The Feast of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Luke 2:41-51a
“Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly” Matthew 1:19
The feast of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, helps us to appreciate the underlying Lenten themes that we have been reflecting upon these last three weeks.
Joseph, a righteous man, a just man, was blindsided by his bride to be, the Blessed Virgin Mary. His love for her was profound and steadfast. This marriage had the blessing of both set of parents. The whole town knew they were getting married. Then, Joseph learns that his fiancée is pregnant, and he know that he is not the father. The only thing a just man could do is to divorce her according to the law. Or he could marry her anyway, without anyone knowing that this child was not his. Heart-broken, confused, he “decided to divorce her quietly.”
The themes we have been pondering this Lent are: God’s sense of Justice and God’s Unconditional Love for us. The Prophetic voices cry out messages of conversion, contrition and commitment to a new way of life. Specific kinds of good behavior are cited out over and over again: care for the widow, orphan and stranger, personal prayer and transformation, almsgiving, justice to those who have no voice, no rights, no standing in our society.
No matter how clear this Lenten message is, how often we repeat it year after year and how frequently Popes, bishops, preachers, and catechists restate it, we still find it difficult to put it into practice. We find it a challenge to allow God to change our minds and hearts. Someone betrays us, whether it be family member or friend, we cannot forgive, we only know hate. People who do not look like us, who do not believe like us or have been oppressed by man-made laws become invisible to us. For some of us, it is easier to cite human laws than to enforce God’s law of Justice, Love and Mercy.
Joseph had a choice. He could accept God’s message to him to accept Mary into his home, or divorce her quietly. To accept God’s sense of Justice, Joseph had to be a man of courage and a man of faith. For the Old Testament prophets, Biblical Justice is for the purpose of reestablishing a right relationship with God and with one another, and not for the purpose of punishing the other, excluding the other from the human race and purifying humanity from law-breakers. As last Sunday’s Gospel said, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17) God’s desire for Mercy is insatiable.
St. Paul, in the first reading, connects righteousness with faith: “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)
May this Lent help us to be people of righteousness, people of faith, people of mercy, people of God’s sense of Justice. For our God is Kind and Merciful. If God were not, none of us would have a chance at Eternal Life.
Fr. Clemente Barrón, C.P. is a member of Immaculate Conception Community in Chicago, Illinois.