St. Joseph, Spouse of the B.V.M., Friday, March 19
2Sam 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 / Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22 / Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24
The angel instructs Joseph; "Take Mary as your wife. "
Columnist D. L. Stewart wrote in the Dallas Morning News for May 11, 1965: "Mothers are the ones who carry the children for nine months. They are the ones who learn to sleep on their backs. . . . They are the ones who sweat, push, and cry out for pain in the labour room. Dads pass out cigars. "Mothers are the ones who spend hours spooning out jars of strained apricots . . . [and] picking up half-eaten cookies from the floor. . . . Dads lunch at the Racquet Club." Joseph never passed out cigars or lunched at the Nazareth Racquet Club, but you can be sure he appreciated what Mary went through.
How deeply do we appreciate our spouses and what they go through? It takes a lot of living— and even more loving— for spouses to turn a house into a home.
Blessed Basil Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross, modelled his religious family of priests, brothers and sisters on the Holy Family. In doing so, he placed the brothers under the patronage of Saint Joseph.
St. Joseph does not speak one word in the Scriptures. Yet, we know that God chose him for a unique and lofty role. St. Joseph placed his trust in the plan that the Lord sought to unfold in his life and in the life of his betrothed wife, Mary. St. Joseph became the first to see the Christ Child and the first to hold Him. Except for Mary, he knew Jesus more intimately than anyone on earth. It stands to reason that when we go to St. Joseph, he will lead us into greater intimacy with his foster Son. “If Mary is the Queen of all the blessed,” wrote Moreau, “St. Joseph is undoubtedly first among the saints.”
In the Holy Family, Moreau saw an earthly representation of the Holy Trinity. The love among Jesus, Mary and Joseph gives us an earthly glimpse of the perfect love and unity of the Trinity. Therefore, Moreau notes, “St. Joseph represented the first person of the Blessed Trinity on earth.” St. Joseph’s intercession and example have much to offer us as a model of religious life.
St. Joseph was not afraid to take Mary as his wife, even though she was with child. He dutifully took his family to Egypt in response to the message of the angel. In his faith and by his actions, he becomes an example to the members of the Holy Cross family who follow Moreau in professing a profound trust in Divine Providence.
We also are inspired by this silent, hard worker, whose labors earned the food that fed the Body of Christ, even though He would be broken for the life of the world. In a similar manner, we labour not that we might receive adulation or reward, but that others may encounter Christ and come to know and love Him.
St. Joseph was one of Jesus’ first educators, tenderly caring for Jesus as a young child and leading Him as He developed in wisdom, age and favour before God and man. So too, we serve God as members of the Congregation and educators in the faith, looking to see in each student’s face the image of Christ and helping those students grow to become who God is calling them to be.
God entrusted St. Joseph with the task of clothing, feeding and protecting the Incarnate Word and His Blessed Mother. So too does God offer St. Joseph to us as the protector of the Universal Church. We pray that his intercession may help us to follow his selfless and tireless example of service to the Church.
As Blessed Moreau wrote to the community, “I ask you to obtain from St. Joseph for us all, and especially for me who feels myself most in need of his aid, the grace of not hampering in any way the work which God has been pleased to entrust to us; rather, [I] ask that we may cooperate in every way with His designs by refusing no sacrifice to His grace. In other words, let us pray to him [St. Joseph] for the grace always to judge, feel, speak, and act according to the inspirations of the Holy Spirit.”
Today’s gospel calls Joseph “a just man.” It is a title that the scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments give to people who try to live according to God’s plans. Indeed, he played an important role in God’s plan of salvation; God entrusted our Savior, Jesus, to his care. He experienced that his important role brought him many difficulties, but he stood the test and served God well, as a man of faith, generous, and indeed “just.”
St. Joseph is known by many titles. The Litany of St. Joseph gives most of them and it expresses the roles and the virtues of St. Joseph. Even without referring to the Litany, we may remember some of the titles of St. Joseph - Head of the Holy Family, patron of workers, patron of the sick and dying, protector of the Church. Today the Church celebrates one of the titles of St. Joseph and it is celebrated as a Solemnity.
