Last fall, I was unfortunately involved in an accident involving a motor vehicle, the result being that I broke my ankle in several places. This forced me to take several months off from active ministry to have surgery, recuperate and undergo rehabilitation. And while the time off was initially a nice break from the hectic schedule of parish life, the waiting to return to normal soon became a great challenge.
Thankfully during this time, I was also blessed to receive the support of many people throughout our Diocese. Many people sent me cards assuring me of their prayers. Others provided helpful suggestions on doctors I should consult and exercises I should do to quicken my recovery, but one card offered a unique encouragement.
The note, which was anonymously written, began like many others. The author offered her prayers and expressed her condolences. But then after explaining how she had gone through a similar situation years ago, she offered me one interesting piece of advice. She said, “Remember, your waiting time is not wasted time.”
A man who understood this message was St. Joseph. As a faithful Jewish man, his life was defined by waiting. For centuries, the Jewish people had waited for God to answer their prayers and send the promised Messiah. For years, they had waited for liberation from foreign powers. And of course, when he is introduced in Scripture, he is patiently waiting to marry and begin his own family.
How overjoyed he must have been when in an instant all these hopes seemed to be fulfilled. However, he soon discovered that once again he needed to wait for God. The Messiah was born into his own home. But he came not as a full-grown man nor as a conqueror. He was born a child. Jesus needed to grow, to learn, and to develop. And rather than become disillusioned or bitter due to this further delay, Joseph did the opposite. He used his time well.
Scripture tells us he worked hard, was faithful to his family and religious obligations, and prayed with angels. Because of this, his time of waiting was transformed. It became a time when hope flourished. Although his hope of seeing Israel redeemed remained unfulfilled during his life, he was privileged to be one of the first to enter heaven after the Resurrection due to his hope and patient waiting.
Since Lent itself is a time of waiting, this is why each year we celebrate St. Joseph on March 19. The special prayers we offer during Lent remind us that not every prayer is answered immediately or in the way we desire. However, like St. Joseph we can transform this time of waiting. Through fasting and almsgiving, we can give hope room to flourish in our hearts. The hope we need to sustain us until the power of the Resurrection is fully revealed in our lives.
So this week, let’s ask for the intercession of St. Joseph to use our Lenten time well. May he help us remain faithful to the work we have begun so that we might draw greater blessings from the Easter yet to come.
By Father Joseph Ganser, parochial administrator of Sacred Heart Parish, Palmerton.