Every day of our lives is an opportunity to embrace Christ. It does not matter who we are, where we are in our faith, or what stage of life we are in. He is always calling us to Him. Regardless of when we embrace Christ, we will find that as we do so, we will embrace the cross as well. This is a terrifying reality, but it should be one of a hidden hope. Today, on the feast of St. Joseph, let’s consider how embracing Christ looks within a vocation to marriage.
In a Christ-centered relationship, you naturally grow closer with the other person as the relationship progresses. A couple that is engaged will be closer than a couple that is dating, and a married couple will be even closer than that. At each step, the need to place the other person before yourself increases, culminating in marriage and its call to put your spouse completely before yourself. In marriage, as you are hopefully blessed with children, your responsibilities will only increase, including toward your spouse.
There are many obvious joys that come with family life. These joys are themselves a foretaste of the great things God wants for us. However, the familial duties and responsibilities of marriage allow us to serve Christ and imitate Him by selflessly dying to ourselves each day and putting our families first.
This is not easy. Many of us spend the first twenty or so years of our lives very much focused on ourselves. We are concerned with pursuits like education or our profession. While those concerns are still important in marriage, they are only concerns in so far as they serve your spouse and children (and therefore, God). This necessary shift of focus (and motivation) from the self to others goes against a habit that’s been strongly reinforced. There can be growing pains in that process for both spouses in a marriage.
As we journey on this path, St. Joseph is a particularly powerful intercessor on our behalf. He was a man who was given ultimate, incomprehensible responsibility—a responsibility of caring for God made flesh that none of us have ever faced. He faced the dangers of men trying to kill the Christ child. He had to travel into foreign lands and brave the elements (without any of our modern comforts or safeties). St. Joseph had to be ever vigilant and virtuous, always putting the Christ child and His mother before himself. Nothing less than the fate of the world hung in the balance. The virtue of St. Joseph is a virtue we should all strive for.
But we also know that St. Joseph was not perfect. He sinned. He needed a savior like the rest of us. He was not perfect as a father and husband. In St. Joseph’s imperfection, we can see ourselves and realize that while we strive to embrace virtue and love our families as he loved his, we will fail. With St. Joseph’s humility, we need only turn to the Son of God and ask forgiveness when this happens.
When we live like St. Joseph, w find something more in our marriages. We can find the contradiction of the joy of the cross. When we seek to be virtuous, and when we seek forgiveness when we fail, we can begin to find that the “burdens” of our responsibilities are actually the sources of our joy. We will find that our yokes, which at first may have been difficult, are easy. We will find the less obvious joys—the hidden hope—of marriage.
Today, let us celebrate St. Joseph, praying that we may embrace his virtue, and that when we fail our families, we seek forgiveness. Let us pray for families the world over, and for the foundation of the family in our world. With St. Joseph’s intercession, we can grow ever closer to Christ, embracing the responsibilities of our lives so that they become light burdens to bear.