slow our rush to judgment

Snow filled the streets of Quebec City even before the major snowstorm swept Eastern Canada last weekend.

Snow filled the streets of Quebec City even before the major snowstorm swept Eastern Canada last weekend.

Continual digging out and hauling off the accumulation from the narrow streets of the old walled portion of the city is a given every winter.

The streets of Basse-Ville, away from the river and down below the fortifications, also  needed attention with preparations for the 400th anniversary of this city’s founding by Samuel de Champlain and his cohorts well underway.

The quarter dubbed Nouvo St. Roch centres on the lower town church of St. Roch whose front facade resembles that of Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral.

Rue St. Joseph running along its south side has been brightened for the holidays by multiple overhead undulating stings of blue lights.

Upscale boutiques occupy much of the street level retail spaces.

Tarps over the facades of older buildings being renovated further to the east suggest the emerging vibrancy of this shopping street.

A fair number of the store windows along Rue St. Joseph appropriately hold crèches this Christmas season.

The carpenter saint has his usual spot to the side of the manger, standing above Mary and the infant. Once his role in the annual story is told, though, he largely disappears from gospel pages.

Popular lore, however, won’t let him go so easily.

From San Jose, Costa Rica, to Rue St. Joseph people over the generations have kept his memory alive.

Maybe the story of Joseph demands a closer look.

In the Gospel of Matthew we first see Joseph conflicted by the discovery that his betrothed, Mary “was found to be with child.” Being a “righteous man” he intended to “dismiss her quietly.”

An informal divorce would hardly have gone unnoticed in any small, tightknit, rural community in the Israel of two millennia ago.

Joachim and Anne, Mary’s parents, would have had to take her back. They would obviously bear the shame along with her.

There would be little hope of escaping the gossip and censure of neighbours. Life would never be the same for them.

The facts were obvious. What else could Joseph do? We often as individuals and even as nations find ourselves in the same situation.

We think we know the facts. We make our judgment, which will impact on others and their lives. We are prepared to accept the consequences because of our firm belief that we know the situation.

Only later do we find out that we didn’t know the whole story. Families and communities have been rent and wars caused by similarly rushing to judge.

Then Joseph had a dream.

An angel in it told him “do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” and the whole story of the baby to be born who will “save his people from their sins” was told.

Joseph abandoned his previous resolve and took Mary as his wife.

As individuals and nations we learn from the example of Joseph and pause in our rush to judge others. “We must have infinite faith in each other” as Henry David Thoreau noted on a page of his 1852 journal. “If we have not, we must never let it leak out that we have not.”

Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel, Merry Christmas and Happy