Sermon 2, for the Eve of Epiphany
“Rise… for those who sought the child’s life are dead”
When Joseph was in exile with the child and his mother, he learnt from the angel while he was asleep that Herod was dead. But when he heard that his son, Archelaus, was reigning in that country, he nonetheless continued to be in great fear lest the child be killed. Herod, the one who pursued the child and wanted to kill him, represents the world which clearly kills off the child, the world that we must by all means flee if we want to save the child. Yet no sooner have we fled the world exteriorly… than Archelaus rises up and reigns: there is still a world within you, a world over which you will not triumph without a great deal of effort and by God’s help.
For there are three strong and bitter enemies that you have to overcome in you and it is with difficulty that we ever win the victory. You will be attacked by spiritual pride: you would like to be seen, taken note of, listened to… The second enemy is your own flesh, assailing you through bodily and spiritual impurity… The third enemy is the one that attacks by arousing malice in you, bitter thoughts, suspiciousness, ill will, hatred and the desire for revenge… Would you become ever more dear to God? You must completely forsake all such behaviour, for all this is the wicked Archelaus in person. Fear and be on your guard; he wants to kill the child indeed…
Joseph was warned by the angel and called back to the land of Israel. Israel means “land of vision”; Egypt means “darkness”… It is in sleep, it is only in genuine abandonment and true passivity that you will receive the invitation to come away, just as happened to Joseph… Then you can make your way back to Galilee, which means “way”. Here one is above all things; all has been passed through and one arrives at Nazareth, the “true flowering”, the country where the flowers of eternal life blossom. There one is sure of finding an authentic foretaste of eternal life; there is complete security, inexpressible peace, joy and rest. Only those who have abandoned themselves reach there, those who submit themselves to God until he has detached them and who make no attempt to free themselves by force. These are they who reach this peace, this flowering at Nazareth, and who there find those things that make for their eternal joy. May this be the lot of all of us. And may God, who is all worthy of love, be our helper!
How tough must it have been for St. Joseph? As the historical protrayl of Joseph as a much odler man (only recently have we seen depictions of him looking younger in "art") with Mary and Jesus entrusted to his care. His wife, immaculately conceived and without sin, gives birth to God made flesh. If anything went wrong in the home, guess who was to blame?