St. Joseph is called the Spouse of Mary, and it is a title that was recently added into the Eucharistic prayer. In the Litany, he is called the Spouse of the Mother of God. This title of St. Joseph is first mentioned in the gospel when it said that Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ. It is a profound title, though we tend to know of St. Joseph in what he can do for us, namely for his intercession for our work, when we are ill or for those who are dying.
The greatness of St. Joseph was his humility in accepting the will of God and that meant giving up his plans and hopes for his own future. Mary was betrothed to St. Joseph, but before they came to live together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. St. Joseph, being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. And that was when God came into the situation and St. Joseph had to make some decisions.
A. Joseph, the just man: (Matthew.1:19). In the Biblical sense, a just man is one who faithfully does his duties to God, to lawful authorities and to his fellow human beings.
1. Joseph did his duties to God faithfully by obeying His laws revealed through Moses, through his king and through his foster son Jesus.
a) He obeyed the Mosaic laws: i) by circumcising and naming Jesus on the 8th day, ii) by presenting Mary with her child in the Temple for the purification ceremony, iii) by making Jesus “son of the Law,” bringing him to the Temple of Jerusalem for the feast of Passover at the age of twelve.
b) He obeyed his King’s law by taking his pregnant wife Mary to Bethlehem for the census ordered by the Emperor.
c) He obeyed Jesus by respecting his desires and opinion. (Lk.2: 49)
2. Joseph did his duties to others faithfully:
a) to his wife by giving her loving protection in spite of his previous suspicion about her miraculous pregnancy. He could have divorced her. Pope St. John Paul II: St. Joseph protects Mary “discreetly, humbly and silently, but with an unfailing presence and utter fidelity, even when he finds it hard to understand.”
b) to Jesus by training him in his trade, in the Law of Moses and in good conduct (Lk. 2:52).
c) to his neighbors by being an ideal carpenter and good neighbor.
B. Joseph, the dreamer (like Joseph in the O.T.) receiving answers to his fervent prayers as dreams. Joseph raised his heart and mind to God in all his needs and dangerous situations in life, besides praising and thanking Him.
Dreaming in the Old Testament was one-way God used to communicate His will to men. Joseph received instructions from God through four dreams:
i) “Do not be afraid to take Mary to be your wife” (Mt.1:20);
ii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother and escape to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you to leave” (Mt. 2:13);
iii) iii) “Get up, take the Child and his mother, and go back to the land of Israel” (Mt.5:20); iv) as a confirmation of Joseph’s prudent thought of taking Mary and Jesus out of Jerusalem (where a worse ruler might endanger them), and back to Nazareth, a small, out of the way village in the country.
C. As a silent saint, Joseph always did the will of God and protected and provided for Jesus and Mary. Hence, he continues to protect the mystical body of Christ, the Church.
How did Joseph provide this protection and provision? By his unfailing presence and committed fidelity. He did it silently, justly and doing the will of God. He is a silent saint in our noisy world, giving himself to others. He continues to protect those who protect and take care of elderly parents, the aged and the sick in nursing homes. He courageously did his protective role starting with his receiving his wife into his home at the angel’s command in a dream and continuing through the flight to Egypt with Mary and the Child and their sojourn there, all the way to Nazareth and their life there, where, at some point, he died peacefully in their presence.
1. We need to lead saintly lives by becoming faithful in little things, as St. Joseph was. “Bloom where you are planted” was the favourite advice of St. Francis de Sales. Let us love our profession and do good to others.
2. We need to consult God daily in prayer to know His will and to do it.
3. We need to be just, as St. Joseph was, by “giving everyone his or her due.”
4. We need to raise our families in the spirit of the Holy Family and to be responsible, God-fearing, ideal parents like Joseph and Mary.
5. Let us become protectors like St. Joseph, by keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down! We must not be afraid of goodness or even tenderness!” (Pope St. John Paul II).
