How can we trust God's plan for our lives?
Sunday, February 2, 2020 – Feast of the Presentation of the Lord
What is God’s plan for my life? If God exists, why aren’t things working out as they should? Where is God in all of this? These are questions we can easily ask ourselves. These are questions Mary and Joseph may have asked themselves. These are even questions Jesus may have asked Himself!
We can sometimes think that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph must have had it pretty easy. After all, their family was composed of a stellar trio: the divine Son of God, the Mother of God who gave birth to Him, and her peaceful and faithful husband.
We can easily forget that even though Jesus is divine, He lived a human life. We can forget that Mary was perplexed and did not always understand. We can forget that Joseph wasn’t following his original plan and had to be told what to do by angels.
This Sunday the Church celebrates the presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:22-40). This life moment shows us the humanity of the Holy Family. Every Jewish family would bring their first-born son to the Temple to offer Him to God with a sacrifice. The usual custom was to sacrifice a lamb. If a couple could not afford a lamb, then they could offer two pigeons or turtledoves. As a modest, working-class family, Mary and Joseph offered a pair of birds to God.
All of a sudden, an elderly man named Simeon comes into the Temple and begins praising God for the child in Mary’s arms. Simeon takes Jesus into his own arms and proclaims Him as the salvation for Israel and for all the nations. Mary and Joseph were amazed to hear what Simeon was saying about Jesus. This may surprise us, but it reveals that Mary and Joseph did not have the same view of the big picture as we do now. They didn’t know what Jesus was going to do during His life. They didn’t know what kind of message He was going to proclaim. They didn’t know that He was going to be crucified or rise from the dead.
We can even ask ourselves: what did Jesus know about his own life and mission while He was growing up? Did Jesus know as a child or later as a carpenter that one day He would call twelve apostles to found the Church? Did He know He was going to save humanity by sacrificing Himself? Even on the night before He died, Jesus asked the Father to take this suffering away from Him if it was possible. As He hung on the Cross, Jesus asked the Father why He had abandoned Him. How was the Father’s plan revealed to Him in time? Did Jesus know everything at every step of the way?
These questions should not cast us into doubt but inspire us. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were a family that beautifully lived out God’s plan for their lives. At the same time, they were not always perfectly aware of exactly what God was calling them to. At times they were confused, hesitant. Joseph even wanted to send Mary away quietly when he first learned she was pregnant with Jesus. The beauty of the Holy Family is that they never stopped trusting in God. Even when the path was not always clear, they always followed what they believed God was calling them to, and they never doubted God’s plans for their lives.
How can we follow this example? How can we trust that God will lead us in the best possible way? How can we trust that even when times are tough, God is bringing goodness out of our struggles and leading us to something greater, something better, to what is truly best for us?
This kind of trust is not easy, but it helps to have examples and guides along the way. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph show us how to trust God even when we do not understand everything that is going on. Looking back on their lives, we can see how God was always faithful to them and never abandoned them. Looking back on our own lives, we can often see the hand of God guiding us gently even when we were not aware at the time. We can ask Jesus, Mary, and Joseph to help us to say yes to God every day, even amidst the uncertainty of our lives.
The same God who called and led Jesus, Mary, and Joseph every step of the way, calls and leads us, too. Like them, we can put all our trust in Him.
Julian Paparella has contributed to Salt + Light Media since 2012. He served as an intern for many summers and currently studies theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris.