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What Saint Joseph Knew

Solemnity of Saint Joseph

First Reading: 2 Samuel 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: Psalm 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.

Second Reading: Romans 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.

Gospel: Matthew 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.

NAB

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Today’s Gospel reads like something out of a romantic comedy script. The crazy-in-love engaged couple. The BIG MISUNDERSTANDING. He thinks she cheated on him, but he’s a good guy, so he tries to be cool about the break-up. She wants to explain, but she can’t. Probably, there’s a rain storm, and they each look out through rain-splattered windows, heart-broken. But then, just when all hope seems lost, the quirky angel/best-friend comes to Joseph in a dream, and tells him it wasn’t what he thought, it’s EVEN CRAZIER! But he and Mary can get back together. Big wedding finale. Kiss. The End.

Who doesn’t love a misunderstanding and a happy ending? But that’s not how Saints Thomas Aquinas, Jerome and Pope John Paul II, amongst others, tell us it went down. And I think the real story is even cooler.

Joseph doesn’t think that Mary cheated on him. He couldn’t possibly. If he believed that she had committed adultery, the only “just” thing would have been to turn her over to the law. But Joseph knew that Mary had vowed to remain consecrated to God as a virgin. He knew Mary, and he knew the words of the prophets. So when he learned that she was pregnant, he would have known that she was the one, the Virgin of the House of David who would give birth to the savior, as foretold by Isaiah.

Joseph is a just man, a humble man. He sees himself as unworthy to be the husband of the Immaculate Mother of God, unworthy to be the earthly father of Jesus Christ. Like Saint Peter, he says, “Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

He no longer sees a place for a regular guy in this extraordinary story, and seeks to quietly excuse himself. But then, the angel appears to him. And look at what he says: “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” Not, “Don’t be mad, it’s not what you thought.” But, “It IS what you thought, but don’t be afraid.” Don’t be afraid to be a part of something bigger and better than you deserve.

Joseph is US in this story. He’s the everyman. The only person in his house who ever sinned. That had to be a little intimidating. But he makes up for being just a regular guy by also being unquestioning in his obedience to God’s will, and unwavering in his trust in the Blessed Virgin.

Today, on the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, we can try to emulate his silence, his humility, and his willingness to see God’s crazy plan for his life, and just go with it.

photo credit

Kendra Tierney lives in Los Angeles, CA where her interests include blogging, homeschooling, looking after her eight children, and fixing up a hundred year old tumbledown mansion. You can find out more about her here.

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