Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading 1 2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16
The LORD spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.'”
Responsorial Psalm PS 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29
R. (37) The son of David will live for ever.
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness,
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
R. The son of David will live for ever.
Reading 2 ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22
Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.
Verse Before The Gospel PS 84:5
Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord;
they never cease to praise you.
Joseph, Mary and Jesus — “Flight into Egypt”
Gospel MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A
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.
Or LK 2:41-51A
Each year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover,
and when he was twelve years old,
they went up according to festival custom.
After they had completed its days, as they were returning,
the boy Jesus remained behind in Jerusalem,
but his parents did not know it.
Thinking that he was in the caravan,
they journeyed for a day
and looked for him among their relatives and acquaintances,
but not finding him,
they returned to Jerusalem to look for him.
After three days they found him in the temple,
sitting in the midst of the teachers,
listening to them and asking them questions,
and all who heard him were astounded
at his understanding and his answers.
When his parents saw him,
they were astonished,
and his mother said to him,
“Son, why have you done this to us?
Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.”
And he said to them,
“Why were you looking for me?
Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
But they did not understand what he said to them.
He went down with them and came to Nazareth,
and was obedient to them.
We must remember that Jesus knew in detail the whole course his earthly life would take from his conception onwards (cf. note on Lk 2:52). This is shown by what he says in reply to his parents. Mary and Joseph realized that his reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s faith and their reverencetowards the Child led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done so on other occasions.
The Gospel sums up Jesus’ life in Nazareth in just three words: “erat subditus illis”, he was obedient to them. “Jesus obeys, and he obeys Joseph and Mary. God has come to the world to obey, and to obey creatures. Admittedly they were very perfect creatures — Holy Mary, our mother, greater than whom God alone; and that most chaste man Joseph. But they are only creatures, and yet Jesus, who is God, obeyed them. We have to love God so as to love his will and desire to respond to his calls. They come to us through the duties of our ordinary life — duties of state, profession, work, family, social life, our own and other people’s difficulties, friendship, eagerness to do what is right and just” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 17).
Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as St Joseph and earning his living by the sweat of his brow. “His hidden years are not without significance, nor were they simply a preparation for the years which were to come after–those of his public life. Since 1928 I have understood clearly that God wants our Lord’s whole life to be an example for Christians. I saw this with special reference to his hidden life, the years he spent working side by side with ordinary men. Our Lord wants many people to ratify their vocation during years of quiet, unspectacular living. Obeying God’s will always means leaving our selfishness behind, but there is no reason why it should entail cutting ourselves off from the normal life of ordinary people who share the same status, work and social position with us.
“I dream–and the dream has come true–of multitudes of God’s children, sanctifying themselves as ordinary citizens, sharing the ambitions and endeavors of their colleagues and friends. I want to shout to them about this divine truth: If you are there in the middle of ordinary life, it doesn’t mean Christ has forgotten about you or hasn’t called you. He has invited you to stay among the activities and concerns of the world. He wants you to know that your human vocation, your professsion, your talents, are not omitted from his divine plans. He has sanctified them and made them a most acceptable offering to his Father” (St. J. Escriva, “Christ Is Passing By”, 20).
Source: “The Navarre Bible: Text and Commentaries”. Biblical text from the Revised Standard Version and New Vulgate. Commentaries by members of the Faculty of Theology, University of Navarre, Spain.
Author Devin Schadt wrote “Joseph’s Way — The Calling To Fatherly Greatness” to help all men with relationships, parenting and living as a Christian husband.
Peace and Freedom
To build with me
and to do with me as Thou wilt.
Relieve me of the bondage of self,
that I may better do Thy will.
Take away my difficulties,
that victory over them may bear witness
to those I would help of Thy Power,
Thy Love, and Thy Way of life.
May I do Thy will always!
Thank you, God, Amen!
