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Saint Joseph’s Fiat

Feast of the Holy Family

First Reading: Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 128:1-2, 3, 4-5

R. (cf. 1) Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
who walks in his ways!
For you shall eat the fruit of your handiwork;
blessed shall you be, and favored.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine
in the recesses of your home;
your children like olive plants
around your table.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.
Behold, thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
The LORD bless you from Zion:
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem
all the days of your life.
R. Blessed are those who fear the Lord and walk in his ways.

Gospel: Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod had died, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream
to Joseph in Egypt and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel,
for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”
He rose, took the child and his mother,
and went to the land of Israel.
But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea
in place of his father Herod,
he was afraid to go back there.
And because he had been warned in a dream,
he departed for the region of Galilee.
He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth,
so that what had been spoken through the prophets
might be fulfilled,
He shall be called a Nazorean.

NAB

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Did you ever think of what it might be like to be Saint Joseph? At first glance, it seems kind of intimidating: his wife was sinless and his Son was God. God chose him to be foster father to Jesus, gave him the grace to live his vocation, but Saint Joseph is the one who said “Yes” in his own Fiat. Again and again in his life Saint Joseph responded with submissive obedience to God’s plan, and in return, God Incarnate submitted to Saint Joseph as a Son. This is the foundation the Holy Family, which we honor today, is built upon.

At the very end of the Nativity narrative, we hear how the Holy Family “went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth.” I like to meditate on those years they lived together in Nazareth while Saint Joseph was alive and before Jesus’ public ministry. My parish church has a sweet painting of the Holy Family above the side altar of Our Lady. Mary is sitting and sewing with Jesus nearby, and Joseph is busy working as a carpenter. I imagine that despite all of their trials, traveling to Bethlehem with a baby almost due, sleeping with a newborn in a stable, fleeing to Egypt, coming back, and still having to toil for their daily bread to nourish the growing Body of Christ, there was a great inner peace and joy in that family. It came from their complete compliance with and reliance on God’s will come what may.

The Church has put forth Saint Joseph as guardian of the Church, and as Pope Leo XIII wrote,

[T]he Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided specially to his trust – this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority.

So, in fact, we as the children of God are also a part of the Holy Family, with Joseph as our foster-father, Mary as our mother, and Jesus as our brother. As an adopted part of this family, it is only appropriate that we take part in Jesus’ submission to Saint Joseph, and Saint Joseph’s submission to God. Pope Leo XIII wrote about how Saint Joseph is a man all humanity can relate to due to his role as a father, spouse, and protector of a virgin, his royal lineage and his daily toil for bread. Maybe today is the day to renew a devotion to him, who protected the Body of Christ for all humanity.

Take some time to pray to the Holy Family today, read Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical, Quamquam Pluries, on devotion to Saint Joseph (it is quite short, I promise!), and find out why people “of every rank and country should fly to the trust and guard of the blessed Joseph.”

Susanna Spencer once studied theology and philosophy, but now happily cares for her three adorable little girls, one little boy, and her dear husband in Saint Paul. She loves beautiful liturgies, cooking delicious meals, baking amazing sweets, reading good books, raising her children, casually following baseball, and talking to her philosopher husband. You can find out more about her here.

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