Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22; Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24
It has frequently been observed that whereas Mary the Mother of Jesus speaks only rarely in the gospels, Joseph speaks not at all. And yet, doesn’t he? Fr. Edward of blessed memory was fond of quoting a Fulton Sheen saying according to which words sound but actions thunder. This is a variation on the common expression: actions speak louder than words. If this is true then Joseph is anything but silent in the gospel of Matthew! Matthew describes four specific instances when Joseph’s actions in obeying the angel’s message spoke not only of his amazing and trusting faith in God’s wisdom and guidance, but also proclaimed God’s utter trustworthiness and fidelity to his promises.
Now although Joseph’s silence in the gospels has led some to label him the patron of the inner life, this is not to suggest a brooding, inward looking and insular existence detached from the world and the people about him. On the contrary, Saint Joseph is able to speak of the Lord through his actions precisely because his total openness and transparency allowed the actions of his outer person to perfectly reflect the inner state of his heart–a redeemed heart that bore eloquent witness to the saving power of the Christ who set him free. In this he seems to have reached the Twelfth Step of Humility according to which the monk always manifests humility in his bearing no less than in his heart, so that it is evident at the Work of God, in the oratory, the monastery, or the garden, on a journey, or in the field, or anywhere else.
As such, Joseph stands before us as an inspiration to strive towards the same blessed integration in which there is total congruity between the inner and outer self that excluded a narcissistic self-absorption and self-consciousness, in the absence of which he was able to go out of himself to others in love. This lack of self-consciousness is not to be confused with that state of oblivion whereby one is totally unaware of the discrepancies between one’s inner and outer person. This can be a discrepancy between what one claims to be and how one acts–claiming to be patient and then indulging in outbursts of anger and irritation; or claiming, by ones actions, to be something that one isn’t internally–feigning interest and concern in another person in order to appear virtuous or gain favor.
It is to be hoped that we who through our baptism and monastic vows have committed ourselves to ongoing conversion are at least aware of these discrepancies and with God’s grace are gradually bringing ever greater harmony and congruity between our inner and outer selves. Only in this way can we join Saint Joseph in speaking of the Lord and proclaiming the Good News with the entirety of our being. Then we too, like Joseph, will be vocal even when we don’t speak; eloquent even when we are silent.