TUESDAY HOMILY: Going to Joseph in the Year of Faith
God the Father entrusted the upbringing of his Son to St. Joseph's care. We should entrust our own spiritual growth to this 'just man' as well.
But we can be tempted, like most Christians throughout most of the first 1400 years of the Church, to treat the man to whom the Blessed Virgin was espoused almost as a divine afterthought or some kind of ancient "player-to-be-named-later" in a package deal for his young wife. As Matthew's and Luke's genealogies show us, however, he was the penultimate piece in a divine cascade stretching all the way back to King David, to Abraham and even to Adam. It was through him that Jesus, under Jewish law and mentality, would be a descendent of David.
St. Joseph's relative obscurity probably pleases him very much, since he more than anyone would want our focus on Jesus and Mary, just as his always was. But I believe that Jesus and Mary would want us to give more attention to him, as has been given over the course of the last six hundred years and especially the last century.
Jesus and Mary deeply loved Joseph, as he deeply loved them, and they would want us to enter into their love for him so that Joseph might strengthen us in our vocations just as he supported them. So today on this great solemnity of the chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin, the guardian and foster-father of the eternal Word, it would be good for us to spend some time meditating on the third person of the "earthly trinity" that constituted the Holy Family, because he, more than anyone, can teach us how best to relate to Jesus and Mary in Bethlehem, Nazareth and beyond.
Why was St. Joseph chosen to be the foster father of the Son of God? One reason was clearly because he was a descendent of King David and therefore any foster child would, according to the law, be a son of David, too. But there would have been many eligible descendents of Israel's greatest king alive at the time. Doubtless some of them would have been scholars of the law and capable of training Jesus according to his humanity to be a rabbi rather than a carpenter. Some others would likely have had much more clout and been able to avoid being treated as nobodies by the innkeepers when Jesus was about to be born. Others would probably have been wealthy and much more capable than Joseph of providing for Mary and Jesus, so that at Jesus' presentation, for example, they would have been able to offer a lamb instead of two pigeons.
But it's obvious that to God the qualities that Joseph lacked were insignificant compared to those he had. God the Father, in whom all fatherhood finds its roots, saw in him the qualities he wanted to raise his Son, to teach him how to be a man - and a man of God - according to his humanity. God the Father entrusted to him his most precious treasures and he and those treasures would want us to trust in him as well.
What are those qualities? What can we learn from him to become more like him in relating to God the Father, in relating to the Lord Jesus, in relating to the Blessed Mother?
First, Joseph was a good man. St. Matthew writes that he was a "just" or "righteous" man. He was "holy," a man in a right relationship with God. He may not have been flashy on the outside but he shone on the inside. As Pope Benedict once said in a rare play on words, St. Joseph "ad-justed" his life to the word of God.
Second, he was "righteous" precisely because he was docile and obedient to God. We see his prompt obedience in his response to the angel of God's three interventions in his dreams not to be afraid to take Mary, his wife, into his home, to get up and flee to Egypt, and to return home once again. It would have been easy for Joseph to deconstruct these dreams according to the standard of his conscious desires. Each dream was asking him to do something totally life-changing: to alter completely his notion of what his marriage would entail; to leave his job and his relatives completely behind and journey through the desert to an unknown land; to return once life was settled. But in each of these circumstances, Joseph acted immediately.
He was so prone to hearing God's word and putting it into practice that at the merest indication of the Lord, he didn't debate or negotiate, but obeyed. St. Joseph never saw obeying God as incompatible with his own good, but rather as the foundation for his own good. God's omnipotence was not seen as a threat to his manliness because St. Joseph didn't equate manliness with being in control, but rather in being ...
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