Taking notice of dreams is important at times.
St. Joseph was betrothed to Mary, but before they came together she was found to be with child (Matthew 1). Joseph is a “righteous” man, that is, a man who is faithful and generous. So, not wanting to cause her any more grief, he decides to divorce her quietly.
Having made up his mind to do this, he “falls asleep” and an angel visits him in a dream. He awakes and decides to abandon his plans for divorce and stick with his original decision. Henceforth, he will always be known as, St. Joseph, Husband of Mary.
When people “fall asleep” in the Bible, important things happen. Remember Adam? He was “put to sleep” by God (Genesis 2). Eve was created. Remember Abraham? He was “put to sleep” (Genesis 15). God forged a covenant with him.
“Falling asleep” is a clue. It means God is going to be particularly active, and we passive. That’s exactly what happened with Joseph.
He had done all he could do – in good conscience – and so “fell asleep.” God intervened. He informed Joseph of the mystery before him. God was entering human history and was doing this in the womb of a young woman from Nazareth, no more than 13 or 14 years old. She had conceived her child, not through an adulterous liaison, but through the power, grace and gentleness of the Holy Spirit.
Joseph’s actions, including his “falling asleep” are certainly providential, but perhaps surprisingly practical, don’t you think? We are faced with difficult and troublesome events and circumstances in life. We do our best to weigh up what is before us. We make a decision based on the facts and we do this with the best of intentions – in good conscience. Nevertheless, there still seems to be ambiguity and uncertainty about it all.
What we have done is important, but so too is what must surely follow. St. Joseph encourages us to be at peace, to “fall asleep” and let God have his “time” and his “space.” When this happens, the event and circumstance are transformed.
When Joseph awakes, he names the child, Jesus – meaning the “one who saves.” Henceforth, he will be protector of the mystery called the “Incarnation,” – meaning “God with skin.” What a privilege to be the custodian of the Virgin Mother and her Son, Jesus.
There is more. Through this Biblical event, might not we men be able to discern our calling with deeper clarity?
In an age when domestic violence seems never-ending, and belief in God seems to be dwindling, can we receive our God-given purpose to uphold and defend the dignity of women and to proclaim the mystery of Jesus – truly human, truly divine – anew?
May Joseph, the husband of Mary, be very present to us, for we need him, perhaps more than we realise.