Usually when we think of the birth of our Lord, we tend to think of Mary and Jesus. In the Joyful mysteries of the rosary we have primarily moments within the life of Mary and Jesus: the Annunciation, The Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, the actual birth, the Presentation of Jesus to Simeon, and Jesus lost in the Temple. But today we have an opportunity to talk about a very important figure that cannot be overlooked. Today I’m going to be talking about St. Joseph, patron saint of fathers and the Universal Church.
The 4th Sunday of Advent focuses on the essential role that Joseph played in the birth of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel opens up by telling us that Joseph was betrothed to Mary. In Jewish custom the betrothal initiates the marriage followed by several days of celebration ending with the husband taking his wife into his home. So yes, even though Mary and Joseph were not living together they were indeed already married by the time the angel Gabriel appeared to her.
I would like to take this moment and ask every man here to place themselves in Joseph’s shoes, because this will show how righteous he really was. Joseph finds out Mary is pregnant just as they got married. He doesn’t understand what just happened. She hasn’t even moved in with him yet. Instead of being angry with her his first concern was her wellbeing and reputation. He was unwilling to expose her shame. He instead decides to divorce her quietly because he knows that if she was caught, under Jewish law, an unfaithful or adulterous wife would have to be stoned to death. Despite not understanding what had happened, he still loves her.
I could not imagine what must have gone through his mind. Was he able to enjoy the celebrations after his wife announced that she was pregnant? Could he enjoy himself knowing that at any moment she could be discovered and stoned to death? Could he sleep at the end of each night when his mind was filled with so much anxiety? Have you ever tried to be happy in front of others when everything in your life seems to be falling apart? He had only been married for a couple of days and his love was already being put to the test. Could we be so righteous?
But God peered into his heart and saw his intentions. Indeed, Joseph was a righteous man, worthy of being the adopted father of the Son of God. It’s difficult moments like these that define who we are and what we’re made of. He may not have had a lot said about him in scripture, but what was said says all we need to know about him. Everyone desires a fairytale wedding. Everyone desires the ideal marriage. But sometimes we have to put aside what we desire for the sake of those we love. I’m sure Mary and Joseph thought they were going to live happily ever after with barely a care in the world, but that wasn’t the plan God had for them. I’m sure they would have loved to go on a honeymoon instead of fleeing their home because of some jealous psychopathic king who wanted to murder every child two years and under. I’m sure they would have preferred to remain in Nazareth than to flee to Egypt where they were away from friends and family. Sometimes we forget that God doesn’t call us to a life of comfort, but of sacrifice. They are called The Holy Family for a reason. They put the needs of God before their own. This is what made them holy.
St. Joseph was a man who gave up the fruits of marriage by being chaste and safeguarding the purity of the tabernacle which held the Son of God. Instead, he took up the mantle of being a spiritual father, a man who put the needs of his family above his own wants and desires. In many ways, St. Joseph represents the modern day priesthood. He is called to love others without claiming them for his own. He has given his life to protect and care for those God has put in his path. He was called to lay down his life for the one who in turn would die for his salvation. Perhaps this is why Joseph is the patron saint of the Universal Church.
In short, St. Joseph was a real man. He had the utmost respect for his wife, he was faithful to the will of God, he showed tremendous courage in the midst of uncertainty and persecution, and he raised Jesus with the love that he deserved. St. Joseph is the model for all men. Don’t be led astray by the way the world defines manliness, which is usually defined by self-gratification. If you ever want to teach your sons how to be a man just point them to Joseph, for he was righteous. May St. Joseph show us the way to best serve God and our families.