Many of us live in anxiety and fear of tomorrow. We worry about our job, our health and our loved ones. We worry about the education of our children, whether they will do well in their studies. We are always worried that we do not have enough money to sustain us and our loved ones. Such fears and concerns are normal and understandable. But when we look at our life many years down the road, we would come to realize that most of these fears are quite unnecessary. In fact, our health would have been better, our lives more joyful and happier had we not been so anxious. Anxiety causes us to have high blood pressure and hypertension, and sometimes insomnia. Worse still, it leads us to vices, like gambling, cheating and drinking.
This is because we trust only in ourselves. Weaklings as we are, our lives are always fragile. We cannot guarantee or predict what will happen tomorrow. We are not in full control of our lives. But we want to be in charge. We do not want to live in faith. Because we take things into our own hands instead of relying on God’s grace, we often end up messing the plans of God as Abraham did when he was impatient waiting for the promised son. He did not live by faith and took Hagar a slave to conceive a son for him. This lack of trust in God’s plan caused more problems for humanity later. This is also true for ourselves.
What we need is to have faith in God’s fidelity to us. All the three readings unveil to us the marvellous and irrevocable plan of God. No matter what we human beings do to contradict the plan of God, His plan would unfold all the same. God is faithful to His promises. This is the centrality of today’s scripture readings so beautifully expressed by the psalmist. “I will sing forever of your love, O Lord; through all ages my mouth will proclaim your truth. Of this I am sure, that your love lasts forever, that your truth is firmly established as the heavens. I have made a covenant with my chosen one; I will establish your dynasty forever and set up your throne through all ages.”
We see first and foremost God’s fidelity to Abraham when He called him to move out of his comfort zone of Ur, the land of the Chaldeans, and to journey to an unknown land that God would show Him. There was no guarantee but it was just a promise that he would be “the father of many nations” and “his descendants will be as many as the stars.” Based on that promise, he set out to a foreign land fraught with dangers from weather and enemies. Certainly, Abraham would have wondered many times when the promise of God would be fulfilled. In truth, he did not see it in his life time completely, except for the birth of Isaac. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised.” On hindsight, we see that God fulfilled His promises beyond our imagination. He is the Father of faith and hence of many generations. Through him, the great religions were born, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. We are all his children in faith.
In the first reading, we see the promise of a nation fulfilled. Then the Davidic dynasty was established. Under the reign of King David, the nation flourished. All the Twelve tribes were united under one Israel. But God went further in promising King David that his kingdom would last forever. Through the prophet Nathan, God said, “I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. I will be a father to him and he a son to me. Your House and your sovereignty will always stand secure before me and your throne be established forever.”
When David heard these words, we can be sure that he did not fully grasp the meaning. At most, he would have thought that his son and descendants would continue to perpetuate the dynasty he had started. Even that is not realistic. Did he really believe that his kingdom will last forever when history has shown that kingdoms rise and fall regardless how powerful and great they are? Even great powers like Assyria, Babylon and Persia; Greece and Rome in the ancient days had fallen. In our times, countries like Spain, Portugal and Britain were once powerful countries, but their influence is much less today. All earthly kingdoms have come and gone.
Yet, we see once again the fidelity of God to His plan for humanity. God is faithful to His promises. What we cannot conceive, God could do. God had planned that His Son would come from the line of David and establish forever the sovereignty of God. From hindsight, the prophecy of Nathan now makes sense, when God said to David, “It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure forever. I will be a father to him and he a son to me.” Although it was true that the king in the Old Testament was considered a son of God, yet the full understanding of the Fatherhood of God is realized only with the birth of Christ, His son. When Christ was on earth, His message was simply the kingdom of God. Christ, by His death and resurrection, established the kingdom of the Father forever and ever.
What does it mean for us when we celebrate the feast of St Joseph? We must imitate him in his receptivity to the plan of God. The idea of him being a foster father was never in the mind of Joseph. All he wanted was a normal family. He was certainly like the rest of us. But God had other plans for him. God said to him, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.” When God revealed His plan to Joseph, he could have revolted or insisted on going his own way. He could have said, “No, I want to have a normal married life.” But he was receptive and obedient to God’s will.
