“When Herod had died, behold the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
– Matthew 2:19-20
We do not know how long the Holy Family was in Egypt waiting for further instructions from God. It could have been a year, but it could have just as easily been 10 years of not knowing how or when their circumstances might change. Regardless of the length of time, trusting in God’s will, they waited patiently and peacefully. Because Egypt was unfamiliar territory to them, their time spent there could be considered a time of tribulation for the family. They would have had to find a home, learn how to communicate, and figure out how to fit into the new culture. They would have had to miss their family and friends back home and find new people with whom to connect. Joseph would have had to find work in order to provide for the basic needs of his family. Working through these different problems would have brought challenges, but the Holy Family persevered with the faith that God would provide for their every need and reveal solutions as problems arose. Most certainly, the majority of us have had to endure various tribulations of our own without knowing how long each would last. However, reflecting on those times, can you see how God provided you with everything you needed at the time to endure each of them?
Joseph’s third dream marked the end of this specific trial. Imagine Joseph and Mary’s elation upon learning they could finally leave Egypt and return to Israel. This should sound familiar since the Israelites also suffered the trial of wandering the desert for 40 years until finally being granted permission to enter into the Promised Land. They experienced a similar joy as God communicated to them that this particular chapter had finally come to an end. We can relate to this by understanding that no trouble that we have lasts forever and that we can and should wait peacefully for God’s time to bring whatever it is to an end. There is a popular quote commonly attributed to John Lennon: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” For us, the end is heaven where everything will be more than simply okay. So, we can truly have a holy peace within us knowing, with confidence, that every cross we carry will eventually be taken from our shoulders and we will bask in the glory of God for all eternity.
Imagine Mary and Joseph, in their joy about returning to Israel, planning and packing for their departure. Fidelity to the Lord and acceptance of His plans for your life brings great reward and that is what the Holy Family was experiencing at this time. When God grants us these moments of reprieve and consolation, we most certainly ought to receive them with abundant gratitude. That being said, it is very common for humans to only be grateful in these moments. However, the Church teaches us to also be grateful for our crosses and tribulations because it is through them that the Lord grants us many graces and gifts on our path to salvation. Can you look back and recognize how much you were blessed during a particular struggle? When we actively thank God for all things and all circumstances, it makes our peace and joy that much sweeter when they come to an end and we can reflect on our journey and the strength God provided to us to get through it. What’s more, typically, the outcome is even better than we could imagine if things had gone as we had wished at the time. The Lord is rich in generosity to those who are faithful and trust in His divine providence.
The Israelites were called home to the Promised Land. The Holy Family was called back to Israel in Joseph’s dream. One day, Lord willing, each of us will be called to our eternal home in heaven. In order to prepare for this day, we must accept our crosses with gratitude, offer our fidelity to God, and allow His grace to carry us through. We must trust in His plan for us and believe that each of our personal challenges are for a greater good, meant for us to embrace, and draw us closer to God for the grace and strength to endure them. This week, thank God for your crosses, both past and present. Ask Him to help you accept them with peace and trust so that you can look forward to the day He brings them to an end. Like St. Joseph, wait patiently, confident that one day your reward will come and you will also rejoice in His solutions for you.