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.
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.