God our Father, you entrusted your Son Jesus to the dedicated care of St. Joseph. Give us the faith of this just man, the patron of your Church, that we may always listen to you, and serve you in everything you ask of us also when we do not understand where you are leading us. Make us live close to your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen****
The words of Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, written in the third century are as timely today as when he wrote them. He said: “If I could ascend some high mountain and look over this wide world, you know very well what I would see. Robbers on the high roads, pirates on the sea… selfishness and cruelty, misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, an incredibly bad world, but in the midst of it I have found a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and persecuted but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians and I am one of them.
- Anthony Castle in ‘Quotes and Anecdotes’
One day a lady who lived in town looked out of her window and saw a big truck pull up to her house, Out jumped five rascals and started unloading electric guitars and loudspeakers and drums…. They took them to the neighbours house. The woman was furious. Now her night’s rest and her ears and her life would be ruined by all the noise that would come from the house. Her husband came home from work and she began to scream at him, “We’ve got to move away from here or else we’ll go deaf and mad with that string band next door. But he calmed her down a bit and said, “Honey, why are you angry? Don’t you realize who those musicians are? They are the famous Sanguma String band that plays overseas to large crowds…. Woman, we should be glad they are here; we’ll be getting all this famous music for free.” His wife’s frown turned to a smile. She ran to the telephone and began to call her friends to come over sometime and take advantage of the Sanguma Band….. How attitude changes everything! Our attitude to Jesus too can change everything!
- ‘Quote’ in ‘1000 Stories You Can Use’
In today’s reading of Matthew’s Gospel, unlike King Ahaz, who did not trust God’s sign given to him, Joseph puts his trust in the rather upsetting sign of Mary’s mysteriously conceived child. Thanks to Joseph, of the family of David, Jesus will belong to the royal line. And, because of his faith, it is Joseph who gives the child a rightful name: Jesus, which means –God saves! Perhaps there are those who fear the approach of Christmas for whatever reason, they can take heart and hope from the story of the first Christmas. There was plenty of fear present there too! In fact all the main characters in it were afraid at one time or another. Joseph was afraid when he found that Mary was expecting a child even though they hadn’t been living together. But the angel appeared to him to reveal to him who the child was. Joseph did not fully understand, but being a just man, trusted God and so overcame his fear and did what was right. All of us are touched by fear at one time or another but we must not let our fears cripple us. Like Joseph we must seek to do the just and loving thing so that we move from fear to faith. Trust is the thing that enables us to move from fear to faith. The Christ child who comes to us at Christmas challenges us to enter into an intimate trusting relationship with God, trusting that we will receive love, and always more love. Though his humble and trusting action Joseph cooperated with God’s plan and provided a space for Jesus in his family and in the world. By trusting and cooperating with God in our own humble way we too can create a space for him to enter into our lives and into the present world.
The country doctor Brunoy had just said goodbye to his colleagues who had confirmed that Jean, the doctor’s only son, would die in a few hours of diphtheria. The anti toxin injections had been too late. As he now sat with his wife by the boy’s bedside awaiting the child’s death the doorbell rang. The doctor shouted to his secretary, “I don’t want to see anyone.” But the visitor would not go away. It was the farmer Rivaz who had walked 10 kilometres from Roseland. His son was sick. “I’ll come tomorrow” the doctor told him. “But if you don’t come now, he won’t make it through the night,” the farmer insisted. Then began a discussion…. “You can cure my son.” “But mine’s lost, he’s beyond all cure.” “But mine isn’t.” “Well, I’ll come tomorrow morning.” “Then it will be too late.” “Let me close the eyes of my dying child.” “But if you cannot help him any longer….” “As long as my son is alive, I’ll remain with him.” “All right, then both the children will die.” The doctor then asked for the symptom’s of the boy’s sickness and they were the same as his son’s had been. But it was still not too late to save him. So the doctor decided to go with the farmer.
