The Seven Sorrows and Seven Joys of St. Joseph (Part 3)



Thanks for joining us for this special Year of Saint Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio®. 19 on the 19th: a 19-minute talk on Saint Joseph on the 19th of the month – the date dedicated to Saint Joseph.

Wow. Wow, wow wow. What a blessing to be with you today on this 19 on the 19th for March 19th of 2021 – the Year of Saint Joseph. My name is Father Matthew Spencer. So, so excited to be with you today and as we conclude the three-part series on the Seven Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph on this 19 on the 19th.

Of course, it’s a very special 19 on the 19th because we celebrate today the great feast, the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, the earthly father of Jesus, the Protector and Patron of the Church. Your model.
My model.

I know that many of you are completing your consecration to Saint Joseph today. I know that many of you are appreciating in a way that you never have before the person of Saint Joseph in your life. So just a big shout out to all of you.

And I’m so grateful that, through Relevant Radio and the great ministry that we are able to share together, we’re bringing you a greater love for Saint Joseph. I’m sorry, I’m so excited I’m forgetting to tell you who I am.
I’m Father Matthew Spencer, the Provincial Superior of the Oblates of Saint Joseph. I live and work out of Santa Cruz, CA at the Shrine of Saint Joseph.
And as I just mentioned, the last three episodes of 19 on the 19th, we’ve been reflecting on the Seven Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph, this great devotion that is based in Scripture and the events from the life of Saint Joseph in Scripture. And two months ago, in January, we were looking at how to pray the Seven Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph, how to how to recite it together in a group or alone. How to reflect on these mysteries, you might say, in a deeper way. We also reflected very briefly on the first Sorrow and Joy in this devotion, and then in February we looked at the next three Sorrows and Joys, number two, three, and four, which all came from the second chapter of Luke’s Gospel.

And today we’re going to look at very briefly the final three Sorrows and Joys.
It’s almost an injustice to spend such little time talking about these very profound events in the life of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. But hey, I’ll do what I can in the time that we have together.

So therefore, let’s look at at the 5th Sorrow and Joy in this great devotion of the Sorrows and Joys of Saint Joseph. It looks at Matthew 2:13-15. The Flight of the Holy Family to Egypt. Let us pray together the Sorrow and Joy, and then I have a few thoughts for you I’d like to share.

Courageous protector of the Holy Family, how terrified you were when you had to make this sudden flight with Jesus and Mary to escape the treachery of King Herod and the cruelty of his soldiers.

But when you reached Egypt, what satisfaction you had in knowing that the Savior of the World had come to replace the pagan idols. Teach us by your example, Saint Joseph, to keep far from the false idols of earthly attractions, so that, like you, we may be entirely devoted to the service of Jesus and Mary.

Before we we look at a few important points here I want to let you know I’m going to look at the person or the persons of Herod, very briefly. It’s kind of complicated. In fact, you might hear the word Herod in scripture, and you might think it’s all one person.

Both right at the birth of Jesus, leading up to the birth of Jesus even, and later when John the Baptist, 30 years later, is brutally beheaded. In fact, there are many different Herods inside of Scripture that we have to differentiate.

But just hold on here. Right now, of course, it was Herod the Great who was a madman and a cunning politician that we’re referring to here. So because Herod was looking to safeguard his rule, because he had learned that in fact the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem. And during his time, he of course would later massacre the Holy Innocents.

So Joseph and Mary were were not wrong in following the guidance of the angel to flee to Egypt. What is amazing to me is this Sorrow and Joy reflects on Joseph being satisfied to reach a foreign land. Now, of course he was in fright.
Of course he had this trepidation about how to protect Jesus. But there he was. The satisfaction he had to know that the Savior of the World had come to replace the pagan idols.

You see, Joseph knew that his homeland was not in Bethlehem, not in Nazareth, not even in the earthly Jerusalem. But rather, his Homeland is the heavenly Jerusalem. Eternal life with God Himself.

