St. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the genealogy for Jesus as found through the line of St. Joseph. Shortly after the lengthy listing of names which most non-biblical scholars struggle to pronounce, we see Joseph described as “a just man” when considering what he ought to do about Mary’s unexplained pregnancy. In the midst of an agonizing situation, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, sharing how Jesus came to be conceived and instructing Joseph in what to do next.
“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took his wife, but knew her not until she had borne a son; and he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25 RSVCE)
The lives of the saints offer a unique perspective of what following Jesus can look like. In a special way, the life of St. Joseph shows a radical surrender to the Lord and a life of literally following Jesus. What we know about St. Joseph is shaped around what he did for the Christ-child and how completely he followed God’s will in his life. Where St. Joseph lacks in words, he more than makes up for in action. Chosen by God to be the earthly father of the God-man, Joseph has no recorded words in Sacred Scripture. And yet we continually see Joseph acting with great faith in the Lord.
Joseph is obedient. He responds promptly to the Lord once God’s will has been made known to him. Questioning how his virgin betrothed could be with child, he immediately moves into action when prompted by the Lord. Initially, he wrestles with how to justly handle the situation, not wanting to shame Mary and yet uncertain how to move forward. Once the angel speaks to Joseph, he wrestles no more. The Lord reveals what He wants of Joseph and Joseph unhesitatingly moves to unite his will with the Father’s will. We see this quiet faith again when an angel of the Lord appears in another dream to instruct Joseph in how he is to flee to Egypt so as to save the Child. Similarly, when an angel tells Joseph it is time to return home, Joseph acts with total trust in the Lord. Each time an angel speaks to Joseph in a dream, the next thing we read is how Joseph goes and does exactly what he is told to do. Lord, teach me to be obedient like St. Joseph.
Joseph is courageous. What does it mean to be the father of the God-man? How does one raise He who existed before the world began? Joseph didn’t know the perfect answer to those questions and yet he boldly entered into the mission offered to him. When asked to uproot his life and travel many dangerous miles to Egypt with a wife and young son, he bravely undertakes the journey. Time and time again, Joseph demonstrates that his strength is found in the Lord and each action of his involves valiantly stepping into the unknown, trusting God will provide. Lord, teach me to be courageous like St. Joseph.
Joseph is humble. One of the titles I love most for St. Joseph is ‘terror of demons.’ Satan rebels through pride and Joseph yields to God’s work in him through humility. It is because of this humility that St. Joseph is a powerful intercessor. He knows that all of his strength comes from the Lord. Instead of trying to do things his own way, he submits to God’s quiet work within. Contrary to what we might be led to believe in our culture, yielding to God and submitting to His will requires great strength. I am certain Joseph knew he was not perfectly equipped to raise Jesus based on his own natural gifts and skills. He must have daily turned to the Lord, begging God for wisdom and guidance. Lord, teach me to be humble like St. Joseph.
Much more could be said about good St. Joseph, expanding the mute caricature we often have of him into the joyful, vibrant, compassionate, virtuous lover of God that he is. Becoming a saint means being who God created us to be and becoming most fully ourselves. St. Joseph responded to the will of God to become fully himself in the tender presence of Mary, the Mother of God, and Jesus, the Savior of the world. Through trials, difficulties, poverty, joy, laughter, travels, and labor, Joseph sought after and embraced the will of God at each unexpected and glorious turn. Rather than being far removed from our lives, Joseph is a close friend who intimately understands the human experience and desires always to pave the way to Christ.
St. Joseph, pray for us.