Feast of the Holy Innocents
1 John 1:5-2:2
Even though the Church reveres and honors Joseph for his role as earthly father to Jesus, we do not see many references to him in scripture. Today Matthew offers us an opportunity for an insight into Joseph and his role in the life of Jesus.
Joseph’s life seems to have been filled with unexpected happenings. First, he is given the role of protector. We do not know what he or Mary knew of their role in parenting the Messiah, but we do know that Joseph, like Mary, answered God’s call, that he said his "yes." Joseph struggled to find a place for Mary to give birth, then witnessed the birth in the stable, must have worried over the conditions, and then saw shepherds and angels come to honor the new-born baby. Then likely after a short time of a somewhat normal life, Joseph with Mary and the young Jesus were visited by the visitors who brought luxurious gifts. When the visitors left, and Joseph perhaps began to think maybe things would return to normal, the angel appears to him to warn him of imminent danger and tells him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt.
Joseph’s role as protector is clearly seen in today’s reading. We do not hear that the angel appeared to Mary and Joseph but rather to Joseph alone. A picture is drawn of a humble man, being obedient to God’s command, being the protector, the caretaker for Mary and the child. Mary and Joseph were likely young parents – raising a child by duplicating what they had seen in their own families. By today’s standards, their life was difficult and most likely filled with challenges and apprehensions.
I see Joseph as a calm man, quietly going about his life – a family man, a skilled craftsman, a carpenter, teaching by example – perhaps undemonstrative, but showing his love by his dedication and steadfastness. Joseph is certainly a wonderful model for husbands and fathers. If your life has been graced by someone who has displayed these qualities, today would be a good day to offer some prayers of thanksgiving for them. And today is a good day for husbands and fathers to pray to be like St. Joseph.
Today is also the Feast of the Holy Innocents. We remember not only the male babies that were slaughtered by Herod, but also the thousands of babies lost to abortion, starvation, the ravages of war and those who die through neglect and abuse. As we move toward a new year, let us pray in a special way for an end to abortion and to all crimes against children.
Mary Lou Butler is a former staff member and a longtime partner of the Passionists in California.