The flight into Egypt, as frightful as it must have been as Joseph and Mary were trying to safeguard the child Jesus, they both knew, Mary and Joseph, that this was a step on a much larger journey to sanctity and to eternal life.

And I wonder if you reflect upon that in your own life? Maybe you’ve been displaced at one time or another in your life. Maybe even today you’re feeling that, with the conditions of the world being as they are. Maybe you’ve had a hard time finding a place to call home.

Or maybe you found yourself compelled to find safety in a far-off land. Look to Joseph and go to Joseph. He can help us to understand that all the movement in life, all of the challenges that might come, all the fear that might be present, that pushes us in one way or another, is one step in a much bigger journey. A much more important journey, you might also add, to heaven.

What I love also about the imagery of this Sorrow and Joy of the flight to Egypt is that Joseph takes Jesus to Egypt. Which you recall is a symbol of slavery, a symbol of pagan idol worship for the Jews. And there is Saint Joseph taking the Christ Child to this land that is seen as the former home of slavery to the Jewish people. And yet Joseph goes. Happy to see the idols topple before the Lord of Lords.

Not externally yet. Of course some accounts, legends in history, will recount that as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph went to Egypt, literally those idols would have fallen down. But we know that idolatry persisted then. It even exists now. Idolatry exists now. And maybe people are not worshipping golden calves in a literal sense now. Although that might exist somewhere or another. But we worship different gods, don’t we?

We worship ourselves. We worship our own time. We worship our own autonomy. We worship pleasure and passion – all of these that still rear their ugly heads on occasion. But we know that they will not stand forever against Christ. Joseph knew that, Mary knew that. What are you doing in your life to address the idolatry, maybe that exists in your own life, but also of our own times.

Are you willing, like Saint Joseph, to take the Christ Child to a world and a culture that is full of idolatry? And are you willing to allow Christ to be the one to topple those idols? It is up to us as Christians to bring the light of Christ to the world – to allow Christ to be the one to destroy the idols of our times and even the idols in our own hearts.

Saint Joseph and Mary show us that this is not only possible, it’s part of the Christian journey.

The Sixth Sorrow and Joy is the Return from Egypt. It goes like this in the devotion:

Ever obedient Joseph, you trustingly returned to Nazareth at God’s command, in spite of your fear that King Herod’s son might still be a threat to Jesus’ life. Then what fatherly pride you had in seeing Jesus grow in wisdom and grace before God and men under your care. Show us, Saint Joseph, how to be free from all useless fear and worry so we may enjoy the peace of a tranquil conscience living safely with Jesus and Mary in our hearts.

I promised that I would tell you about Herod and tease out these maybe not so obvious aspects of Scripture and of of biblical history. Let’s talk Herod.

Of course in the previous Sorrow and Joy we’re talking about Herod the Great, as he was called. Herod Augustus, he was even given the honorary title Augustus because he was such a such a cunning ruler. Because he wielded his rule very, very adeptly. He shifted allegiances. He was willing to go to extreme places, conditions, extreme actions to safeguard his power. As we saw in his slaughter of the Innocents.

He was not wholly terrible man. He did some good things which is why his rule lasted. I mean infrastructure-wise and things like this. I’m not holding Herod up by any means. I’m just saying that people are are complex and mixed, aren’t they? And that’s why his reign lasted as long as it did, we think he died in about 4 BC.

He had several children though. One of those was the son of Herod, that this Sorrow and Joy refers to. Herod Archelaus was the one also that Joseph and Mary were afraid of, which would lead them to settle down in a different place than where they originally planned. There was also Herod Antipas or Herod the Tetrarch. He became the Tetrarch of Galilee from his father’s death in 4 B.C. until about A.D. 39. Herod Antipas is the one that you that you think of when it comes to John the Baptist.

And there was another Herod. I think it was Herod Phillip. I forget now there’s he’s referred to only a couple times in Scripture. He was the third son that was named Herod of Herod the Great.

All of this to say that Herod does not have a such a great past, does he?
The name, I mean. But here we are, Saint Joseph, Mary, and Jesus having to navigate the terrors of these earthly rulers who were trying to hold on to their rule. And they do it how? Living free from all useless fear and worry, this Sorrow and Joy tells us.