How many of us are receptive to the unexpected changes in our life and adapt accordingly? Many of us are afraid of change. We want the comfortable and secure life we are used to having. Whether at work, at home or in church, we resist change. We want to do things the same old ways but at the same time, we give lip service to progress. When called upon the Lord to undertake certain tasks and responsibilities, we shy away because it means changing the routine and status quo. How many of us would be like Joseph, who upon hearing the voice of God, woke up and took the risk of accepting Mary to be his wife? Many of us do not live a fruitful and meaningful life because we are like a frog that will not come out of our well. We must learn to adapt and take risks in responding to the call of God and the unimaginable will happen.
Secondly, we are called to imitate the faith of Joseph in cooperating with God’s plan. “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.”. We can be sure that he could not understand how Mary could conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit. It seemed too farfetched. He would also have wondered what all these would entail. But he trusted in the Lord. He believed that God would be faithful to His promise. This is the same faith of Abraham. We might never know exactly how the plan of God would evolve. What is important is that like Joseph, our task is to cooperate with the plan of God. We need to walk by faith, not by sight. God in His own time will bring about the maturity of His plan for us. This was the case of Abraham as St Paul wrote, “I have made you the ancestor of many nations – Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into being what does not exist.” We must do all we can whilst leaving God to determine how events will unfold. Faith does not mean doing nothing; it requires us to cooperate with Him.
Thirdly, having faith in God means to live in hope. “Though it seemed Abraham’s hope could not be fulfilled, he hoped and he believed, and through doing what he did became the father of many nations exactly as he had been promised: Your descendants will be as many as the stars. This is the faith that was ‘considered as justifying him’.” Without hope, we will give up. But hope must be sustained by faith. If we continue to live on in spite of the trials and difficulties facing us, it is because we have hope that we will be able to overcome them.
Conversely, only faith can help us to persevere in hope. This is what St Paul tells us. “The promise of inheriting the world was not made to Abraham and his descendants on account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith.” Truly, “what fulfils the promise depends on faith, so that it may be a free gift and be available to all of Abraham’s descendants, not only those who belong to the Law but also those who belong to the faith of Abraham who is the Father of all of us.” In this way, the promise of God to unfold His plans in our lives will also be realized in any one of us who has faith like our forefathers. Let us therefore walk by faith not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
So today, as we celebrate the feast of St Joseph, let us in faith walk confidently in the ways of the Lord. Let us not be too worried about the future. We too pray with the psalmist, “You are my father, my God, the rock who saves me.” And God assures us, “I will keep my love for him always; with him my covenant shall last.” He is reliable and although things may not work out the way we think, we can be sure that it will work out in ways beyond our imagination. With St Paul we say, “O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!” (Rom 11:33)
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ 2SAM 7:4-5, 12-14, 16; PS 88:2-5, 27,29; ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22; MATT 1:16, 18-21, 24 ]Today, we celebrate the solemnity of St Joseph, the spouse of our Blessed Mother Mary and the foster father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It must not have been easy for Joseph to assume this role. St Joseph was a common man who desired what everyone hopes for in life. He was an ordinary carpenter and he hoped to settle down and raise a family. Everything seemed to be going well with St Joseph as Mary was betrothed to him in marriage. He must have thought that his life and future were all cut out for him. Mary certainly must have been known to him and his relatives as a decent God-fearing girl. He would have looked forward to the day of his marriage. Yet, the truth is that man proposes, God disposes. Our plans are not always His plans. God had chosen Mary to be the mother of the Saviour and she would conceive Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. This was told to Mary by the angel Gabriel.If we were Joseph and were told that our future wife is pregnant in the power of the Holy Spirit, how would we react and what would we do? Would we believe her? Would we think that she was either lying, gone berserk or even been unfaithful to us? We would be totally lost and devastated at such news. So we can imagine what St Joseph must have gone through when Mary broke the news to him. It was too good to be true on one hand and too sad to be true on the other; but on both counts it went against logic. No one would believe them, even if St Joseph were to give Mary the benefit of the doubt. We can be sure that St Joseph went through days of torment and sleepless nights. Utmost in the mind of St Joseph was how to explain this situation and secondarily how to protect Mary.
