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SAINT JOSEPH: HONORING HIS MANY ROLES

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SAINT JOSEPH—

HONORING HIS MANY ROLES

St. Joseph's feast day is Tuesday, March 19th, 2019


HONORING ST. JOSEPH

We hear and see, quite often, the honor and attention given to Mary, the Mother of God, and how she was specially chosen by God to be the virgin Mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ. But let’s consider this: As the coming of the Savior was planned before the world began, and God knew and had selected the mother He had in mind, how much priority would God give to the need—and to His desire—to shield the Savior and His mother... and arrange for their care?

Today we are recognizing the one that God the Father chose and called to a remarkably key role in protecting, providing for, and watching over the Son of God and his mother, Mary—St. Joseph. [Mt 1:20*]

Joseph—this “son of David” [Mt 1:20], as Jesus [Mt 1:1-6; Lk 3:23-38] [Lk 4:22] was also called—humbly carried what could have been a heavy spiritual and earthly burden. Joseph’s life was, in a sense, “turned upside” down—more than once.

First, he wisely chose (or his parents and Mary’s parents chose, depending on who exactly arranged the marriage and how much say he had in the choice) to be betrothed to Mary. One would say in retrospect that it was an amazingly fitting choice, on a human level, between the two of them (or their families) given the depth of integrity and love each of the espoused showed in their individual lives. And, of course, the divine Father had providentially provided for each of them to come together in Nazareth.


THE UNEXPECTED HAPPENS

Sometime after their betrothal, Joseph discovered that his engaged bride was pregnant. That information would unsettle many an engaged man, particularly in their strict, Jewish culture. It would become more of an additional emotional, mental, and situational issue with one (like Joseph) who had been restrained and respectful in his treatment of his beloved. He knew that they had not had a sexual union.

Plans and dreams would become shaken… Joseph showed his cherishing and shielding love even before hearing from an angel regarding her situation. He had already decided to protect Mary from a harsher (and more usual) treatment (stoning) of an unfaithful bride (or betrothed woman, who was considered already bound to the marriage commitment) by deciding to quietly divorce her. [Mt 1:19]


A JUST AND RIGHTEOUS MAN

We see in God’s word that he is called a “just” man or a “righteous” man. [Mt 1:18] Joseph’s life required a high level of faith in God—particularly, early on, in regard to what he heard and experienced in his engagement to Mary. To hear from (Mary and from) an angel that his betrothed was still a virgin, but the child was not his, required a most unusual response. His willing and quick decision to give (and live giving) a generous amount of uncommon care for (and glad acceptance of) his male foster child, Jesus—and his wife, Mary— goes beyond what was typical behavior, particularly in his day and time. It was an uncommonly loving and kind, considerate and respectful response by any standards, both then and now.

With gentle concern, Joseph wanted to spare Mary the shame and horror of open judgment and public punishment and execution—that of the customary religious practice of stoning for such an infidelity. Instead, once the angel spoke to him concerning his (virgin) betrothed—that the child was “conceived of the Holy Spirit” and “destined to save his people from their sins”—he immediately obeyed and took Mary into his home. [Mt 1:24]

Like Jesus, Joseph was humble of heart, but strong enough to make intensely life-changing decisions to safeguard the (his) family and follow the Father where He led them. He raised Jesus as his own son. The fact that their relationship was clearly seen by others as a strong kinship is confirmed by the scripture that says, “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” [Mt 13:55]

Joseph took the humble role of a man serving his family—simply, but not easily— facing continuous dangers and difficulties caring for and tending to his wife and Son… putting whatever (personal ego) ambitions he had aside to truly tend to their needs and their safety. The Servant-King, Jesus, had some prime example in his earthly father, Joseph. It reminds me of the highest value that Jesus put on loving and serving others—humbly, willingly, and with an open heart.

“If I… the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do…” [Jn 13:14-15a]

“…I am meek (some translations say ‘gentle’) and humble of heart…” [Mt 11:29].

Gentleness is presented as a mark of a good man in any role—particularly in leadership—in scripture, including several times in the New Testament. The overwhelming need for humility is described countless times throughout the Bible.


LOVE PAYS A PRICE

Whether Joseph was young, or whether he was old (as some historians believe), the role, the travel, and the protections provided would have had to have cost him personally, as a husband and father. He courageously chose safety and protection of Jesus and Mary above his own comfort or security—with all the moves the family made—in notably deferring any typical focus on his “career”, as we would now call it.

