Lent is all about preparing for the passion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. But each year during this beautiful season, the Church finds several reasons to be joyful. One is Laetare’ Sunday, the Sunday on which the priest wears rose-colored vestments at Mass as a sign of our rejoicing. Another is the feast of the Annunciation on March 25, which this year coincides with Good Friday. But today, I’m thinking of the Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, which we celebrate on March 19, nine days from today.
St. Joseph is mentioned in both the Gospel of St. Matthew and in the Gospel of St. Luke. He was “betrothed” to Mary, but, as Matthew tells us, “before they lived together, she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.” We are told that Joseph, “since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.”
I try to imagine how Joseph must have felt. His betrothed, Mary, while herself probably having a widespread reputation for purity and virtue, mysteriously becomes pregnant! For most men, if found in this same situation, the betrothal would have ended just like Joseph was planning, except nowadays it would not have been because of unwillingness to expose her to shame but for much more selfish reasons.
Then, he has a dream in which he was told that “it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” and when he awakes, his whole attitude changed. We are told that he “took his wife into his home.” Wow, Joseph! A man of such faith! It was a dream, for heaven’s sake! And when you think about it, you must also attach the virtues of humility, kindness, and a host of others to this virtue of faith. He became the foster father of Jesus, and after this, the evangelists are silent about this good man. We speculate that he was a good father, a carpenter who taught Jesus his trade, and someone who cared for him like any father would. The photo accompanying MTT today is a sculpture found in the vestibule of the Church of St. John the Evangelist, my new parish in Rochester, Minnesota. It is the boy Jesus riding the shoulders of St. Joseph, his foster father.
My prayer for today: Lord, please help all fathers to emulate the virtues of dear St. Joseph. Amen.