“Do not be afraid… I will provide for you and your little ones” (Gen 50:21). I feel that this is what Saint Joseph is saying to our world today, and what he has spoken in the heart of God’s Church since the beginning. “Do not be afraid, for I will provide, as I provided for those entrusted to my care at the start, when God placed within the orbit of my love the Virgin Mary and her Son, Jesus Christ.” Joseph of Nazareth, like the Joseph of old, was placed over the entire household, to provide for God’s children in his name. And he did so with great wisdom and integrity, being a just man who had learned to listen deeply to the voice and guidance of God, and to follow him with profound, childlike docility.
In fact, this ability to listen and follow is the prime condition for being a good leader; and the radical trust that allows God to provide for every need is the condition for being able to provide for others, since one’s own providence is nothing but a participation in the perfect fatherly providence of God. Even in great insecurity and fear, as we see in the early life of the Holy Family—fleeing from the murderous intent of Herod and taking refuge in a foreign land, and even on returning home living in a country ruled by Herod’s successor—the human heart is invited to trust in the all-enfolding goodness of God.
And this trust, as a gift of God himself infused into us by grace, as a participation in his own eternal security, is not measured: “for it is not by measure that he gives the Spirit” (Jn 3:34). Therefore it is not frail, threatened by the suffering and darkness in this world, but is rather boundless and infinite, rooted in the infinite love of God. Nonetheless, it meets us in the place where we are most vulnerable, in our profound need and poverty, and seeks to pervade our insecurities and fears. Thus in the heart of every single human life there is this meeting of fear and faith. Fear is our inheritance due to sin, which has fractured the entire universe and has ruptured our contact with the Love that lies at the origin and foundation of our existence. But faith is the human response, born of God’s own activity within us, to the approach of Love which seeks to re-establish relationship with us. Indeed, our response to Love is itself Love’s gift; our faith which accepts grace is itself a grace. This is the marvelous poverty of which Saint Augustine spoke so deeply: without God I can do nothing good, and even the slightest movements of my heart towards beauty, goodness, or truth are sustained by God and his grace.
Perhaps this kind of dependency seems suffocating, or seems to eradicate human freedom. But the opposite is really the case. Total dependence on God is not suffocating for us since it is the very disposition for which we were created; it corresponds, in other words, to the deepest capacities of our being, the truest aspirations of our hearts, and the most authentic energies of our humanity. It is not in mere autonomy that we find fulfillment; rather, we find fulfillment in surrendering and joining our autonomy to God, our will to God’s will, our mind to God’s mind, our heart to God’s heart, such that our every desire, choice, and act becomes not only mine but his, becomes ours. This is what it means, spiritually, to be a child, to enter into a filial relationship with God. A child is free to rejoice and dance and play, to act with carefree abandonment, precisely because he knows that heis perfectly held in the loving will and tender care of the heavenly Father.
Jesus himself, in fact, is the deepest example of this filial dependency, and not only in his human existence, but at the very heart of his divine life with the Father for all eternity. For he is Son, in the very fabric of his being; he is Son as Person, the One who is eternally related to the Father in intimate love, born of trusting acceptance and reciprocal surrender. And the Spirit is precisely this bond of love that Father and Son share; he is the kiss of their union, the breath of their mutual self-giving. He is the synergy of their activity in which both operate in a single life in a harmony that is complete, not in eradicating the uniqueness of the Persons, but precisely in flowing forth from them and affirming this uniqueness in being given to one another and received and cherished by one another.
Christ spoke explicitly of this in many different ways throughout his life, and thus allowed us to glimpse something of the secret, inner life of the Trinity that shall be visible to us only after the veil of this mortal life is torn. He said: “The Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.” And why? “For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing” (Jn 5:19-20). Yes! The Son acts in perfect harmony with the Father, as the Father has shown him, because the Father’s will is nothing but his love, it is his tenderest gift of self to his Son! So it is for each one of us. After all, Christ explicitly extended this dependency to us, and incorporated us into this same life. We relate to Jesus, as disciples, in the way that Jesus relates to his Father; and through this, we come to abide with Jesus before his Father, in the fullness of filial intimacy.
For as John the Evangelist writes: “No one has ever seen God; the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has made him known” (Jn 1:18). And later in his Gospel, we see something marvelous: at the last supper “the disciple whom Jesus loved was reposing in his bosom” (Jn 13:23). Here the disciple reposes in the heart of the Son as the Son reposes in the heart of the Father. Here the human heart becomes thoroughly bridal, receiving the Eucharistic self-donation of the incarnate Son, his body given and blood outpoured, and becomes one flesh with him. And through this nuptial union, the heavenly Father becomes her Father too, just as a woman who marries a man becomes a daughter of his father. And in being intimately united to our Bridegroom, the incarnate Son of God, we come to live with his very life poured into us, as sap into a vine, as blood through the veins, as the very substance that makes up our earthly flesh transformed into his. And the life of the Son is nothing but the life of the Father which he has received: “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has also granted the Son to have life in himself” (Jn 5:26). Drawn to the Son of God by the magnetism of divine love, we are grafted through grace into the very life of the Most Blessed Trinity, caught up into the heart of the circulation of love that ever occurs between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and thus into the everlasting joy of their perfect intimacy.