Below is the text of Pope Francis’ weekly Wednesday audience delivered on December 1, 2021.
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Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
Let us continue our journey of reflection on the person of Saint Joseph. Today I would like to deepen his “fairness” and “Mary’s fiancé” and thus give a message to all fiancées, but also newlyweds. Many events related to Joseph fill the stories of the apocryphal, that is, non-canonical gospels that have even influenced art and various places of worship. These writings, which are not in the Bible, are stories that Christian piety provided at the time, and are an answer to the desire to fill the blanks in the canonical gospel texts, those in the Bible that give you everything offer what is indispensable for faith and the Christian life.
The evangelist Matthew – that is important. What Does the Gospel Say About Joseph? Not what those apocryphal Gospels say that aren’t ugly or bad, no!They are beautiful, but they are not the word of God. Instead, the gospels that are in the Bible are the word of God. Among these is the evangelist Matthew whodefines Joseph as “only” Man.
Let us listen to his account: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ happened this way. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, she was found to be a child of the Holy Spirit before they got together; and her husband Joseph, who was a righteous man and unwilling to shame her, decided to send her away quietly ”(1: 18-19). Because those who were engaged, if the betrothed was unfaithful or became pregnant, could blame them! They had to. And the women were stoned back then. But Joseph was righteous. He says, “No, I won’t do that. I will go away calmly ”.
How holy Joseph was! We, as soon as we have a little gossip, something scandalous about someone else, let’s talk about it right away! Silence, Josef. Quiet.
In order to understand Joseph’s attitude towards Mary, it is helpful to recall wedding customs in ancient Israel. The marriage consisted of two well-defined phases. The first was like an official engagement that already implied a new situation. In particular, while the woman lived in her father’s house for another year, she was actually considered to be the “wife” of her fiancé. They still didn’t live together, but it was like she was already someone’s wife.
The second phase was the transfer of the bride from her father’s house to that of her spouse. This was done with a festive procession that concluded the marriage. And the bride’s friends accompanied her there. Because of these customs, the Virgin was charged with adultery “before they lived together that Mary was pregnant”. And according to the old law, their guilt was punished with stoning (cf. German 22: 20-21). However, afterwards a more moderate interpretation prevailed in later Jewish practice, which only imposed a rejection with civil and criminal consequences for the woman, but not a stoning.
The gospel says that Joseph was “righteous” precisely because he, like every devout Israelite, was subject to the law. But his love for Mary and his trust in her suggested a way for him to obey the law and save the honor of his bride. He decided to secretly disowned her, without making any noise, without publicly humiliating her. He chose the route of confidentiality, with no trial or retaliation. How holy Joseph was! We, as soon as we have a little gossip, something scandalous about someone else, let’s talk about it right away! Silence, Josef. Quiet.
But the evangelist Matthew immediately adds: “But when he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take your wife, Mary, for what is ! is received in her by the Holy Spirit; she will give birth to a son, and you shall name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins ”(1: 20.21). God’s voice interferes with Joseph’s judgment. In a dream he reveals a greater meaning than his own righteousness. How important it is for each of us to lead a just life and at the same time always feel the need for God’s help in order to broaden our horizons and to look at the living conditions from an ever different, larger perspective.
Precisely in front of some of the life circumstances that seem dramatic at first glance, there is a providence that takes shape over time and illuminates the meaning of the pain that has touched us.
Often we feel trapped by what happened to us: “But look what happened to me!” – and we stay trapped in this bad thing that happened to us. But precisely in front of some life circumstances that seem dramatic at first glance, a providence hides that is formed over time and illuminates the meaning of even the pain that has touched us. The temptation is to approach this pain with the thought that good things never happen to us. And that’s not good for us. This leads to sadness and bitterness. A bitter heart is so ugly.
I want us to pause to ponder a detail of this story that is told in the gospel that is often overlooked. Mary and Joseph were engaged to each other. Probably they had cultivated dreams and expectations about their life and future. Out of the blue God seems to have fitted himself into their lives and, even if it was difficult for them at first, both opened their hearts wide to the reality that was presented to them.
Dear brothers and sisters, very often our life is not what we imagine. Especially in loving and loving relationships, it is difficult to move from the logic of falling in love to the logic of mature love. We need to move from being in love to mature love. You newlyweds, think about it. The first phase is always characterized by a certain enchantment that lets us immerse ourselves in the imaginary, which is often not based on reality and facts – the phase of being in love. But just when falling in love with his expectations seems to be over, true love begins or true love occurs.
To love is not what we want the other person or life to be. Rather, it means choosing with full freedom to take responsibility for your own life as it comes.
In fact, love is not what we want the other person or life to be. Rather, it means choosing with full freedom to take responsibility for your own life as it comes. For this reason, Joseph teaches us an important lesson. He chooses Maria with “open eyes”. We can say “with all risks”. Remember: In John’s Gospel, there is an accusation the teachers of the law make to Jesus, “We are not children of it,” which relates to prostitution. They knew that Mary was still pregnant and wanted to throw dirt at the mother of Jesus. To me, this is the worst, most demonic passage in the gospel.
And Joseph’s risk teaches us this lesson: to take life as it comes. Did God intervene? I accept. And Joseph does what the angel of the Lord commanded:“He took his wife, but didn’t know her” – without living together she expects a son – “until she had given birth to a son; and he called his name Jesus “(Mountain 1: 24-25). Christian betrothed are called to witness a love that has the courage to move from the logic of falling in love to mature love. This is a demanding decision that, instead of locking life in, can empower love to stand up to the tests of time.
A couple’s love advances in life and matures every day. The love during engagement is a little – allow me to use the word – a little romantic. You have all experienced it, but then the mature love begins, the love that is lived every day, from work, from the children who come … And sometimes that romance disappears a bit, doesn’t it? But isn’t that love? Yes, but mature love. “But you know, father, sometimes we fight …” This has happened from the time of Adam and Eve until today, eh! That spouses quarrel is our daily bread, eh! “But we shouldn’t fight?” Yes, yes, you have to. It happens. I’m not saying you should, but it happens. “And, Father, sometimes we raise our voices …” It happens. “And there are even times when plates fly”. It happens.
Listen to me carefully: never end the day without making peace.
But what can be done to avoid damaging the life of the marriage? Listen to me carefully: never end the day without making peace. “We fought. My God, I said bad words. I said terrible things. But now, to end the day, I have to make peace.” You know why? Because the Cold War the next day is very dangerous. Don’t let the war start the next day, so make peace before going to bed. “But, Father, you know, I don’t know how to express myself to make peace after such a terrible situation that we have been through.” .
It’s very easy. Do that [the Pope caresses his cheek] and peace is already made. Always keep that in mind. Always remember: never end the day without making peace. And that will help you in your married life. To her and to all the married couples who are here. This move from falling in love to mature love is a demanding decision, but we must choose this path.
Let us close this time with a prayer to Saint Joseph.
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and decided to give up your fantasies to give way to reality
help each of us to be surprised by God
and not accept life as something unforeseen to defend against,
but as a secret that hides the secret of true joy.
Gain joy and radicalism for all committed Christians,
while you are always aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.
Thanks very much.