This predicament that St Joseph had to go through was not made easier because he was known to be a just man. This is to say, he was God-fearing and law abiding. He would not do anything against the Law of Moses. He was obedient to the commandments. He was a man of justice and of integrity. He was known to be a diligent, hardworking and responsible worker. So how could he be just and yet merciful to Mary? This is the crux of today’s celebration when we contemplate on St Joseph as the patron of works of mercy and as spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
How can one be just and yet merciful? Very often, justice and mercy seem to be in conflict. Being merciful implies that we bend the laws whereas justice is based on rights and fairness, reward and punishment. So there is always this tension within us of wanting to be just to all and yet at times compassion implies that we let an offender go free without being punished for the sufferings and wrongs he has caused to others. Truly, very often we are caught in such dilemma, more so when that person who commits an offence or sin is someone we know personally and love dearly. On one hand, we are able to feel with that person and empathize with him or her. On the other hand, justice must be done, especially in a case of a criminal offence. Either way, we are paralyzed in our decision. Either way, our heart will be broken.
How did St Joseph resolve this conundrum? The apparent conflict between justice and mercy can only be resolved by faith in God’s mercy and grace. It is faith in the mercy and grace of God that saves us. God saves us not because of our good works but because of His mercy. Indeed, this is what the Church wants the world to know, that God is merciful and compassionate. The jubilee year of mercy is to underscore the mercy of God and His forgiving love. Whilst we must seek to be just, yet mercy is greater than justice, forgiveness better than revenge. St Joseph in this sense was made to realize that we are justified by faith, not good works. It is not good works or the law that saves us but the mercy of God. Recognizing that God’s justice is His mercy, he was careful not to allow his fidelity to the laws to make him harsh. Even though He initially thought that Mary could have been unfaithful, Joseph wanted to do what was just and yet merciful. He did not take revenge, nor was he presumptuous in condemning Mary of a sin she did not commit and of which her pregnancy could not be explained.
This requires us to have faith in the transforming power of God’s grace. Just as Mary accepted in faith the angel’s message, Joseph was asked to trust in God’s plan. Although it was difficult to accept or to believe, he submitted to God’s plan in faith. St Joseph was a man of deep faith. He knew that God was faithful. Joseph knew from scripture that God is always with the just man. He just knew that somehow God would come to his aid and see him through all his trials. He also knew that God’s grace can transform sinners as well. Hence, we must not give up on sinners. There are no incorrigible sinners or hopeless people. So when we have faith in His grace, we know He works both in just and unjust people.
This faith comes about through understanding in deep prayer and intimacy with God. We know from scriptures that Joseph was a quiet man, but a man of deep faith and contemplation. He was always attentive to the voice of God. So God spoke to him in a dream and revealed to him His plan for our salvation. Although his mind was made up, he was not wilful or too proud to listen. So it was his contemplative spirit that enabled him to hear the Word of God so clearly that the gospel says, “When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.
The ability to accept the will of God is aided by a better understanding of the fulfillment of God’s plan. When St Joseph was informed by the angel in a dream of how the plan of God was being fulfilled, he understood and gave his full cooperation to the plan of God. Understanding the beauty of God’s plan and His divine providence enabled him to surrender even when things were not clear to him. God has a plan for sinners too. He makes all things good if they cooperate with His grace. In other words, we are called to walk by faith, not by sight. This does not mean that we be rash in believing what people say. Walking by faith means to walk in trust, but it also requires us to be responsible in clarifying and verifying whether the voice we hear is truly the Word of God and His will. This was what Mary did when asked to be the mother of the Lord. Unlike Zechariah, she was not lacking faith but she needed the angel to help her confirm the message she had heard. So too, if we were to take the leap of faith, it would come through prayer and study in the process of discernment.
