The Forgotten Saint

(This article courtesy of the Arlington Catholic Herald.)

Thus, with so little information given us about St. Joseph, it is no wonder that this quiet saint tends to be overlooked at times.

This week’s Gospel, though, calls our attention to the foster father of the Lord. Although the primary concern of the evangelist is to show that Jesus’ origin is from God (twice Matthew tells us that the child to be born of Mary has been conceived by the Holy Spirit), nevertheless St. Matthew sees in Joseph a model of discipleship and of obedience to the Lord. How is this presented to us?

First of all, the angel reassures Joseph and tells him, “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” This “fear” is not psychological or juridical on Joseph’s part; rather, it is religious. According to the biblical perspective, whenever a human being comes too close to God’s active presence, he must be afraid. This explains why Joseph was afraid to take home a woman in whom God’s active power was so evident and who, therefore, had conceived a child in this way. Joseph’s fear was prompted by God’s creative presence in Mary; Joseph is portrayed as respecting God’s work.

For this reason, St. Joseph is characterized as “righteous.” He is called righteous because he was pious and God-fearing, and because he cooperated in the plan of God concerning the birth of the Messiah. The supreme righteousness, the supreme act of piety, involves surrender to God as well as respectful and obedient cooperation with His will. St. Joseph’s cooperation started with his respect for God’s work and active presence. This is why Joseph refused to expose Mary to shame and even (according to Jewish law) to death; in no way would he contradict the action of God.

Because Joseph received Mary into his home, the Christ Child, in His humanity, is of the house and lineage of David. It is through Joseph that Jesus becomes “son of David.” Since the promised Messiah was to be of David’s line, Joseph’s actions “allow” the ancient prophecies to be fulfilled. Here is another example of Joseph’s cooperation with God’s plan of salvation.

In the life of the humble carpenter from Nazareth, we see an example of sacrifice and self-surrender in the service of the Christ Child. Every action of St. Joseph that is recorded in the Scriptures revolves around his care for Mary and for Jesus. In Joseph, we see how we should live as followers of Christ: with a readiness to serve Him, with a generous and free willingness to do what God asks of us, with a holy respect for the salvific works of the Lord. May St. Joseph intercede for us, that through his prayers, we may be united more and more to Christ, in faithful obedience and humble love.

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