Saint Joseph is a key part of the Nativity of Our Lord. He is one of only two people who were present at the birth of the Savior and his quiet strength is an example for all Christians. Pope Francis, in his continuing catechesis on St. Joseph, spoke recently about Joseph as a just man and husband of Mary.
So what can we learn from Mary’s husband and Jesus’ foster father? Well, St. Matthew tells us that he was a just man:
“When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly.” – Matthew 1:18-19
Instead of immediately reacting with anger and vengeance at his betrothed’s apparent infidelity, Joseph chose instead to keep the matter of her pregnancy private, sparing her public humiliation and punishment. Jewish law at the time called for her stoning, but Joseph chose mercy and love.
“He chose the path of confidentiality, without a trial or retaliation. How holy Joseph was! We, as soon as we have a bit of gossip, something scandalous about someone else, we go around talking about it right away! Silent, Joseph. Silent,” reflected Pope Francis.
Mary gets a lot of credit (all deserved, of course) for her fiat. But Joseph also said yes to God’s will for his life. As the Holy Father said, both Mary and Joseph had hopes and dreams for their life together. Neither of them was expecting to welcome the Son of God into their family.
“Out of the blue, God seems to have inserted himself into their lives and, even if at first it was difficult for them, both of them opened their hearts wide to the reality that was placed before them,” Pope Francis explained.
How do we react when things don’t go as planned? Do we throw a fit, fight against God and beg for things to be restored to the way they were before? Or do we embrace the will of God for our lives and carry on with trust and faith, as Joseph and Mary did?
What other lessons can we learn from Joseph this Advent? Chastity. Fidelity. Deep and abiding trust in God. Saint Joseph was brave, there is no denying that. He followed God’s call for his life, despite the difficulties he knew it might bring. He chose to care for Mary and Jesus no matter what others might think or say. And he did it all with humility, gentleness, and faith. May we all strive to be more like St. Joseph in faithfulness to our vocations, our families, our service to others, and our yes to God.
Let us call upon St. Joseph with this prayer from Pope Francis:
you who loved Mary with freedom,
and chose to renounce your fantasies to give way to reality,
help each of us to allow ourselves to be surprised by God
and to accept life not as something unforeseen from which to defend ourselves,
but as a mystery that hides the secret of true joy.
Obtain joy and radicality for all engaged Christians,
while always being aware
that only mercy and forgiveness make love possible. Amen.