I think of St. Joseph as the unsung hero of the Bible. The Virgin Mary is acknowledged in the Scriptures as blessed but little is said about the man God chose to be her spouse and the foster father of Jesus. Let’s reflect on what we do know about him.
Joseph was engaged to the Virgin Mary, when he learns that Mary is pregnant and Joseph knows it’s not his child. The custom at the time was to have the woman guilty of infidelity stoned to death, but Joseph shows us he is merciful and kind. He does not want Mary to be disgraced or hurt so he plans to end their engagement quietly. “Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to disgrace her, decided to divorce her secretly.”Matthew 1:19 Joseph carries the pain of thinking he has been betrayed by the woman he loves until an Angel of the Lord reveals the truth to Joseph in a dream that Mary has conceived by the power of God. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21
Imagine the joy Joseph must have felt knowing he was chosen to be the husband of the Mother of Jesus, the long awaited Messiah! The Virgin Mary would be the mother of the incarnate God and Joseph would have the privilege of being his foster father. Consider the pain and anguish Joseph must have endured when the time of Jesus’ birth had come and Joseph cannot find a suitable place for Mary to give birth. Imagine poor St. Joseph knocking frantically on doors asking for compassion and lodging but ultimately having to settle for the place where the animals are being kept. Yet in spite of this sorrow Joseph would have the joy of beholding the living God, Jesus, while the choirs of angels sing in celebration.
Jesus is just a newborn child when Joseph learns at the presentation of Our Lord in the temple that Jesus would be opposed and that a sword will pierce Mary’s soul. Joseph would not be able to spare Jesus of the pain He would carry for the world, nor would he be able to spare Mary of the pain she would bear. The holy family would have to embrace suffering.
Once again an angel of the Lord appears to Joseph in a dream warning him that the Jesus is in danger, for Herod is about to search for him and try to kill him. Imagine the terror and imagine the responsibility! Now Joseph has to take Jesus and Mary and run to escape the plot of Herod, leaving the home they knew, taking refuge in a foreign land, Egypt. Imagine the pain of knowing that all the little boys under two years old are being killed in a genocide planned to kill Jesus.
So Joseph had to create a new home for Jesus and Mary in Egypt, as he trusted in the providence and guidance of God. Later the Angel of God appears again to St. Joseph this time telling him to go back to Israel. And so again he uproots his family and with unwavering faith and trust he obeys God.
And when Jesus is only 12 years old, Mary and Joseph lose Jesus. Imagine Joseph and Mary frantically searching for Our Lord, ultimately finding Him three days later teaching in the temple. Jesus asks “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49 Mary and Joseph endure this trial so that we can all be reminded of where to find Jesus—in the Holy Sacraments of the Church, God’s house.
St. Joseph died before the crucifixion of Our Lord Jesus but he knew the prophesy of Simeon that Jesus and Mary would endure great suffering and he would have carried that pain throughout his life. He also likely knew that Our Lord would be crucified for our salvation. He also would have had the incredible experience of watching Our Lord grow. I can only imagine the conversations and the love they must have shared.
Compassionate, faithful, trusting, courageous, humble…that’s St. Joseph. St. Joseph please pray for us that we may be pleasing to God. Help us to carry our cross and to honor Jesus, Our LORD, Our Saviour, Our God!