Today as we celebrate the Solemnity of St Joseph we are asked to imitate His example of justice in mercy. Being just itself is an act of mercy. As Christians we need to observe the very basic foundation of mercy which is justice. We need to be fair to our workers and those under us. We must ensure that they are reasonably paid and we must be compassionate to them in times of sickness and family problems. Justice and impartiality in our actions and treatment of our workers or family members is the most basic justice. We must be careful not to pass judgement on people based on hearsay without verification or investigation. This is where we as Church must avoid gossiping, slandering, and false accusations.
But we must also go beyond justice to compassion and forgiveness. In the Church we are all sinners. We must be ready to forgive and let go. At times we do not understand, but like St Joseph, we must hand over judgment to God and not take it upon ourselves. St Joseph could not explain the situation, but not for once did he judge Mary or make any accusation against her. He just noted the fact that she was indeed pregnant, but as to who caused the pregnancy, he made no judgment. All he wanted to do was to see how to resolve this matter without scandal and without causing hurt to anyone. That is why when we speak of compassion, this does not mean that we are exempted from doing the right thing. We do what is permitted within the laws and yet, at the same time, we must be careful not to judge the intentions of the heart. We must leave judgment and vengeance to the Lord. With Jesus, we say, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they were doing.”
This presupposes we have contemplated on God’s mercy. Unless we are first and foremost recipients of God’s mercy, we cannot show mercy to others. His mercy is only given to those in need of His mercy. Proud and self-righteous people do not need mercy because they trust only in themselves and their good works. To be like St Joseph who is just and merciful, we must be aware of our sins and failures. If there is a lack of contrition and self-awareness on our part, we will not be able to receive or be moved by His mercy. Reflection on one’s misery and wretchedness should make us realize that we are not in a position to judge others because there is a plank in our eyes. We should instead see our sins in our fellowmen so that their sins would evoke our gratitude for God’s mercy and sorrow for them instead of anger and condemnation.
But being sorry for our sins is not yet redemption as we will fall into despair like St Peter or, worse still, into scrupulosity. Such fear of God will not make us holy but only robs the joy of the gospel from our lives. If there is no joy in us we have nothing to share with others. A further consideration of God’s patience and mercy for us is critical to transform us to be like St Joseph – just and yet not judgmental; kind and merciful towards others. Only faith in His unconditional love and mercy can heal our wounds and assuage our fears. Without experiencing mercy from God either for our sins or remembering those times when He came to our aid in hopeless and difficult situations, we will never be able to appreciate the power and mercy of God; and as a result lack power to proclaim and share His mercy with others.
Beyond forgiveness and compassion for the sins and weaknesses of our brothers and sisters, we mustalso reach out to those in need, in distress and in pain. This is what we are invited to do today if we love St Joseph who is the protector of our Blessed Mother, defender of widows and orphans and the dying. Like St Joseph, we must be ready to assist and to help the universal Church. We are called to help the People of God and the world. We must come to the aid of widows, orphans and those in trouble. St Joseph could be all these to us only because he had gone through all these pains in his life and identified with those who were and had been in such situations. We too can be like St Joseph, a man of mercy and compassion, provided we are also able to identify with the sufferings and pains of our fellowmen and most of all, with the heart of God.
Tags: 2 SM 7:4-5A 12-14A 16, He Always Does The Right Thing, He Never Says a Thing, Holy Spirit, Jesus, Joseph, Joseph’s Role in the Life of Jesus, Lk 2:41-51a, March 20 2017, Mary, MT 1:16 18-21 24A, Prayer and Meditation, Psalm 89, ROM 4:13 16-18 22, Saint Joseph, St. Joseph, through the Holy Spirit, Virgin Mary, Virgin Mother