Saturday, March 20, 2010

Joseph, the "Righteous Man" (Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, Matt. 1:16, 18-21)

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.

* * * * * * * * *

Today, Joseph is honored in his role as foster-father of Jesus and husband of Mary. At first, this feast together with the readings, seem more appropriately celebrated during the season of Advent than in Lent. After all, the gospel does speak of how the birth of Jesus came about. But on closer inspection, there’s really more to be said about Joseph and his relation to Jesus’ saving work.

The gospel calls Joseph, a “righteous man”, a title scripture reserves for those who are found truly worthy in the presence of God. So it must have been difficult for Joseph when he learned that his wife-to-be, Mary, was with child not his own. He loved her for sure, but righteous man that he was, he could not disobey the Law, and so he sought to obey it but at the same time shield Mary from whatever shame that might bring upon her. He was obviously in a very difficult situation. But God, as scripture says, would never forsake the righteous. And so he gives Joseph insight and tells him that his wife is indeed conceiving through the power of the Holy Spirit, and that he should have no fear of taking her into is home, for the child to be born would be the Son of the Most High.

And so he takes Mary and cares for her and Jesus, his very life touched by the difficulty that would eventually overshadow the life of both Mary and Jesus. He too, had shared in the future suffering of his son, but just like Jesus, Joseph too would find in God’s loving concern, a way to see in his difficulty, the hand of God at work in saving the world.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)