Saint Joseph, 19 March, 2021: 2 Sam 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22; Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24a
According to the Gospels, Saint Joseph is descended from a fallen royal house, replaced by a monarchy that is only nominally Jewish, struggling to flex its muscle within the Roman Empire.
Although aware of his lineage, Joseph exhibits no pretensions, plying his craft as a worker of wood to earn his living. He is a family man, perhaps already married and widowed before his betrothal to Mary. The religion of his ancestors and its high ethical tone are important to him, an ethos seasoned with consideration of others, as is evident in his respectful and discrete reaction to Mary.
He must be a man of some depth and experience of himself to know his dreams and give them such credence. And he would have to be a man who knows how to manage his fears, planning well a successful escape from Herod into Egypt. But he also needed courage to know himself well and nurture his unconventional family. Evidently he was smart enough to support them in a foreign land, canny enough to evade the territory of Herod’s heir, Archelaus, and resettle in Nazareth, upon their return.
There had to be more than enough love to bind him to his wife and her Son, providing him with a thorough grounding in Torah. Certainly, Joseph’s example, as much as, or more than his words, demonstrated to the growing Jesus that God is love, a God who seeks out the poor, the alienated, the straying.
On the verge of Jesus’ adulthood, when he had evaded Joseph and Mary to stay behind in the Temple, Joseph doesn’t overstep himself: this twelve year old is Mary’s Son—and God’s—not his. He lets her do the talking and listens to God working through the encounter.
Ironically, there’s much talk of “Joseph the Silent” because the New Testament quotes none of his words. But how he speaks with his life! Perhaps he would use the words of his namesake, Joseph the Patriarch, saying to us: There is no need to be afraid; I shall provide for you and your children (Genesis 50:21).