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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

"Hallowed be Thy name"(Lk 11:2) - Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

 

Saint Joseph

Feast Day - March 19

St Joseph's feast is celebrated on March 19th.

St Joseph was Jesus' devoted foster-father and Mary's loving husband. Joseph was given the great privilege of taking care of God's own Son, Jesus, and his Mother, Mary. A poor man all his life, Joseph was the man entrusted to raise the Son of God, a man who loved Jesus and Mary so much. Joseph was also a carpenter, or skilled craftsman.

The Bible tells us in the Gospel of Matthew, that Joseph was a righteous man. His actions toward Mary, his fiance, revealed he was a kind and sensitive man too. When Mary told Joseph she was pregnant, he had every right to feel disgraced. He knew the child was not his own, and Mary's situation carried a grave social stigma. Joseph not only had the right to divorce Mary, under Jewish law she could be put to death by stoning. Although Joseph's initial reaction was to break the engagement, the appropriate thing for a righteous man to do, he treated Mary with extreme kindness. He did not want to cause her further shame, so he decided to act quietly. But God sent an angel to Joseph to verify Mary's story and reassure him that his marriage to her was God's will. Joseph willingly obeyed God, in spite of the public humiliation he would face. Perhaps this noble quality made him God's choice for the Messiah's earthly father.

He did the right thing before God, in the right manner. Whatever the Lord wanted him to do, St. Joseph did at once, no matter how difficult it was. He was humble and pure, gentle and wise.

Jesus and Mary loved him and obeyed him because God had placed him as the head of their family. St. Joseph had the joy of living with the Son of God himself. Jesus obeyed him, helped him, and loved him.

The last time Joseph appears in person in any Gospel is the story of the Passover visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus is 12 years old, found only in Luke. It is supposed that Joseph, the father of Jesus, died during the quiet years of Jesus' life. We do know that he trained Jesus in his trade, as that of a carpenter. The last reference about Joseph in Luke confirms that Joseph was a devout follower of the customs of his religion with his observance of Passover. It implies that Joseph made certain of good spiritual training for the children in his family.

We seek Joseph's intercession as the protector of the dying because it is believed that Joseph died peacefully in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

Joseph is not mentioned as being present at the Wedding at Cana at the beginning of Jesus' mission, nor at the Passion at the end. If he had been present at the Crucifixion, he would under Jewish custom have been expected to take charge of Jesus' body, but this role is instead performed by Joseph of Arimathea. Nor would Jesus have entrusted his mother to John's care had her husband been alive.

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What sort of man was Joseph? How can we characterize the man whom God chose to parent His own Son? First, he was spiritually sensitive. His response to Mary’s pregnancy—rejection of apparent sin combined with compassion for his betrothed—illustrates his godly character. D. A. Carson notes that

Because he was a righteous man, Joseph therefore could not in conscience marry Mary who was now thought to be unfaithful. And because such a marriage would have been a tacit admission of his own guilt, and also because he was unwilling to expose her to the disgrace of public divorce, Joseph therefore chose a quieter way, permitted by the law itself. It would leave both his righteousness (his conformity to the law) and his compassion intact. (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, commentary on Matt. 1:19).

Other evidences of Joseph’s spiritual sensitivity include the fact that he heard and obeyed angelic revelation repeatedly (Matt. 1:20-25; 2:13-15; 2:19-23); his observance of the rituals prescribed by the Law following the birth of a male child (Luke 2:21-24, 27, 39); and his annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem in celebration of the Passover (Luke 2:41ff).

Second, he was unselfish, assuming fully the role of a father toward a child that wasn’t his own. He offered Jesus physical protection during his infancy and childhood (Matt 2:13-15, 21-23; Luke 2:44-48). He trained him in the carpenter’s trade (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). And he imparted spiritual direction to Jesus both by example (Luke 2:41ff) and instruction (Luke 2:51).

Third, he was capable of handling adversity. Joseph’s decision to wed in the face of Mary’s apparent infidelity doubtless sparked criticism from those around him. He endured the difficult circumstances of traveling during Mary’s pregnancy, and later had to flee to Egypt out of fear for Jesus’ safety.

Finally, he was a good decision-maker. When faced with the fact of Mary’s unexpected pregnancy, he didn’t react in bitter emotion and disgrace her publicly. He was objective, reflective, and, ultimately, resolute in his decision-making.

Given the limited biblical data available, what lessons can we learn from Joseph’s life? First, parenting is a critically important activity. When God the Father intended to prepare his Son for earthly ministry, he placed him under the tutelage of a godly man, one who would lead his family in a spirit of humility and submission.

Second, obedience to God necessarily involves risk-taking. The angel’s directive to Joseph, to proceed with his marriage plans, contradicted common sense and thus required deep trust in God. The path Joseph was called to follow wasn’t “safe,” but it fulfilled God’s design.

Third, we must come to terms with God’s authority. Joseph thought that holiness required him to spurn Mary, but the opposite was true. As we grow in the Lord, we often find that our preconceived notions—even those pertaining to our Christian beliefs and lifestyle—are challenged.

Fourth, poverty is no barrier to Christian service. Joseph was a carpenter—a trade that was apparently valued little in first-century Palestine. Joseph and Mary’s condition was such that they offered two birds as a sacrifice—protocol specified for those unable to afford a lamb. Since God didn’t choose a well-to-do man to father Jesus, we can rest assured that our financial limitations won’t bar us from impacting our world for Christ.

Fifth, obedience is the basis for leadership. Nothing in the biblical record suggests that Joseph was charismatic or flamboyant. His overarching traits were obedience and humility. He obeyed civil decrees, Old Testament laws, and angelic direction. Because he was willing to submit to every legitimate authority, God entrusted him with a significant leadership role.

St. Teresa of Avila chose St. Joseph as the protector of her order of Carmelite sisters. She had a great trust in his prayers. "Every time I ask St. Joseph for something," she said, "he always obtains it for me."

Pope Pius IX proclaimed St. Joseph the patron of the Universal Church, He is also the patron of fathers and carpenters.

Reflection: "What the divine goodness had promised to them [the prophets and patriarchs], he held in his arms."-St. Bernadine of Sienna

 
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