Feast of St. Joseph
Today we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph, the spouse of Mary and the Foster Father of Jesus. It is usually on the 19th but since yesterday was the Third Sunday of Lent, the feast was transferred to today, Monday, March 20th.
The first two readings for today connect Joseph with King David and Abraham. Joseph is an important link in the clear fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make of him the father of a great nation. The reaffirmation of that promise through and to King David, a descendent of Abraham, and on to Joseph, a direct descendent in the House of David. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the Foster Father of Jesus, identifies Jesus as the legitimate fulfillment of God’s promises to Abraham and his descendants forever!
In the Gospel, we learn a little more about the person Joseph beyond his place in the Abraham/Davidic line. We hear his story at the critical moment of his betrothal to Mary. When Mary is found to be with child before their marriage, Joseph doesn’t rise up in righteous anger at her betrayal. Rather he decides to break their engagement quietly so she won’t be held up to the harsh judgment of others. Clearly, he is a gentle, thoughtful man who truly loves Mary and wants to protect her even though he believes she has sorely betrayed him. But then he has the dream with the message from the angel assuring him that Mary has not betrayed him nor has she been unfaithful but rather has become the vessel of God. He believes wholeheartedly in the message from the angel and takes Mary as his wife without further fanfare.
There are only a few Gospel stories about Joseph but they are completely consistent. Joseph is the gentle loving protector of Mary and her son, Jesus. He is a man who believes that God speaks to him in his dreams and takes prompt action to keep Mary and Jesus safe. He is present as Jesus grows up, teaches Jesus his craft and through his example, shows Jesus how to be open to God and faithfully loving to those around him.
It’s no wonder that Joseph is held in such high esteem throughout the Christian tradition. His faithful love for Mary and Jesus is a great example to all of us.
Fr. Michael Higgins, C.P. is the director of Mater Dolorosa Passionist Retreat Center, Sierra Madre, California.