“You keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (Is 26:3-4). We have tried to unfold this peace born of faith in the previous reflections. This is the peace that filled the life of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus even as they walked a path marked by insecurity and poverty. Yes, their earthly insecurity, as is the case for all of us, was held within the perfect security of God. And from the heart of his love, which cradles human hearts in a security far surpassing that offered by created things, God knows too how to lead his children ever deeper along the path of faith into the fullness of union. In Joseph’s gaze, we see that he led him through dreams. And the symbolism of dreams? God speaks in the place of our deepest relaxation, in the repose and restfulness of mind and will. Listening to God, in fact, does not consist in tightening oneself up like a taut string, but in sinking into wonder-filled openness, into the disposition of play, into an expectancy that is completely open not by a forceful, self-directed effort on our part but by a simple gaze upon the reality outside of ourselves, and which we await.

Of course, the difficulty comes whenever I must walk in darkness, and cannot seem to make contact with God or his guidance. In looking beyond myself I see only stormy clouds, a raging sea, a nocturnal expanse that stirs uncertainty and fear in me, even as it invites deeper trust and a more radical expectation. Here faith is tested, as it must sink even deeper both into the hidden recesses of my own heart and dispositions as well as into the heart of God, the anchor of faith, even when his presence and guidance and consolation is neither seen nor felt. Faith, after all, is a subtantial reality—the very life of God poured into me—and it continues to operate within me as God’s own loving presence even when I cannot feel it or make conscious contact with it. Just as I remain the same person who I am even when I am asleep, so too when faith seems to slumber God still holds me in it, as long as I allow myself to be held. The Song of Songs expresses this beautifully: “I slept, but my heart was awake” (Sg 5:2).

Joseph fulfills these words wonderfully. His heart was ever awake, ever docile and receptive to God’s voice, to his guidance, and above all to his love, silently pouring forth into the universe, sustaining all things in existence, and permeating everything with immeasurable light and radiant beauty. Even in the obscurity of the night of this world marked by sin, afflicted by evil and suffering, and subject to death, God’s love is still present, and seeks to make itself ever more present, as its spreads forth from the heart of the Incarnate Son of God, the heart of the Paschal Christ, to touch, heal, and renew all things unto their definitive re-creation and consummation in the embrace of the Trinity.

Perhaps this is precisely how we cannot approach the words of prophecy quoted by Matthew: “He shall be called a Nazarene.” There is no explicit place in Scripture that says this. It seems most likely to be a reference to Isaiah 11, which we have already contemplated: “A shoot shall spring from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” The word for “shoot” or “branch” is nezer, from which derives the name of the town, Nazareth: “Branch-Town” or “The Town of the Shoot.” How does this tie in with our reflections on faith? It is because every town can be a Nazareth, and every one of us can be a Joseph, a Mary. In a world that looks to have lost the presence of God, to have seen the collapse of his promises—just as the dynastic line of David during the first century appeared to be all but destroyed—the deep roots of grace continue to grow and twist under the surface, continually breaking forth and becoming visible in branches that bear fruit.

Indeed, Jesus spoke of himself as the vine of which we are the branches, grafted into him by grace such that we live by his very life, by the very sap of love that has has received from the Father. Thus as the Father, in begetting his eternal Son, has granted the Son to have life in himself—and has granted this to him even at the heart of his incarnate humanity—so too through this union with Christ, we live by the very life of the Father present in the Son. Though our first parents chose to eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the beginning, and thus caused a rift that fractures our world throughout time, like cracks in parched earth or crevices caused by the earthquake of sin, God is greater: the river of the water of life still flows, secret but true, through all things, and seeks to be welcomed by the receptive, restful, and trustful human heart. Indeed, the roots of the Tree of Life, once ignored and yet planted at the heart of creation once again in the Cross of Jesus Christ, spread throughout the universe, strong and sure “like a tree planted near the stream” (Ps 1:3), and this Tree continues to burst forth in sapling and fruit in the lives of all of those who accept its loving invitation.

Let us allow God to make his Nazareth also in us. Let us enter into the sacred space shared by the Holy Family in that first Nazareth, into the intimate communion of the father, mother, and child—Joseph, Mary, and Jesus—that reflects and shares in the very eternal intimacy of the Trinity. In doing so we will receive again the succulent fruit of the Tree of Life, the gift of God in Jesus Christ, and, through the heart of our union with him, shall enter into the very mystery of the inmost life of God who is Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.