He dwells among us: The journey to Bethlehem

‘The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light,’ and St. Joseph is our sure guide

With the beginning of Advent, the Church marks the start of a new liturgical year, a full month before we celebrate the beginning of a new calendar year. And this seems fitting for it is exactly when the days begin growing darker and colder that the Church holds up a lantern of light and hope to help guide us through the uncertainties of life’s journey.

Particularly during Advent I find comfort in contemplating St. Joseph, who the Church honors and recommends to us as our special protector and guide.

I remember very clearly celebrating my first Mass the day after my ordination to the priesthood on Dec. 14, 1985, and how I felt a special closeness to St. Joseph.

As I pronounced for the very first time those words of consecration, I held in my hands under the appearance of bread and wine the very one whom St. Joseph had held in his arms in Bethlehem. And particularly since my ordination and installation as bishop of this wonderful diocese on the feast of St. Joseph on March 19, 2009, I have frequently sought his intercession in helping me to guide and protect the souls of those entrusted to my care—and I invite you to do the same.

Just as St. Joseph was entrusted with God’s two most precious gifts—Jesus and Mary—so we too through our baptism are entrusted in a special way with their care. For as the Church is a mother that bears Christ into the world, so also we are mothers when we allow the Holy Spirit to form Christ in our hearts, giving birth to him in our actions of love. We become mothers when we are the face, the hands, the feet and the heart of Christ to others, and St. Joseph is our special guardian and helper.

So often in life’s journey we experience weariness, hardships and even dangers. In these days leading up to Christmas, I invite you to contemplate the image of St. Joseph with the light of an oil lamp in one hand, and in the other the reigns of the donkey that Mary sat upon in the last days of her pregnancy as he guided her safely through the darkness to Bethlehem. As he illuminated the way to Egypt and led Mary and the infant Jesus out of harm and then back to Nazareth when it was safe, so too will he help you in your life’s journey.

As Mary bore Jesus in her womb, St. Joseph bore in his heart the name that God had entrusted to him— “you are to name him Jesus for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). My prayer for you in this Advent season is that St. Joseph will help keep the name of Jesus always in your heart so that you might make a gift of Him to all in need.

Though the Gospels record no words of St. Joseph, we have only his silent testimony of love and obedience. But silence is its own unique song of adoration before the mystery of God. Let us then bring ourselves to be still before God and to quiet ourselves in silent adoration, praying with the Church, “Come Lord Jesus!” May this Advent season be a time of preparation for the “tidings of great joy” that St. Joseph is guardian of!

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