In today's Gospel from Matthew we hear the story of the moment when God turned St. Joseph's life upside down.
"[B]ehold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.;'"
Up until this moment Joseph had every reason to expect his life to be in every way ordinary. He was a carpenter, a simple man who worked with his hands. A just man, to be sure, betrothed to an unusually holy young woman whose intent was to remain a virgin, but Joseph probably saw his life as following the accepted pattern of the time. He had every reason to believe it would continue in this way, simple and uncomplicated and expected.
But then God reached out and turned Joseph's life upside down. His wife became pregnant, not only not by himself but by the Holy Spirit. Such a thing had never happened before, nor would it ever happen again. Suddenly Joseph found himself off the path of his previously mundane life, he knew not where; uncharted territory with only the message of an angel to guide him.
Joseph surely had a unique and unrepeatable vocation. No one will ever again be called to be a father to the Incarnate Word on earth. But is Joseph's experience really so unique?
For millions of men and women all over the globe, this experience has been and will be repeated. Suddenly, or not so suddenly, an invitation from God throws them off the well-trodden road they had expected and into the adventure of a vocation to the priesthood, religious life, or consecrated virginity. For some the call grows gradually within them, drawing them gently and slowly off the beaten path of marriage and family. For many, though, this call comes as a shock, as did Joseph's message from the angel.
The road once so clearly seen stretching before them, a sure and familiar road of holiness walked by their parents, grandparents, and many many saints is suddenly no longer there. Instead, an unfamiliar (to them) path is thrust before them, inviting them onward.
Yet is this experienced only by St. Joseph and those called to consecrated life? Is it not the experience of us all? Does the expected way upon which we travel really turn out to be so expected, so foreknown? So many people settle for a life of mediocrity, believing that that is all they are called to. They think, "I am only a lay person!" What they forget is that the call to be a follower of Christ, a Christian, is a road every bit surprising, unexpected and adventurous as the road St. Joseph walked; often counter-cultural, full of twists and turns, ups and downs. Like St Joseph, God is calling each of us out of the "rut", out of our "safe" mediocrity and into Himself.
Christ is coming, our liturgy is now issuing the clarion call announcing his imminent arrival. Let us make straight the pathway before Him and trust Him as He leads us beyond what we could ever imagine!