Liturgically we are now in the Season of Epiphany and within the Liturgy of the Word we encounter several events in the early life of Jesus: The Coming of the Magi, the Flight into Egypt, Jesus at the Temple. All of them, as recorded in Holy Scripture, underscore and point to the themes and spiritual ascetic of Epiphany: the revelation of Christ to all nations not just Israel; Christ as the Light of the World (“…in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overcome it.”) (John 1:4-5). And further, as defined from the Greek, epiphany translates to an enlightening, a sudden and striking realization, a divinely inspired insight, an awaking. And perhaps there is no more appropriate figure for this Season than St. Joseph, and his embodiment of these epiphanies, for us to turn to for spiritual direction; for he experienced a divinely inspired insight…several of them! Given his four dreams and the action steps he took to obediently comply with God’s instructions, St. Joseph can be a source of inspiration for us. One of those significant events was, of course, the Flight into Egypt; not too often singled out and preached about; yet rich as an example for us to tap into for building up our faith.
From the biblical narrative in the Gospel according to St. Matthew we read the following: “…an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child and destroy him.’” The Holy Family sojourned in Egypt for two years before St. Joseph had two more dreams wherein, he was told, first, that it was safe to return, and secondly, to go to Galilea rather than Judea, which was safer. Admittedly the focal point of these events was the safety of the infant Jesus, but it should not escape our attention the critical role of St. Joseph at this moment in God’s plan for salvation. It has been observed by theologians that when God “calls” someone for a special mission, he always prepares that person with the “gifts” and graces to successfully fulfill the assigned task. Further, as an earthly parent to Jesus, St. Joseph was ironically in virtual daily contact with the divine source of the very grace with which he was increasingly endowed and equipped. Let it nor be forgotten or overlooked that St. Joseph lived with Jesus! As a result, St. Joseph grew in both faith and devotion; not unlike us the more time we spent with the Lord.
It would be unfortunate if we see St. Joseph as merely a static figure in a Creche scene. He was both deeply spiritual and action-oriented and became a critical instrument of God’s eternal plan for salvation through Jesus Christ. As husband and father, he offers us a model of how, through grace, one can grow and expand familial love and fidelity. The fact that during four dreams (even that is an extraordinary revelation and speaks to St. Joseph’s spiritual ascetic!) he heard the voice of the divine and it kindled a faith that God’s spirit was at work in St. Mary’s pregnancy; as well as he is becoming the guardian over the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ. St. Mary’s parish is very fortunate to have within its walls a shrine to St. Joseph, a place of prayer and devotion. Like St. Joseph it can serve literally and emblematically as a source of spiritual renewal; and give flight to our desire to grow closer to our Lord, but here in Southwest Florida not necessarily Egypt!