Often when I wake up in the morning I know I’ve been dreaming but I rarely have any idea of the content of the dreams. Sometimes I feel as if I have been very busy in the night and I wonder what I have been working out during sleep, but my mind usually goes quickly in other directions so I hope that my soul knows any message that I was supposed to hear. I am confident that if God wanted me to know something of import in a dream, it would remain clear enough on a conscious level for me to grasp it upon awakening – but perhaps I should revisit my “Awakening the Dreamer” materials (a self-taught course from long ago). I wouldn’t want to miss anything…
These thoughts were occasioned by the story of Joseph in today’s gospel and by a conversation with nine women a week ago as we reflected together on the Incarnation. I was asking their opinions on Joseph’s state of mind and heart when he learned that Mary was pregnant…and then after he was visited by an angel in a dream (MT 1:18-24). Our compassion for Joseph was great. We listed shock, helplessness, betrayal, love, disappointment, loneliness, compassion…and more as our thoughts of what it must have been like for him. We concluded that it would be difficult for us who live in such a different culture to apprehend all that he faced even after his dream directing him not to “divorce Mary quietly” but rather to take her into his home. Neither he nor Mary could possibly have fully understood what was happening. It was, we decided, his love for Mary and his trust in God that allowed him to move forward as he did.
And Scripture offers one more point of affirmation. In speaking of the child to be born, the angel echoed the message of the prophet Isaiah – a message that Joseph had surely known since his early youth. Both texts tell us that a virgin will conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel. And Joseph likely knew, as the angel reminded him, that Emmanuel means God is with us. With this assurance, and our faith as assent, the way forward – for us as for Joseph – becomes possible.