- Ludolf Ulrich in ‘1000 Stories You Can Use’
- Glenstal Sunday Missal
In his book Beyond East and West John Wu has a fascinating passage. It reads as follows: “My wife and I had never seen each other before marriage. Both of us….. were brought up in the old Chinese way. It was our parents who engaged us to each other, when we were barely six years of age. In my early teens I came to know where her house was. I had an intense desire to have a glimpse of her. In coming back from school, I sometimes took a roundabout way so as to pass by the door of her house….. but I never had the good fortune to see her.” Wu goes on to say that he realizes the old Chinese marriage sounds incredible to Western readers. Some of his Western friends could hardly believe it at first. Wu says he was surprised his friends found the system so incredible. He asked them whether they chose their parents, brothers and sisters. Then he said, “And don’t you love them just the same?” John Wu’s passage from his book helps us to appreciate better the relationship between Joseph and Mary before Jesus’ birth.
- Mark Link in ‘Sunday Homilies’
Sometimes fact is more mysterious than fiction! The "Denver Post" printed an article December 23, 1981 about a stranger-than-fact event that occurred in Colorado. Stan Sieczkowski heard in church about a Denver family facing a rather bleak Christmas holiday. Medical bills robbed them of any extras; they would not even have a tree. So Stan and his son Jay determined to get them that tree. They headed up into the Colorado Rockies in the family pickup. However, the truck skidded off the icy road and hit a boulder that shattered the windshield. Jay was showered by glass slivers and suffered from shock and crash trauma. Stan was uninjured, though somewhat shaken. Cars sped past that day -- maybe 200 of them. Only two stopped. A gentle, dark-haired woman took the boy into her car to comfort him while her husband and another man helped Stan move his truck off the road. Then they drove father and son to Stan's home and quietly left without identifying themselves. Later that month, Stan's pastor asked if he might deliver a food basket to the unfortunate family for which he had earlier tried to cut a tree. Stan found the house, but he could hardly find his speech when the door opened. Standing there before him was the same couple who had helped him on the mountain road! Call it an amazing coincidence...or call it divine providence. Some mysteries are better left unanalyzed. But it is nice to remember that, when we give our hearts away in a spirit of generosity, we can still brush up against wonder, joy and love.
- Steve Goodier
1. G. K. Chesterton,
-- Home to the most magnificent truth in the entire Bible
-- Home to our Lord's greatest promise
-- Home to the reason we celebrate Christmas
Immanuel is God-with-us in the cancer clinic and in the Alzheimer's ward at the local nursing home. Immanuel is God-with-us when the pink slip comes and when the beloved child sneers, "I hate you!" Immanuel is God-with-us when you pack the Christmas decorations away and, with an aching heart, you realize afresh that your one son never did call over the holidays. Not once. Immanuel is God-with-us when your dear wife or mother stares at you with an Alzheimer's glaze and absently asks, "What was your name again?"
Ever and always Jesus stares straight into you with his two good eyes and he does so not only when you can smile back but most certainly also when your own eyes are full of tears. In fact, Jesus is Immanuel, "God with you" even in those times when you are so angry with God that you refuse to meet his eyes. But even when you feel like you can't look at him, he never looks away from you. He can't. His name says it all.
Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations
7. Obedience and Compassion
Stories from Father Tony Kadavil's Collection:
(John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho)
15) St. Joseph, the model of Faith: A retreat master was addressing a group of fathers. He proposed St. Joseph as a perfect model for them as the head of their families. At that, one retreatant said: “Joseph’s situation was totally different from mine. He was a saint, his wife was sinless, and his Child was the Son of God. I’m no saint, my wife is not sinless, and my child isn’t the Son of God.” Without batting an eyelid, the quick-witted Retreat master responded: “Was your wife pregnant before marriage and you didn’t know by whom? Did you son leave home for three days and you didn’t know where he was? Were you ever awakened in the middle of the night and urged to flee from the imminent threat of your innocent child’s assassination?” St. Joseph was pre-eminently a man of Faith who never doubted the reassuring promise of the Heavenly messenger: “Don’t be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.” Joseph believed God’s word and acted on it and fulfilled the mission God had given him. We too, with His ever-present help, can do the same. (Mark Link; quoted by Fr. Botelho).