A Handy Man

Helen Keller said, “The greatest tragedy in life is people who have sight but no vision.” That is why the question in life is, how is your vision? Your sight may be perfect but what about your vision?

Do you perceive the big picture? Can you catch sight of the hidden potential lurking behind every situation? Do you recognize those obscure opportunities cleverly disguised as glaring problems?

I know a man who had vision. He was not a white collar gentleman, just a simple handy man, a carpenter. He was married and had a child. This child was not actually his, but he adopted him and took good care of him. His name was Joseph ben Jacob.

We do not even have one word of him recorded. However, actions speak louder, much louder, than words. One day, he finds himself in a real tight spot. Already engaged to his girlfriend, he discovers quite abruptly that she is pregnant. He knew he did not do it. Someone else must have made it! He must have been destroyed and felt cheated.

He did not know what to do. He had three alternatives. He could expose her and say clearly that he had nothing to do with it. This would have saved his face and his reputation but the outcome for Mary would have been very bleak. The Law was clear. Deuteronomy chapter 22 states, “If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death”. Joseph does not take this route.

The second option was to take her as his wife, cover everything under the mantle of marriage. Give his name to the baby which is not his and make it look as if the baby is his. The only problem was that this would put him in a bad light. People would think that he had got her pregnant, that he is all goodie goodie on the outside, but basically he is rotten and dirty. Nazareth was a small town where gossip was rampant like all small towns. He decides against this option – why should he be held responsible for something he never did?

The third option seemed more plausible. Dismiss her quietly. Take her to some other town and let her lose herself in the anonymity of the crowd. No one would know anything and everything will be hushed up quietly and discreetly. Obviously this would solve many problems for him, but it would not solve many problems for Mary. He opts for this third alternative.

But then God intervenes. And as is normal with God, He disrupts Joseph’s plans. He tells him basically to go for the second option : “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid, to take Mary your wife into your home.” Give your name to the child even if he is not yours. Even if you will be branded as an unreliable guy. Later on, the enemies of Jesus would try to smear him by saying just that : “Is he not the son of that carpenter,” the sneaky guy?

Joseph finds himself in front of something that is not of his own choice or liking. What did Joseph do? What can we do when we find in front of situations that are beyond our understanding – a sickness, a marital breakdown, an emotional stress?

He simply obeyed! He did not resist the events which God was presenting him. Pope Paul VI said of him something very dear : “he does not debate or dispute with God”.

The moment this young man finds himself involved in a mystery that is bigger than him, he feels confused as all of are mixed up when problems crash on us. But he did one step forward. He realized that God knew what He was doing. He realized that God cannot do mistakes and he trusted.

Dr. J. A. Hadfield, a noted British psychologist, once commented that, “When people run up against life and find it too much for them, one swears, one gets a headache, one gets drunk and one prays.”

Joseph decides to let God take over. He passes the remote-control in the hands of God. Saint Augustine once said, seek not to understand; just believe and then you will understand!

The rest, as we know, is history! This simple handyman has become an inspiration to many who realize that faith is not a distant view but a warm embrace of God!

Someone said, little faith will bring your soul to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your soul. How true! During an especially trying time in the work in China, a missionary sent this note to his relative, “We have twenty-five cents – and all the promises of God!

Your sight may be perfect, but how is your vision? Saint Joseph, pray for us.


(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.