Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:1-16, 18-21, 24a
"It was not through the law that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants that he would inherit the world, but through the righteousness that comes from faith." Romans 4:13.
"Joseph, her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly." Matthew 1:19
Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. The very title of this feast day draws our attention to St. Joseph as husband, a sacred relationship between man and wife, a relationship of intimacy and communion, sealed in love, and recognized as a social institution with significant social consequences.
Joseph, the husband of Mary, finds himself in a very difficult circumstance. His family and her family have agreed upon this marriage, the dowry paid either partially or in full, the date set when Joseph, the bridegroom was to go to his bride’s home and bring her to live with him. Surely there was much joy in Joseph’s heart and his future happiness assured. Then the news, the terrible news reaches him, Mary, his wife, is with child. Because, as Matthew tells us, "he was a righteous man," his options are limited. Condemn her publicly or divorce her quietly.
In the second reading, Paul talks about a righteousness that comes from the law and a righteousness that comes from faith. Abraham’s righteousness came from faith, and so God’s promise to him is fulfilled. Where is Joseph’s righteousness coming from, the law or from faith?
God’s revelation to Joseph demanded a faith response. He could either ignore God’s revelation by using the law as his rationale for making this difficult decision, or he could believe God’s word and take Mary, his wife into his home, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home." Joseph’s faith won out.
There are times in our lives that we are called to be righteous with a righteousness that comes from faith and not from the law. This is especially true when dealing with those intimate relationships we have entered into, by marriage, by vow, by friendship, by promise or by covenant. It is easy for us to make ourselves the judge, especially when we have been deeply wounded, like Joseph. Betrayed by someone we love, by an institution we care for deeply or by promises made will bring us to a moment of truth about our relationships. Should we expose them to shame or should we allow God to speak to us so that we can restore our faith in them? So many times we rush to judgment, allow our hurt or anger to get in the way of God’s plan. We act impulsively without prayerful reflection about what God wants of us at this particular time and place. We put others to shame, and thus, perhaps, bring about a greater sin. This feast, St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, calls us to do better.
Being righteous is not about being right. It is about being faithful to God and to those we love deeply. St. Joseph, Husband of Blessed Virgin Mary, help us to be righteous as you are righteous!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.