‘Our words are to be at the service of the Divine Word’
It is easy for human beings to become overwhelmed by words. Endless news reports, social media and idle chatter consume so much time and energy, and to what end?
All too often words are set against each other for reasons of power, correctness, control or manipulation. There seems to be a war going on in this “world of word-craft.”
During His sacred Passion, our blessed Lord experienced this in His humanity, but rather than engaging it, he put an end to it by fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Is 53:7).
As He is, so we are to be.
We rationalize, however, the avalanche of words coming at us, or from us, by insisting that it is necessary for work or to stay updated, connected and informed; this may be partially accurate. But more importantly is the answer to the question of whether any, or all, of these words lead us and others deeper into relationship with Jesus Christ, the Word Incarnate.
In short, all of our words are to be at the service of the Divine Word. This reality is certainly on full display in the homilies of St. John Chrysostom, known as “Golden-Mouth” for the eloquence with which he preached in the fourth and early fifth centuries. Or, fast-forwarding roughly 800 years, we may note the thorough and unparalleled rhetoric of St. Thomas Aquinas.
And yet, isn’t it interesting that this year the Church asks us to consider St. Joseph, the man called by God to be the husband of and protector and provider for His most perfect creature, our Blessed Mother, and the foster-father of His Son, the Word made flesh.
And what’s more is that this saintly man never utters one word in the entirety of Sacred Scripture! It would be unreasonable to believe that St. Joseph never spoke during the course of his earthly life, but we can be certain that nothing he ever saidwas deemed by God to be necessary for our salvation since it is not included in Sacred Scripture.
At this time in the Church’s history, we are confronted by the “secret life” of St. Joseph, particularly in his relationship to the Mother of God and the Incarnate Word.
To remain close to Jesus and Mary and grow in one’s relationship with them — as St. Joseph did — requires faith, hope, love, trust, commitment and sacrifice. Certainly, doubt and anxiety are a part of life, but they become manageable the more one’s soul follows the will of God, is in union with His Word and strengthened by His grace.
Let us, then, take every opportunity to engage more fervently and robustly a life a prayer, especially time with our Lord in Adoration of the Most Blessed Sacrament, and meditate with our Blessed Mother and St. Joseph on the life of Christ through the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary. For the more consistently this becomes the desire of our soul and practice of our life, the more we, like St. Joseph in union with the Blessed Mother and safeguarded by God’s Almighty Word, will love the Church, fight to defend Her dignity and honor, protect Her children from the terror of demons and work for the salvation of souls so that God’s faithful may experience the grace of a happy death.
These may be beautiful and powerful words, but unless and until they propel us to be caught up in our fascination with the Divine Word of God, we will remain perplexed by the faithful and committed silence of St. Joseph — a man who reveals in God’s Providence that words are oftentimes overrated, but the relationship we have to the Word Incarnate is what truly transforms our life, our family, our culture, our history and our vocation.
St. Joseph, pray for us.
—Father James Dodson is vocation director for the Diocese of Burlington
—Originally published in the Spring 2021 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.