By Margaret Ogbebor SSMA
Spirituality is the recognition of a feeling or sense of belief that there is something greater than oneself, something beyond the physical or ordinary. It always shows our (man’s) connection with the divine (God). Spirituality reveals to us that our lives and experiences have an in-depth meaning, something very significant that gradually unfolds as we continue to grow. Spirituality involves the human person trying to explore some universal truth to find its meaning. Due to the continuous search for meaning, a man is able to find answers to some questions that would help him to develop his life. It is a way of life that one has chosen to live in other to connect to the divine (God), it requires some practices or discipline to make “progress” in one’s spiritual life.
The foundation of every spiritual life involves prayer, meditation and contemplation, these help to shape and mould one’s life to the conformity of a spiritual being. Attaining perfection may be very difficult without spiritual practices. The love of God is the ultimate in this regard. No wonder, saints and martyrs possess this love of God in their hearts and do little things in extraordinary ways. In the Gospel of Matthew 13 : 46, we read how a merchant discovers a find pearl on a piece of land does everything he could to see that he bought the land because of the treasure in it, saints also do their best to see that they possess the kingdom of God no matter what it takes. Saints are also referred to as friends of God. Being friends of God gives them the opportunity to enjoy special privileges (grace) as God’s children. St. Joseph also enjoyed this singular privilege as a friend of God and was given the opportunity of being the foster-father of our Lord Jesus Christ. As a father, he was able to teach Jesus Christ the way of perfection although He was God. He carried out this task diligently till the end of his life. His spirituality gives us a complete picture of his kind of person because grace often builds on nature. The nature of St. Joseph is like that of an angel no wonder he was able to train Jesus in such a manner.
The holiness of life is one of the hallmarks of spirituality, which is also attributed to all the saints. In the case of St. Joseph, there was no exception; he possesses all-round holiness which cuts across all aspects of his life. In Mathew 1:19 we see how the Bible regards him to be a just man and was not willing to put Mary to shame. His life of holiness earned him honour in the community where he lived. He was well respected by all; because he had a good name (good names are often better than riches). He was a man of justice, he was not wayward, he always believed in what is right, that is, doing the will of God (obedience). This was seen in the Gospel of Matthew 1:20, when he was told to take Mary as his wife and he accepted without complaining. Many a time we often see ourselves fluctuating in our spiritual lives, today we are holy, tomorrow we are not. We blow hot and cold at the same time but in the case of St. Joseph, he was consistent with his state of life (holiness). He was always seen doing the will of God which is the requirement of every true Christian. Trust and obey for there is no other way to be happy with Jesus. In his practices of holiness, He did not “pick and choose” he was at the forefront trying to please God with his ways of life (words, actions, thoughts and dealings). His practices of holiness were both within and outside. He serves as an example for us to emulate. Some of us only practice holiness in the sight of some people but within us, we are something else. St. Joseph was totally different. His way of life was real, practical and genuine.
Another spirituality of St. Joseph was his strong “faith” in God, a significant role in the history of our salvation. From the stories we read in the Bible, we can see that it was only through dreams that God instructed him (Joseph) and he believed and did as he was instructed. The first time was when he was told to take Mary as his wife (Matthew 1:20) and the second time, when he was told to take the child (Jesus) to Egypt because Herod wanted to kill him (Matthew 2:13-23), all these instructions came to him through dreams and he believed without arguing or questioning whether it is God’s will or not. According to the catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), “faith is a supernatural gift of God which enables us to believe without doubting whatever God had revealed”. His strong faith in God made him believe what God communicated to him in the dream. St. Joseph saw the gift of his dream as a channel through which God communicates with him and continued to make the channel function of being faithful to him, taking the instruction from the dream with faith and courage. It takes strong faith to believe that what he saw in the dream were not a mirage, illusion or imagination. His strong faith in God came into play when he was told that his wife to be (Mary) is already pregnant not with the help of another man but by the power of the Holy Spirit. It takes somebody with a high level of faith to believe that, situations like that could actually happen. Looking at the whole life of St. Joseph, we can see that he worked by faith not by sight. This made him to stand out among those who had lived a righteous life. The gift of faith which St. Joseph possessed is what the Lord asked of us as Christians. “If your faith is like that of a mustard seed, you will be able to move mountains” (Luke 17:5-6). Faith should be the foundation of every Christian because, without faith, our Christianity is nothing. Our faith in God helps us to believe that if we ask anything of him he will do it. We can only see God through the eyes of faith. Faith is an important element of our Christian belief. Faith is the powerful force that pushes us forward even when our physical bodies are not moved. It is a gift bestowed upon us from above. It helps us to do things we would ordinarily not do. Faith moves God into action and also help us to trust in Him.
“If you love me, keep my commandment” (John 14:15). Loving God is not only when we pray, going to church frequently or singing hymns of praises and thanksgiving. It is more than that; it involves the totality of the human person, body, soul and spirit. Loving God helps us to know him better and also understand what he requires from us. Loving God is a gift each one of us should possess as Christians, because He was the first to love us by “sending his son into the world, that anyone who beliefs in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). This love flowed consistently in the mind of St. Joseph which made him obey every commandment of God without reserve. The love of God is another spirituality practised by St. Joseph. He was a man of love; he was able to show this love to his family members (Jesus and Mary) and even the people around Him. He loved and protected his family from the clutches of Herod and his evil plans. Looking at our lives as Christians, the element of love is very important in whatever we do; we are expected to love God and our neighbours (those around us) and to always forgive our enemies. Love never comes to an end because it is continuous. The love of God is above human standard and no one can comprehend it. The love of God for us was demonstrated on the cross when He sacrificed His only son for the salvation of the world. St. Joseph also followed this footstep by sacrificing his personal happiness for our salvation, so that we could be saved and redeemed. Many a time as Christians, we find it difficult to love God because of our own selfish interest. We should always remember that love is kind, love is patient, love is not boastful, it does not gloat over evil but delights in the truth (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). The above qualities about love were found in the life of St. Joseph.
Sr Margret Ogbebor SSMA is a Catholic Nun, working in the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto. She is the Head Teacher of St Martin de Porres Nursery and Primary School Katsina. firstname.lastname@example.org