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Urgently wanted courageous Joseph amidst aura of 'divisiveness, hate, violence' in India

By Fr Cedric Prakash SJ*

Our world today (particularly, India) is broken and fragmented; divisiveness, hate and violence hold way! The people cry out for exemplars: women and men who can transcend exclusiveness, pettiness and jingoism!
Those who have the prophetic courage to be visible and vocal and who make efforts to positively impact on the lives and destinies of others. St Joseph, whose feast we celebrated on March 19, was one person we all can emulate and model our lives upon. St Joseph epitomized several essential qualities which we desperately need today; these include:
Scripture refers to Joseph, as a ‘just man’. From the moment, Mary was betrothed to him he was confronted with making several difficult decisions. Every decision of his would impact on Mary or Jesus or both them in a profound way. But he did so with a great sense of responsibility; be it the moment he wanted to send Mary away quietly or when he finally found the child Jesus in the temple. The biblical ‘righteousness’(justice) was his forte.
Joseph was transparent to the core. He knew it was his duty to register himself and Mary when the census was being done. He did not avoid that! A grim reminder to each one us as ‘Election Day’ draws near. He wanted the best for Mary and her child. There were however, ‘no doors’ which opened for them! Joseph was therefore open enough to opt for something better: a stable, the warmth and the adulation of the animals; to identify with those on the peripheries! He was always open to do what the Lord wanted from him!
The scam of the ‘electoral bonds’ is a powerful indicator of how corrupt the ruling regime has become! Lies and half-truths, myths and fake news (‘fauvisms’) dominate today. We are plagued daily with a torrent of misinformation, coming from paid propaganda units who work for those who attempt to control our lives and destinies. Insincerity, flattery, hypocrisy, fear and ‘diplomacy’ rule the roost. Often sincere and truthful persons pay the price. Joseph was an upright man, who invites us to live lives of authenticity and sincerity.
Joseph never hesitated to embrace others! He began by embracing Mary and Jesus unconditionally and fearlessly! He embraced the shepherds and the Magi; he embraced the ‘Gloria’ of the angels and the tortuous flight into Egypt. His embracing life meant that he was available for others, ready to accompany them. Today we exclude and even kill the ‘other’: those of a different religion or colour, the poor and the marginalized, the refugees and the migrants. Discriminating rather than embracing, has become our way of proceeding. Just a few days ago, foreign students praying their ‘namaaz’ were attacked by ‘hindutva’ elements in a university hostel in Ahmedabad!
“Protect us” is the unceasing cry of the excluded and the exploited, the innocent and the vulnerable! Sadly, the trust that some of these “little ones” place on priests (even on some bishops), on the powerful and wealthy, of those in authority is pathetically betrayed. Horrible stories continue to be revealed, which make one to wince! Joseph, as the protector of Mary and Jesus and of the Church today, is more than a model to be imitated. He challenges each one of us, to become more like him in order to be a protector of the suffering, to heal festering wounds and painful memories, which are the lot of so many today!  
Today we exclude and even kill the ‘other’: those of a different religion or colour, the poor and the marginalized, the refugees and the migrants
It is surely not easy for a person who has been entrusted with a heavy responsibility, in which oftentimes, one does not have a decisive role. However, for Joseph, that did not matter. He encapsulated and radiated humility! Like Job, at times. he was patient and silent, waiting for God’s plan to unfold. Our world today is overwhelmed with a lust for power and unbridled arrogance. Joseph therefore comes to us as a beacon of strength and fearlessness, motivating us to become ‘meek and humble of heart’, like him, Mary and Jesus!
On 19 March 2024, Pope Francis completed 11 years as Pope. It was not without reason that he chose this day to begin his Pontificate. For Pope Francis, these years have truly been a Synodal Journey, of communion, participation and mission! St Joseph has always been very special in his life. He has shared with us a ‘personal secret’ saying:
“I would like to share with you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a man of strength and of silence. On my desk in my room, I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. He now sleeps on a mattress of my notes. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem. That is why I sleep well: it is the grace of God!”
Today we celebrate St Joseph! We also celebrate the servant-leadership and the prophetic courage of Pope Francis, who is a true Shepherd who radiates the qualities of St Joseph! We also realise that we desperately need persons who like St. Joseph are able to epitomize and radiate today, Justice, Openness, Sincerity, Embracing, Protectiveness, Humility!
Not just one, but many everywhere!
In this defining moment of our history, we certainly need to pray to St Joseph for the grace to emulate him! We also need to ask for the courage to place big posters everywhere with the slogan ‘Urgently wanted today: a ‘Joseph’ emblazoned on it!
Hopefully and very soon, someone will find that Joseph in you and me!
*Human rights, reconciliation and peace activist/writer. This reflection is a revised and updated version of an article written by the same author in 2019



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