and invisible but became physical and tangible. The Peace of God was born and laid in swaddling clothes in that manger. Both angels and animals were present before the one who was both God and man. The spiritual and the physical became incarnate in the Christ-child. There was a cosmic harmony the Earth had not yet experienced until that silent night. Peace was present in the midst of what the rest of the world would call chaos. That is what Joseph and the Holy Family experienced.  St. Paul described it as peace “which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

God had a plan, and his will was accomplished. To see it through, he chose a man after his own heart. Peace entered the world through abandonment.

Personal Reflection:

Christ proclaimed to the disciples, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me, and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Do you trust in the goodness of God enough to lay your life down in abandonment to his will? What is holding you back? Fear of suffering? Fear of failure? Fear you will miss out on all the fun? Do not worry if you are weak, for God promises, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). “Confidence is perfected in worry, humility is perfected in the movements of pride, light is perfected in darkness” (Father Jean d’Elbee, I Believe in Love).

It comes down to believing and trusting in the goodness of God and then having the humility to believe that he loves you. He longs to fulfill his plans for your life. As surely as he did for St. Joseph, he longs to bring peace into your life.

Heavenly Father – ease the doubts, fears, and distractions that cloud my mind and my heart. Help me to take another step in my spiritual life by laying all that I have and all that I am at your feet. Jesus, I trust in you!

St. Joseph – make me a man after God’s own heart. Amen.

Sower and the Seed

Day 6

Scripture tells us St. Joseph was “a just man before God,” and we now understand through our reflection that he was also “a man after God’s own heart.” In short, Joseph was good soil that bore abundant fruit. Today, let us consider Christ’s parable of the sower and the seed. It speaks of both St. Joseph and of ourselves.

The story of the sower and the seed is unique. By definition, every man fits into one of the four categories, but at the same time, most of us have experienced a little of each.

For today’s reflection, let us listen to the words of Christ and contemplate the obstacles for becoming fertile soil:

Personal Reflection:

The sower goes out to sow the Word of God.

1) “Some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them” (Matthew 13:4). Christ explains, “When any one hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the Evil One comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart” (Matthew 13:19).

  • Is your heart united to God?
  • What are the obstacles/distractions from this?

2) “Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they had not much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched; and since they had no root they withered away” (Matthew 13:5-6). Christ explains, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures for awhile and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away” (Matthew 13:20-21).

  • Are you rooted in Christ or in the comforts of the world?
  • What is the evidence of this in your daily routine?

3) “Other seeds fell upon thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them” (Matthew 13:7). Christ explains, “This is he who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the delight in riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful” (Matthew 13:22).

  • Is your ultimate desire for worldly success or to serve the Lord?
  • What desires choke the Word in your personal life?

4) “Other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matthew 13:8). Christ explains, “This is he who hears the word and understands it; he indeed bears fruit, and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty” (Matthew 13:23).

  • Are you like Joseph? Do you listen to God’s word, understand it, and rise up to fulfill it?
  • How does it change your life when you accomplish the will of the Father?

Heavenly Father – help me to set aside the distractions in my life, so that I may become the good soil. Help me detach myself from my own disordered passions that cause me to lose the seed that you have planted within my soul. Help me to listen, to understand, and to do your will. Use me to bear great fruit. Make me more like St. Joseph. Amen.

St. Joseph – make me a man after God’s own heart. Amen.

Do Whatever He Tells You

Day 5

While Joseph spoke not a word in Scripture, Our Lady spoke merely a few. Her words were powerful, and her final words say it all: “Do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). Mary spoke them to the chief steward at the Wedding Feast of Cana, and she perpetually speaks them to her children throughout human history. These are Mary’s words for us, the best and only Christian advice we need. Most people make things very complex, but Mary makes it very simple. In a single sentence, she sums up the entire life of St. Joseph, a life she witnessed firsthand. I’m sure this sentence was the mantra of their entire lives, and we are blessed that this wisdom has been passed along to us.

Yesterday, we heard that King David was honorably named “a man after my heart, who will do all my will” (Acts 13: 22). What merited this response from God? Precisely as God says, he “will do all my will.”

For David, this desire manifested itself as a desire to be in the presence of God. As the story unraveled we find that God’s plans differed from David’s as he had something else in store. Although it must have been incredibly difficult, King David obeyed. David’s heart longed for action as he yearned to build a temple where God could reside amongst his people. He began the preparations that his son, Solomon, would one day complete. David lived with a growing hunger to encounter the living God.

Nearly a thousand years later, a man once again experienced this presence of God in an earth-shattering way through unshakable obedience. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”  (Matthew 1:20-21).

The very person of God in flesh came to dwell in his home, eat at his table and work by his side. St. Joseph became a man after God’s own heart, as he gazed into the eyes of the child that he loved more than life. Joseph worked to feed his family, prayed to lead his family, longed to bring joy to his family and made decisions for the good of his family. By simply loving the son entrusted to him, St. Joseph became a man after God’s own heart.

Personal Reflection:

Jesus promises that “where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them” (Mt. 18:20). Jesus longs to make good on this promise in the daily rhythm of your home. Just as Joseph was a man after the heart of his son, that very same son is present in the heart of your family. Joseph was the pioneer of Christian fatherhood as he fathered Christ. Make no mistake, he intercedes for you now that you may be a man after God’s own heart, and that you won’t miss the presence of God dwelling so clearly within the walls of your home.

St. Joseph not only carried out God’s will – he did not hesitate. He did not have a passive role in the story of our salvation, and he did not have a passive personality. He may have been meek and humble of heart, but St. Joseph was a man of action.

How is God calling you in your life and how will you respond? Do you have the humility and faith to do whatever he tells you?

Heavenly Father, at times it is very hard for me to discern your voice.

I desire to do your will. Help me draw closer to you and remove the clutter from my life, so that I may hear when you call.  May your still, small voice be like thunder to my heart. Speak Lord, for your servant is listening.

St. Joseph, make me a man after God’s own heart. Amen.

A Man After God’s Own Heart

Day 4

Today is the start of Section 2:
A Just Man before God

“Though thou hast recourse to many saints as thine intercessors, go specially to St. Joseph, for he has great power with God.”
St. Teresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church; Spiritual Maxims #65

A Man After God’s Own Heart

King David was the only man named in Scripture as a “man after God’s own heart.” This title stands out, because King David was the center of quite a scandal in his time. Not only did he have an adulterous affair, but he also became an accomplice to murder in his efforts to hide his sin. As the story unfolded, God sent the Prophet Nathan, David repented, and for ages humanity has been blessed to read some of the most beautiful penitential passages in all of Scripture (see Psalm 51). David’s life exemplified an incredible testimony to the truth of the famous words of St. Paul, “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20).

God “raised up David to be their king; of whom he testified and said, ‘I have found in David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who will do all my will’” (Acts 13:22). As men of God, our hearts’ mission must align with David’s in pursuit of the heart of the Father. Our actions, decisions, prayer and daily comings and goings should gratify the Lord.

Although King David was the only man we find in Scripture named as such, it is safe to say that St. Joseph was a man after God’s own heart. He was single-minded and whole-hearted in his desire to follow and do God’s will no matter the consequence. Consider what the Holy Spirit reveals to us about St. Joseph in the Scriptures. On four different occasions, God’s will was revealed to Joseph by means of an angel, and in each instance, Joseph responded with complete obedience.

But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:20)

When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:24-25)

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him. And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt. (Matthew 2:13-14)

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.” (Matthew 2:19-21)

But when he heard that Archelaus reigned over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. And he went and dwelt in a city called Nazareth.” (Matthew 2:22-23)

St. Joseph intently listened to the voice of God and acted upon it from the time he awoke. Each day, we can hear St. Joseph emphatically resound, “Yes!” to the Lord’s call and will.  In the heart of Joseph was a desire to adore the heart of God, and as a result, his deepest desires were satisfied. He was living proof of King David’s promise that you must, “find your delight in the Lord, who will give you your heart’s desire” (Psalm 27:5).

Personal Reflection:

The world is desperate for more men like St. Joseph, men after God’s own heart. In order to be one yourself, you must lay down your will at his feet, proclaiming in your heart along with Mary and Joseph, “Let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

Tomorrow, we will consider the obstacles we must overcome.

Heavenly Father – give me the grace and desire to become a man after your own heart.  Help me follow your will and trust in your goodness. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done.

St. Joseph – make me a man after God’s own heart. Amen.