He willingly let his own potential life preferences bow to his calling as a husband and father. For example, he let go of any typical plans he might have had for a more securely successful and peaceful “career” path of fulfilling his craft as a carpenter, in one place—preferably, his home town, for instance, where people knew him, and where he could build up a clientele. Shielding the vulnerability of Jesus and Mary became a prime concern—and a true sacrifice.

Joseph continued to follow as the Lord led him in travel after travel to a safer place for them. It took a strong and determined, careful and wise, courageous and God-seeking man to guide and treasure his little family from Nazareth.

It was years before Joseph and Mary would return to the place of their betrothal. From Nazareth Joseph went with his ready-to-give-birth wife to register in Caesar’s census in Bethlehem, where Mary gave birth to their newborn Son. He probably wondered in awe as the shepherds, who came to adore Jesus, told of the brilliance of angels in the sky and their announcement of Jesus’ birth. [Lk 2:15-20]

Wise men also came—both to honor Jesus, and to tell their prophetically-led story of a journey seeking this royal baby. They left a brief stopover at the palace of the local King (Herod) to come to the humble dwelling of a newborn king. His birth place was nothing like the palace they had just visited. Jesus had no visible rank nor riches there—surrounded by hay, animals, a stable and two humble, Jewish parents from out-of-town. [Mt2:1-12]

Whether the magi were able to share their dream’s warning that they received about Herod (to not return to Herod, but go home by another route) with Joseph or not, Joseph, himself, was warned in a dream of his own. An angel told him to take the family to Egypt, and stay there until Herod’s death [Mt 2:13-15]. In this way, the Lord through Joseph protected his family from Herod’s massacre of the Holy Innocents—boys two years old and under— in and around Bethlehem [Mt 2:16-18].

After some time, Joseph again received word in a dream to take the baby and his mother to Israel once again. He was further warned in a dream to avoid settling in Judea (and thereby elude Herod’s son Archelaus) and proceed to Galilee, to the quiet town of Nazareth [Mt 2:19-23].


THE FOSTER FATHER'S EXAMPLE

When Jesus was 12 years old, scripture tells us that he was accidentally left in the temple. Meanwhile, the family and their caravan traveled toward home, believing that he was among them somewhere in the group. When they finally found him, Mary notably commented that Joseph shared the same troubled grieving and care that she had been experiencing. She told Jesus, “…your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety”… [Lk 2:48]

This foster father of Jesus—the father Jesus first knew, as Jesus “grew in wisdom and grace” [Lk 2:52] in getting to know His own Abba Father—had a listening ear and a ready heart to hear and obey the voice of God. Such a willing and open heart and ear was a good example to Jesus, who would have to hear His Abba Father’s calls and warnings, direction and directives over and over again. Joseph’s willingness to ‘travel on’ in safeguarding Jesus and Mary, without being certain of the path or the outcome, at times, was also pro-active training for Jesus, who would live his traveling public ministry years with “nowhere to rest his head”. [Mt 8:20]

Jesus said that the last would be first and the first would be last. [Mt 19:30] From the evidence we see in scripture, Joseph spent his life living not for his own personal identity and recognition; not for monetary gain; not for a great work that he could attach his name to… but for the protection and care of Mary and Jesus-- the person most “targeted” (by the enemies of God) who has ever lived.

The Savior lived his whole life in danger from the “god of this world” [Jn 12:31; 14:30; 16:11, etc.]. Joseph's role as "protector" cannot be underestemated nor adequately described. With only a few instances described in scripture, we really have very little idea of the details of what this entailed. Also, as his earthly father, Joseph would have been at least partly mindful of the need to support and assist the training, calling, and future role Jesus was born to fulfill—whatever he understood that to be, and however limited that understanding was.


HOW MUCH DID JOSEPH AND MARY KNOW?

That brings us to a question (that became the theme to a beautiful song): Just how much he and Mary know (in regard to Jesus as both the Son of God and the promised ‘One and Only’ Savior)? They would have been familiar with the Jewish Old Testament revelation regarding the coming savior. In Jesus’ hidden life as He was growing up, we have no way of knowing what revealing conversations and revelations passed amongst the three of them. But, based on all the history of angelic visitations and God’s guidance through the years, we can assume that Joseph knew that his son’s needs in fathering and training went beyond what was typical for his time. He probably would have had at least some awareness that he was called to be and to give significantly more of what other fathers need to give and to be for their sons.

