“DO YOU REALLY KNOW BETTER?” (Lk 2:41-51): 15 March 2008 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)

“DO YOU REALLY KNOW BETTER?” (Lk 2:41-51): 15 March 2008 (Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary)

Today’s Readings

A few weeks ago I heard the song “Better than I” at a friend’s wedding.  It was the first time I heard the song, a song that turned out to be from the animated musical, “Joseph:  King of Dreams.”

In the movie, Joseph who has been sold by his brothers to Egyptian slave traders, eventually finds himself in prison again because he has been falsely accused.  He feels abandoned by God.  But as he remembers his life, he realizes that God has actually always been with him and has even orchestrated everything in his life to make sure that everything turns out right.

The chorus captures this realization so well, and it goes this way:

“You know better than I
You know the way
I’ve let go of the need to know why
For You know better than I.”

I couldn’t help but be moved by the sentiment of the song, especially by Joseph’s deep faith in God as expressed in the refrain.  And although the song is about the Old Testament Joseph, it may also well be about that other Joseph from the New Testament, our Lord’s foster father, who was, come to think of it, also a dreamer.  He too must have had a deep faith, entrusting himself and his life to God.  How else do you explain all the crazy things this Joseph did?

Think about it:  Marrying a pregnant girl just because an angel in a dream told him to? The gospel mentions that rather casually, but it certainly couldn’t have been an easy decision.   When Joseph first decided to divorce Mary quietly in order to avoid scandal for her, we catch a glimpse of the kindness of Joseph.  Then we’re told that he had a dream about an angel and based on that one dream, he changed his mind and against every reason, made his life-altering decision to take back Mary plus her child.  And we accept all this as though it were the most natural thing to do in the world.  Honestly, how many of us make such major life decisions because of a dream, even if it features an angel?

Let’s not forget the night of the Lord’s birth in Bethlehem.  Earlier that day, Mary and Joseph were frantic because they couldn’t find a place to stay.  The Bible simply says that “[they] laid Jesus in a manger because there was no room for them.”  It does not say anything about how exhausted Mary and Joseph must have been or about how Joseph must have felt:  Maybe he felt desperate and afraid.  Since he was responsible for both Mary and the baby, he must have felt doubly pressured.  Most of all, maybe he was bewildered, unable to understand what was going on.  Experiencing all these hardships and uncertainties, Joseph might have begun to wonder somewhere at the back of his mind:  Whatever happened to what the angel had promised him in his dream?  If the baby was truly the child of the Most High, shouldn’t they have met at least fewer problems?  Why was God not taking better care of them and of his own son?

So where was God that day?  He didn’t seem to be with them at all.  So much for “Emmanuel!”  So much for “God with us!”  Maybe Joseph was even already beginning to wonder if his dream had been too good to be true.

Today is the day we honor Joseph, the husband of Mary, and it’s only right that we give him more credit than we usually do. His life probably continued to be filled with such questions and doubts, too, but what matters is that despite those questions and doubts, he “kept the faith,” and made the choice to live up to his commitments.

Even the greatest saints and mystics, it seems, experience the same doubts and uncertainties that we do.  What makes them saints and mystics is not so much that they never doubted or questioned, but that they continued to “keep the faith” in spite of their doubts and questions.

We’re all called to do the same, not to be disturbed by our own doubts and questions, but precisely to “keep the faith” and do God’s will even when we’re in the dark. That, after all, is the true meaning of faith:  It’s not so much a feeling of certainty as it is a choice and commitment to believe despite the uncertainty.

To keep the faith means being able to tell God, “Yes, you know better–even if I can’t always know that for sure.”

Here’s a Quick Question for you:  “Do you recall any time in your life when you were plagued with doubts and recognized–usually only afterwards–that God was there all along?  Think about it, and share a thought, a feeling, or a question.

(image:  “Joseph King of Dreams”)

Note:  If you want to watch the clip from the musical, click here.  Here are the lyrics of the song.

BETTER THAN I

I thought I did what’s right
I thought I had the answers
I thought I chose the surest road
But that road brought me here

So I put up a fight
And told you how to help me
Now just when I have given up
The truth is coming clear

You know better than I
You know the way
I’ve let go the need to know why
For you know better than I

If this has been a test
I cannot see the reason
But maybe knowing I don’t know
Is part of getting through

I try to do what’s best
And faith has made it easy
To see the best thing I can do
Is put my trust in you

For you know better than I …..

I saw one cloud and thought it was the sky
I saw a bird and thought that I could follow
But it was you who taught that bird to fly
If I let you reach me
Will you teach me

For you know better than I
You know the way
I’ve let go the need to know why
I’ll take what answers you supply

You know better than I

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