And the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “Rise! Flee!” And so St. Joseph rose and ran to protect the child and the child’s mother. And the angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “Rise, return.” And Joseph rose again and returned to his homeland. “…but don’t go THERE Joseph!” So Joseph went to a new homeland.
Joseph was a humble man. He was trusting, he was a man of faith. And Joseph was also a man of courage, a man who was decisive, a man of action.
But was he also something else besides?
The website Patheos is a website/portal that attempts to be a destination to engage in the global dialogue for credible and balanced information about religion, spirituality and world beliefs. Patheos brings together faith communities, academics, insight, inspiration, and stimulating discussion into a single environment. I recommend it.
One of the bloggers on Patheos is Elizabeth Scalia. She writes for the blog, “The Anchoress.” and this past year, published a book entitled, Strange Gods: Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life. She offers a surprising, and quite unsettling, look at the ways in which we still commit the sin of idolatry in our everyday lives.
What would be some idols in our lives? If you look at the cover of her book, she has the outline of a stained glass window. Within the windows are icons of:
- A smart phone
- Symbol of a political party’s (both of them)
- A clock
- A woman’s shoe
- The symbols for Facebook, Twitter.
- An X-box control unit.
- A baby’s pacifier.
- A dog bone.
…are you getting the idea?
May I add “youth sports” to that list by the way.
So I was reading an article by Elizabeth Scalia.” In it, she proposes the idea that perhaps some of us have made Pope Francis an idol: “It has only been six months since Jorge Mario Bergoglio came to the world with a new name, but already MSNBC’s Chris Hayes, channeling his inner tween, has gushed, “is it too early to say Francis is the best Pope ever?” A bit over the top perhaps?
People want to be like the Pope, but why? To be able to love each other and trust God and his work in the world. But, is it possible that ultimately, we want to love ourselves as well? We edit the Pope’s statements or take what he says out of context and into a realm that is “comforting and self-affirming.” Scalia says that this is “idolatry and self-worship at its core because we posses an inclination to always seek our own reflection in the objects of our love” So by identifying with Pope Francis, we think that we actually ARE like Pope Francis – even when we’re not. This is making the Pope an idol, and it’s incredibly subtle so we might not even be aware of it.
And we don’t realize that such idols are in place in our lives because we are distracted. The root of the word “distracted” is “to be drawn in different directions.”
- By the noise around us,
- By the good things that we are accomplishing or trying to accomplish,
- By fears, worries and anxieties that plague us,
- By the physical limitations of our bodies, lack of sleep, exercise, poor eating habits.
They all come together to prevent us from “breaking open” our lives and our hearts and identifying and addressing our idols.
What’s the solution? Scalia says that above all, prayer provides the opening. “Even if we do not know what our idols are, if we do not really have an inkling of just how blocked off we are, prayer allows God to “break into” our lives and begin the gentle conversation to allow us to see what is coming between us and a fuller relationship to Him. By the way, I would add silence and solitude to that equation.
And so we get back to St. Joseph. Do you notice – he doesn’t say a single word in any of the Gospels. Is this on purpose? Might this seem to indicate that he was a man of quiet and silence and solitude and prayer?
Joseph was also a man of obedience. The word obedience comes from the Latin obidere which means “to listen to,” or “to pay attention.” In this regard, the dreams did not NOT come as a surprise to Joseph but were, instead, a confirmation. He was very aware of what was going on around him. He was keen about reading “the signs of the times.” He thoughts were, “Ok, that makes sense. Sure, of course that’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Joseph was the opposite of being distracted.
Joseph was listening. Joseph was paying attention – in silence, in solitude, in prayer.