Joseph dreamed. What we know of him tells us that he was a simple man, a poor man in a country occupied and controlled by a foreign army. He had little reason to dream, yet he had dreams for himself and for his family. He had the courage to act on those dreams, and his actions made all the difference in the world. His steadfast belief in his dreams and his courage to make his dreams come true led to safety for the Son of God. His dreams led to our salvation.
What do we dream for ourselves and for our world? Perhaps we dream about what we might do to make our local community more life-giving for all those who live and visit there. Do we follow the example of Joseph and take courage to work to make those dreams come true? Or do we let the busyness of daily life, the criticism of others or our own self-doubt sweep away our dreams? How many people I have heard say things like, “Our house would never go for that;” or “Our local community doesn’t do that.” It takes courage to suggest change and face the possible ridicule of others. It takes steadfastness to continue to believe in new possibilities when others tell us they are impossible.
No doubt many of us dream about how we can minister among God’s people in a way that brings all closer to our God. Perhaps we think about ways to help others develop their own special spirituality. Or maybe we think of creative ways to help those we meet who may have poor self-concepts. How can we urge them to believe that a loving God sees them as special and lovable? But to implement such ideas we may have to stretch beyond our present skills. We might have to ask others to assist us or to face those who say, “You try to do too much.” We would need courage to reach out and steadfastness to stay on course in spite of these nay-sayers.
Imagine what courage and steadfastness it took for Joseph to believe that he could safely take his tiny son and his young wife on the long journey to a hostile land. Where would he have learned the skills for such travel? He was a simple carpenter. How would he understand the trails through the desert or know how to find work when he didn’t even speak the language of his new land? Yet Joseph dreamed, and he was willing to ask others for assistance to make his dreams possible and to face with courage those who probably told him that such a journey was impossible.
Think of many other areas where we have dreams for ourselves, our friends, our family, our world. Certainly, the dream of a world that responds to the urgent threat of climate change haunts us. Let us take some time during this month that celebrates Joseph and see if we are following the example of the saint whose name we bear. Are we willing to attend to our deepest dreams and then take the courage we need to make those dreams come true? Can we lean on our God and remain steadfast to these deepest yearnings, even in the face of those who scoff at our dreams and tell us to forget them?
As we celebrate St. Joseph’s Day, let us praise Joseph the Dreamer. Let us, too, rejoice in the dreams that we all have for a better world and support one another as we work to make these dreams come true. As Madeleva Williams, CSJ says in her lovely poster, “Joseph had dreams. They weren’t always clear nor easy but they were his. Eventually, they changed his mind and heart.” May our best dreams do the same for us.