Solemnity of St. Joseph
“He was chosen by the eternal Father as the trustworthy guardian and protector of his greatest treasures, namely, his divine Son and Mary, Joseph’s wife. He carried out this vocation with complete fidelity until at last God called him, saying: ‘Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your Lord’” (St. Bernardine of Siena).
Everything we know about the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus comes from Scripture and that has seemed too little for those who made up legends about him.
We know he was a carpenter, a working man, for the skeptical Nazarenes ask about Jesus, "Is this not the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). He wasn't rich for when he took Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised and Mary to be purified he offered the sacrifice of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, allowed only for those who could not afford a lamb (Luke 2:24).
Despite his humble work and means, Joseph came from a royal lineage. Luke and Matthew disagree some about the details of Joseph's genealogy but they both mark his descent from David, the greatest king of Israel (Matthew 1:1-16 and Luke 3:23-38). Indeed the angel who first tells Joseph about Jesus greets him as "son of David," a royal title used also for Jesus.
We know Joseph was a compassionate, caring man. When he discovered Mary was pregnant after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his but was as yet unaware that she was carrying the Son of God. He planned to divorce Mary according to the law but he was concerned for her suffering and safety. He knew that women accused to adultery could be stoned to death, so he decided to divorce her quietly and not expose her to shame or cruelty (Matthew 1:19-25).
We know Joseph was man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him without knowing the outcome. When the angel came to Joseph in a dream and told him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately and without question or concern for gossip, took Mary as his wife. When the angel came again to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything he owned, all his family and friends, and fled to a strange country with his young wife and the baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Matthew 2:13-23).
We know Joseph loved Jesus. His one concern was for the safety of this child entrusted to him. Not only did he leave his home to protect Jesus, but upon his return settled in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple we are told Joseph (along with Mary) searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Luke 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son for over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, "Is this not the son of Joseph?" (Luke 4:22)
We know Joseph respected God. He followed God's commands in handling the situation with Mary and going to Jerusalem to have Jesus circumcised and Mary purified after Jesus' birth. We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man.
Since Joseph does not appear in Jesus' public life, at his death, or resurrection, many historians believe Joseph probably had died before Jesus entered public ministry.
Joseph is the patron of the dying because, assuming he died before Jesus' public life, he died with Jesus and Mary close to him, the way we all would like to leave this earth.
Joseph is also patron of the universal Church, fathers, carpenters, and social justice.
We celebrate two feast days for Joseph: March 19 for Joseph the Husband of Mary and May 1 for Joseph the Worker.
There is much we wish we could know about Joseph -- where and when he was born, how he spent his days, when and how he died. But Scripture has left us with the most important knowledge: who he was -- "a righteous man" (Matthew 1:18).
In His Footsteps:
Joseph was foster father to Jesus. There are many children separated from families and parents who need foster parents. Please consider contacting your local Catholic Charities or Division of Family Services about becoming a foster parent.
Saint Joseph, patron of the universal Church, watch over the Church as carefully as you watched over Jesus, help protect it and guide it as you did with your adopted son. Amen
The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (7.1~2,10, 25~30)
Jesus moved around in Galilee; he did not wish to travel in Judea, because the Jews were trying to kill him. The Jewish feast of Tabernacles was near. When his brothers had gone up to the feast, he himself also went up, not openly but as it were in secret. Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." So Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from. Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." So they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come. (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30)
Man and God One thing about our Lord is plain in the passage before us today. His person and background is well known. He is one of the people. He is a brother Hebrew to them. There is mention of “his brothers” who went up to the feast before him. They were, of course, his kinsmen presumably from Nazareth and its environs. There is a tradition that the parents of Mary had resided in the nearby cosmopolitan city of Zephoris, so some of our Lord’s relatives may even have lived there. Whatever of that, the point is that our Lord was deeply rooted in certain places and in a family network. He was very well known. That was up in Galilee, in the locality of Nazareth. Let us observe the specimen of the talk about him in Jerusalem, provided by our passage. Our Lord went up to the feast quietly and then was discovered to be teaching in the Temple. We read that “Some of the inhabitants of Jerusalem said, "Is he not the one they are trying to kill? And look, he is speaking openly and they say nothing to him. Could the authorities have realized that he is the Christ? But we know where he is from. When the Christ comes, no one will know where he is from." The drift of it is that Jesus was one of the people, and that this was a problem. He was but an ordinary Hebrew, an artisan from Galilee — all knew who Jesus of Nazareth was and where he was from. He lacked the mystery that would be associated with the Messiah. In his origin and person the Messiah would be far, far larger than life, a figure the like of which the world had never seen. All of this was perfectly true in its way, and did reflect the general impression projected by the Scriptures. But other predictions were missed that located the Messiah as coming from the people. What these reactions and remarks illustrate was the truth that Jesus Christ was truly and absolutely a man like us. In all his human characteristics there was an individuality with the limitations which this necessarily involved. He was of a certain height, with certain features, a certain timbre of voice, a certain manner of walking, speaking, smiling. The Messiah was very much a man of a certain lineage, time and culture.
All this our Lord openly and readily acknowledges. “Jesus cried out in the temple area as he was teaching and said, "You know me and also know where I am from.” That is to say, I am a man just as are others, and you know me as such. But then he alludes to the tremendous mystery that is his nevertheless. “Yet I did not come on my own, but the one who sent me, whom you do not know, is true. I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me." Our Lord speaks in a way that transcends the language of the prophets, though he is in the line of them. He repeatedly insists that he came from God. The prophets spoke of having been called by God for a special mission, and of having received his word which they then proclaimed to the people, despite much opposition. Not uncommonly they would refer to their place of origin and their occupation prior to their calling. But Jesus Christ speaks of himself as coming not simply from Nazareth, but directly from God. He states time and again that while many of his hearers did not know God, he knew him. Our Lord separates himself from the rest in his incomparable knowledge of God, a knowledge that he has directly because he came directly from him. “I know him, because I am from him, and he sent me.” Our Lord is claiming a unique relationship with God, a uniquely authoritative mission, and a unique knowledge. This singular authority was what the religious leaders could not bear, and we read that after our Lord said this, “they tried to arrest him, but no one laid a hand upon him, because his hour had not yet come” (John 7:1-2, 10, 25-30). It all constitutes yet another allusion — so frequent especially in the Gospel of St John — to his divinity. This is the wondrous thing about Jesus Christ, and it is what makes the Christian religion so striking, provided it is truly understood. This man, truly man — one whom they knew so well as almost to disqualify Jesus Christ from being the Messiah, in their mind — is the living God. We simply must not “get used” to this proposition. There is nothing like it on earth.
Let us in our mind’s eye, in spirit as it were, place ourselves among the hearers and gaze at Jesus Christ as he speaks. Observe his features, so noble, so filled with spiritual majesty, so expressive of divine love and strength. He is every bit a man as any man, indeed far more so because there is no sin in him to sully his humanity. He is, in this sense, perfectly man, perfectly human. But in the first instance he is divine. He is a divine person who has come from the Father as one sent by him. This same Jesus Christ is with us continually in his Church, in the word and Sacraments of the Church. Let us live in him then, and never be separated from him.