As you heard, St John, the Apostle of Love, as he is called, begins our second reading today by reminding us that love is never just about feelings and words – it has to be demonstrated by actions. Listen again to his words: ”Let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.” St John goes on to say that, if our conscience, or heart, is troubling us and we are not sure if we are living in God’s truth or not, go and do an act of love, of kindness and mercy, because, as St Peter says in his first letter:
”Love covers a multitude of sins.”1 Peter 4 : 8
(Counsel to people who confess selfishness, or not sure if making right use of their money – also to those who are depressed.)
St James, in his New Testament letter, also makes a similar point to St John. He writes:
”But be DOERS of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who . . . are not hearers who forget but doers who act . . . will be blessed in all they do.“James 1: 22 – 25
Sometimes, it is true, I have to counsel people, and warn myself, that we are firstly human BE-INGS, and not human DO-INGS, and we have to learn to be less Martha people and more Mary people. But sometimes, myself included, we can be too much in our heads, and need to go out and make the world a better place by our activities of love. As Jesus says in the gospel of Matthew:
”Let your light so shine before others, that they may see your good WORKS and give glory to your Father in heaven.”Matthew 5 : 16
In the light of what I have just been saying, about the necessity of letting our love not be just about what we feel or say, but what we actually do, how appropriate it is to honour St Joseph, as we are doing in a special way this weekend, and as Pope Francis has urged us to do this year. Because if any one was a DOER and not a speaker, it was surely Joseph. It has been often remarked that Joseph speaks not a single word in the whole of the gospels. He is simply there, and he simply ACTS. He is introduced to us in Matthew’s gospel, agitated over the news that Mary, his wife, is pregnant, but not by him, until the angel of the Lord reassures him that this child in her womb is in fact, God’s own Son, so he is to take her into his home, without any conscience concerns. And we are told, that Joseph immediately obeys the command of the angel (cf Matthew 1: 18-25). Later on, in that same gospel, we are shown Joseph receiving other instructions from an angel, usually in dreams, firstly to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt because King Herod is seeking to kill Jesus, and then he is told when to return to Israel and where to live, in order to keep the child safe. In each case , we are told that Joseph instantly obeys (cf Matthew 2: 13 – 15; 2: 19- 21; 2: 22 -23). He gets up from his sleep and gathers his wife and child with him, and goes , as directed by the angel.
Does this mean, if we are to emulate Joseph, that we should act on every dream we get, or every inspiration that occurs to us?
Not at all. Actually, we should probably take more notice of our dreams and inspirations than most of us, myself included, are inclined to do. But there must be some discernment on our part, as to whether this dream or inspiration, or word of advice given us by others, is truly by God. And, in order to be able to exercise such discernment, we must do what Jesus tells us to do in our gospel today, using the image of a vine and its branches:
“Abide in me and let me abide in you . . . whoever abides in me and I in them bears much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.”
And just how do we go about “abiding” in Jesus?
Well, through prayer, of course, and reading of God’s holy word, the Bible. But also, as St John tells us in our second reading today, by “obeying God’s commandments.” And just what are those commandments we have to obey? Listen to St John again:
“This is his commandment: that we should believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and love one another . . . whoever obeys his commandments abides in him and he abides in them . . . and by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.”
You see: once again: DOING, whether in praying or reading Scripture, or in acts of love, becomes the means of getting into the right relationship with God through Jesus Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit. The more we are in this personal, close and intimate relationship with God, as I was preaching about last Sunday, then the more we come to know, to discern, whether a dream or an inspiration, or some advice, is really from God or not.
So although Joseph never speaks a word in the gospels, and we are told nothing about his prayer life, I can tell you that he surely had a close, personal relationship with God, because he was able to tell instantly whether the instructions in his dreams were from God or not. I can only pray, and suggest, brothers and sisters, that you also, seek to grow as close to God’s heart and mind as Joseph did. And here is a way to do it, by spending time, or more time, in adoration. We have Monday afternoons dedicated to having the Blessed Sacrament exposed , and the church open at St Philip’s, from 2pm – 7pm. Of course, we are restricted to having a maximum of 10 people at a time here. But those restrictions will lift, in time, and we can get back to full capacity, and to also restoring adoration on Thursday afternoons, as we used to, before the pandemic. And, of course, there are other churches throughout Ottawa, that provide times of adoration also.
What do we do in adoration?
To quote the peasant who used to sit in the church of St John Vianney for hours on end, and was asked by that saintly priest what he did all that time, that peasant pointed to the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar, and said, “I looks at him and he looks at me.“ In that quiet time with the Lord, if we are listening, God will be pouring ideas and inspirations into our minds, hearts and spirits, divine instructions to us that will help us, by our actions, make the world a better place and give glory to God.
I have been studying a wonderful book on St Joseph this year, written by Fr Calloway, and I have been astounded by the number of titles Joseph is known by. I have been to St Joseph’s Oratory, in Montreal, as I imagine many of you have, and been so impressed at the number of titles attributed to Joseph on plaques on the walls in the entrance , such as Terror of Demons, Protector of the Family, Healer of the Sick and so on (also impressed by all the crutches, etc, left there in testimony to healing miracles wrought by St Joseph’s intercession).
But Fr Calloway’s book lists many other titles, some of whom we have been putting into the bulletin each week of this year, and will continue to do so. One such title I absolutely love, and had never thought of before, is the title “Joseph, Perpetual Adorer.” Fr Calloway explains that, for the nine months that Mary carried Jesus in her womb, she was a “tabernacle.” Just as a tabernacle in a church, carries the sacramental Body of Christ in the sacred host, so Mary carried the real, physical Body of Christ in her womb. And Joseph, being continually in the presence of Mary, could look at her and worship and adore Jesus in her womb. Isn’t that a wonderful revelation? And let that be an inspiration to you and me to spend more time, before the tabernacle in church, adoring silently the Lord Jesus.
And this piece of advice from me, I can definitely tell you, comes from God !