By MARIA SERMERSHEIM
The Church concluded the Year of St. Joseph on Dec. 8, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception. One can think of many beautiful reflections about the fact that his year commenced and concluded with this excellent Marian feast; but because the Immaculate Conception celebrates Mary’s preservation from original sin, I thought about the classic joke of pitying Joseph for being the only one in the Holy Family who was not sinless.
Poor Joseph, we laughingly say; everything must have been his fault. Between Jesus and Mary, he was the only one to blame! However, I propose we not pity Joseph but wish to be in his shoes.
Of course, we wish to be in his position primarily to be so close to Mary and Jesus. But should we not also wish, in general, to be so close to holy people to have such relationships that refine us? Joseph was blessed enough to love, as a familial relation on earth, the very same person he loves with all his being in heaven, Jesus; and Mary, queen of heaven, was also queen of his household!
The rest of us, however, must be friends and family members in the light of Christ. Our relationships are of a slightly different nature, as none of us is the one to be worshipped; but instead, we are all companions on the journey. St. Joseph alone was blessed with this curious overlap. It remains true, though, that I desire to be impressed by my friends and their devotion.
I count myself blessed to share any degree of St. Joseph’s experience of insufficiency in comparison to his companions. These are the experiences and relationships that hone us and guide us gently through the refiner’s fire. The difficulty is in being sure to not idolize our friends and family, or to be too disappointed when they fall short. Jesus and Mary are blazing infernos of holiness, while the flames of our own devotion often need fanned. Let us strive to be like the Holy Family, calling each other to more pure and loving lives; but let us not forget that it was only Joseph’s privilege to live with sinless relations. It is our lot to remember to forgive one another.
I desire relationships that refine me, that call me to the heights of holiness that draw the best out of me. I desire friendships that raise the bar and invite me to sanctify my words and deeds, and do everything for the glory of God and to love him more in every moment. I desire to be challenged to be better. And so I do not think, “poor Joseph,” but “lucky Joseph,” who had the gift of the most beautiful, chaste intimacy with Mary and our Lord, with people who set the highest standard.