It seems that more is revealed to Mary and Joseph (that is recorded) as parents than to any other parents in scripture regarding an anointed son. Both of them knew the Old Testament through going to temple—as the gospels reveal—and this, alone, would have given them a heightened awareness of biblical truth. We know from Jesus’ Presentation in the temple that Mary was troubled by prophetic words. We can count numerous times when God’s words to either or both of them are revealed in the gospels. We hear much of Mary’s role and sorrows.

Given all these facts, we know that Joseph’s responsibility to lead and protect these two was truly mammoth… In fulfilling this calling, he blessed and tended the treasure that was his family: his wife and son. Though bible history does not show his presence after the onset of the public ministry of Jesus, the years prior to this were foundational to His protection and to the development of Jesus’ ministry, up until the time when Joseph died.

The last (biblically) recorded event at which Joseph is known to be present was when Jesus showed great wisdom, knowledge and maturity at the age of twelve conversing with the teachers in the temple, as we mentioned before. As a Jewish father, Joseph helped contribute to—and certainly witnessed—the development of that wisdom and understanding in Jesus. We do not know how much direct revelation, etc., came from Abba Father and the Holy Spirit, directly to Jesus, in those early hidden years. We can observe that, at some time after Jesus was 12, and probably before He was 30 and began his public ministry (assumed because Joseph is not mentioned in the gospels as being present and alive during this time), Joseph died.


HONORING HUMBLE SERVANTS; GIVING GOD THE GLORY

As times are moving closer and closer to the time (as scripture foretells) when God will receive all of the glory… and every knee will bow… we need to become more in tune with God and seek His way of thinking. Scripture says that His ways are “high above our ways and His thoughts are high above our thoughts”.[Isa 55:9] God said to ask for wisdom and He would give it. [James 1:4; 3:13-17]

It is fitting that we are recognizing some of the saints who may have lived more “behind the scenes”—supportive, and servant roles… including, of course, St. Therese Lisieux, the Little Flower… and many others, like St. Andre’ Bessette, who happened to have had great devotion to St. Joseph—as did St. Francis and St. (Padre) Pio.

Joseph—the earthly father of Jesus, the husband of Mary, a worker skilled in carpentry, and the leader and protector of the Holy Family on earth—was declared a saint in the latter part of the 15th century by Pope Sixtus IV. Pope Pius IX established the “Holy Patriarch Joseph” as “Patron of the Catholic Church” in 1847.

St. Joseph has two feast days on the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar:

March 19th—Husband of Mary

May 1st—Joseph the Worker (on the International Worker’s Day) Pius XII, 1955

It is a blessing that—of all the saints for this modern age, and with all our “busy-ness” in life, and the many career motivationswe find, in Joseph, one of the saints that merited two feast days (which is rare). One feast day was to celebrate his role as a hard-working, creative and skilled craftsman. And one feast celebrates the depth of the service—love and care, protection and provision—that he gave to his family.

If we are looking for a model of a person who “had it all” (as we term “home and work” blessings today)—and, by the way, had it through hard work, humble service and care—we might take a good look at St. Joseph. He was known (and spoken of by others in scripture) as a carpenter, so both his trade and his work were recognized. Joseph must have known how to weigh priorities, and put His Lord God first, as he lived it out through loving care of his family and serving them well That made all the difference in the lives of Jesus and Mary.

St. Joseph is Patron of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, family homes, immigrants, and a happy death.


* The footnote on vs. 20 in Matt. Chapter 1 (NAB) says that “angel of the Lord” is “a designation of God in communication with a human being”.


This blog is based on the one posted by Kathy Boh on May 03, 2016, called, “A NEW LOOK AT ST. JOSEPH”.


The PASCHAL MYSTERY, JOY AND DIVING MERCY series continues in another 

week. The last two blogs in our series will be:


PART IV: THE HEART OF THE TRINITY:

 LOVE AND MERCY—Seeing it. Receiving it. Walking in it.

PART V: DIVINE MERCY THEME IN PAPAL WRITINGS


Finally, if you have not done so already, consider looking up the first four blogs in our Lenten/ Paschal/ Resurrection series:


PART I: LOVE’S PASSIONATE DEATH leads to GLORIOUS RESURRECTION

PART II: THE CROSS of CHRIST…THE “JOY” IN IT?

PASSIONATE DEATH leads to JOYOUS RESURRECTION

PART II B, COUNT IT ALL "JOY"? and Evangelii Gaudium: THE JOY OF THE

GOSPEL, selected quotes

PART III: “PASCHAL MYSTERY VICTORY”: DYING and RISING


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