Now, let me stop here for a moment. Why did I spend so much time speaking about these Herods? Look at the political rulers of our time. Look at not only the political rulers, look at the “power brokers” in social circles in our time. Famous people, celebrities, those people who wield influence in a disproportionate way to maybe what they should be doing.

It’s maybe easy for us to fall into despair – to fall into fear and worry about where the world is going, the leaders that we have, maybe the leaders that are leading maybe terrible things around the world.

It’s easy for us to fall into despair, isn’t it? In circumstances such as this, I think Joseph and Mary remind us that all this useless fear and worry is not going to help in our walk with the Lord. Instead, what we should work on is cultivating a tranquil and well-formed conscience. And as we just prayed a moment ago, to live safely with Jesus and Mary in our hearts. And when we live safely with Jesus, Mary, and I would also add Joseph in our hearts, then even when there are tumultuous situations around us, when the world might be falling apart, when the leadership that we want in the world might not be going the way we want, we know that with Saint Joseph we can find peace in a tranquil conscience, with the Holy Family dwelling and abiding in our hearts.

Beautiful, isn’t it? I love that that imagery that is so necessary so important in our own times. In fact, we’re going to revisit that, just momentarily. The last Sorrow and Joy that this devotion invites us to contemplate is that of the losing of Jesus in the temple and the subsequently finding him again. We pray:

Dependable father and husband, how anguished you and Mary were when, through no fault of yours, you searched for three days to find Jesus. What incredible relief was yours when you found him safe in the Temple of God?

Help us Saint Joseph never to lose Jesus through the fault of our own sins.
But if we should lose him, lead us back with unworried sorrow until we find Him again, so that we, like you, may finally pass from this life dying safely in the arms of Jesus and Mary.

You know, as a Catholic priest and as a religious who has committed himself to celibacy and to a life of chastity, I don’t know first-hand the fear of losing a child. And the utter anguish that parents must experience when your child goes missing, even for maybe a short time, and yet that overwhelming fear and sense of danger that might be present to your child.

But I can tell you, I do know first-hand what it’s like as a child to be lost. My parents left me at a big theme park one time. I had a bunch of brothers and sisters. I don’t blame my parents, don’t get me wrong. I mean, how could you count and keep up with all of us there as you’re walking through this major theme park? But I remember very briefly a short time, it felt like eons, but a short time being separated from your parents. I expect and imagine that this is also the fear that parents might experience.

Now imagine Joseph and Mary, knowing that their child is the Savior of the World and for three days He is not with them – talk about anguish! And then they find Him and they find Him, of all places, where Jesus would be.
Praying in the Temple teaching, preaching, catechizing.

And there, Jesus revealing Himself even more, not only to the leaders in the Temple, but also even to Mary and Joseph, revealing who He is. ‘Wouldn’t you know that I must be in My Father’s house?’ as he says to them.

I love the fact that this Sorrow and Joy connects the losing of Jesus in the Temple and finding Him again to our own sinfulness. When we sin it is like we are losing Christ in our life. And we should experience that same fear, that same anguish even, that would lead us to fly to Confession when we recognize that we are losing that grace of right relationship with God.

But then when we do find that mercy of God, we are led back with unwearied sorrow until we find Jesus again, as we prayed just a moment ago. So that we might also die a happy death in the arms of Jesus and Mary, as we just prayed. Beautiful.

I’m so happy to be able to share these brief thoughts with you for these recent 19 on the 19ths. Of course, the series continues and I’ll be back too.
I’m grateful to know that in a few months I’ll be back to share with you more on 19 on the 19th. And until then, enjoy this feast day of Saint Joseph.

May Almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for joining us for this special Year of Saint Joseph presentation from Relevant Radio. Invite your friends and family to sign-up to receive these monthly talks at or on the Relevant Radio app.

Fr. Matthew Spencer is an Oblate of St. Joseph and former host of St. Joseph's Workshop here on Relevant Radio.