Sunday, December 18, 2016


Joseph  decided to divorce Mary quietly, but an angel appeared
in a dream and told him to have no fear about taking Mary as his
wife. When Joseph awake he did as the angel had directed him.
Matthew 1:18-24

When I talk about St. Joseph. I usually talk about St. Joseph's fidelity to God, even when he didn't seem to understand what was happening. When I arrived here as pastor in 1983, the 1970’s modernization of this space was wearing thin. The blank white walls were beginning to look off-white. The orange carpet was beginning to buckle and roll. The new statues of Mary and Joseph, even though good pieces of local art, were still  not being accepted.

Mary and Joseph were dressed in humble first century peasant clothes. Mary was stooped and wrinkled and brown. She was pictured as she might have looked in her old age – at the time she was assumed into heaven. Joseph stood with his mouth open like he was saying “uuuh” as if he never knew what was happening around him!

St. Joseph walked by faith and not by sight.  He never speaks in the gospel. Instead, St. Joseph, has become known as a "shut up and put up" kind of saint.

Yes, when I usually talk about St. Joseph, I usually focus on his fidelity to God even when he did not understand. However, this year, I want to talk about St. Joseph as a man who could change his mind. Some of us have made up our minds about things years and years ago and we are proud that we are not about to change them now. We may even think that our inflexibility is a virtue. St. Joseph teaches us that, to follow the will of God, we have to be able to change our minds.

Here's the short version of how St. Joseph changed his mind. Mary and Joseph are engaged to be married. Mary becomes pregnant before the wedding and tells Joseph that she conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph refused to believe it at first, and may have even showered Mary with some harsh words. He had made up his mind to go through a quiet divorce when he had a dream in which an angel appeared to him, confirming Mary's explanation and telling him not to be afraid to proceed with the wedding. Joseph woke up and changed his mind, proceeded with the wedding and accepted his new family.

 "Change your mind" is the very first challenge that came out of Jesus as he began his ministry. We read about it every first Sunday of Lent. “Metanoiete!” he says in Greek.   “Change the way you look at things! Change the way you see because God is up to something again.  To see what God is up to, it takes a radical change in the way you look out at things.”  By being able to change his mind and look at the Mary's pregnancy with new eyes, Joseph was able to see that he was actually part of a great plan that God had formed long ago -  not being duped by an unfaithful fiancée as it might appear.   

One of the many times I can remember consciously changing the way I looked at something in my life, as a priest,  took place two weeks after I was ordained. I had my heart set on being an associate pastor here is Louisville where I could enjoy all that a big city has to offer. What I got was an assignment in the “home missions” as far away from Louisville as I could get. I was angry, but I had to go. Then half-way down there, in Danville, I had a dramatic conversion in my thinking. It was obvious to me that I could to be there for 10 years, whether I was mad or not! I decided to change my mind and embrace the assignment. Since I didn’t get what I wanted, I decided to want what I got and to give it my all!  What I didn’t know at the time was, because I had changed my mind, it was going to be a great assignment. Because I decided to look for the blessings of that place, I found what I looked for! Because I chose to look at that assignment in a new way, my experience of the following ten years was a different one, one filled with fabulous experiences and opportunities. I shudder to think what my priesthood might have been like today, if God had not helped me change the way I saw things.

Through the years, I have learned a helpful lesson from St. Joseph - the ability to look at things in a new way, the ability to change my mind.  

Where are some of the places you need a new way of seeing in your life? Who are the people and what are the situations that you have been hoping would change to make life better for you? Why not change your experience of those people and situations by re-choosing how you see them?  Do you feel your children or spouse have let you down? Are you still grieving over a huge personal mistake you have made in the past? Did you lose a child or a spouse and can’t get over it? Do you feel you have been cheated, discriminated against or slighted and still fume inside over it?   Are you still waiting for someone to say they are sorry, give back what they took or take back something they said? Are you down on yourself and bitter about something in life?

St. Joseph can teach us that we can change all of that by changing the way we look at it and think about it! People say you can’t change the past. I am here to tell you that you can change the past. You can change it simply by re-choosing the way you think about it, how you want to remember it and what you want to believe about it.

St. Joseph, this Lent teach us how to change our minds, like you changed your mind!  

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