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19th March - St Joseph

Monday, March 19, 2012
Readings: 2 Samuel 7: 4-5, 12-14, 16; Psalm 88; Romans 4: 13, 16-18, 22; Matthew 1: 16, 18-21, 24

St Joseph, it seems, was not a man to make a fuss: as we hear in the Gospel for today’s feast, when he first discovered that Mary was pregnant, he ‘resolved to send her away quietly’ for, as St Matthew tells us, he was ‘a just man and unwilling to put her to shame’ (Mt 1: 19). Again, after the angel has given him the true explanation of Mary’s pregnancy, there is no fuss. His response is very straightforward: ‘when Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him’ (Mt 1: 24).

Perhaps it is therefore unsurprising, and indeed appropriate, that he should disappear from the scene so soon: his last appearance in the Gospel narratives is in St Luke’s account of the finding of the boy Jesus in the temple (Lk 2: 41-52), after which he simply disappears. This situation we find in Scripture was reflected in the life and worship of the early Church, which spoke, of course, about Jesus, and increasingly about his Mother, but gave little liturgical prominence to St Joseph (this feast day was only adopted throughout the Latin Church in 1479).

Clearly we do want to speak first of all about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the great mystery of our salvation which we prepare to commemorate in this Lenten season; we do rightly single out Our Lady for special veneration because of the unique role she played in the working-out of that salvation, and the unique privileges with which she was endowed in the light of that role. But in the growing prominence given by the Church to St Joseph over the centuries, we see a recognition of the fact that his response to the circumstances in which he found himself can be an example to us: of course, the ways in which Christ comes into our lives will be rather different, but St Joseph’s response to the news he receives about Jesus – the simple, trusting acceptance of God’s message as something which transforms the shape and purpose of his life, even as he remains a carpenter in Nazareth – is a witness to us of that ‘righteousness of faith’ through which, by God’s gracious gift, he promised that Abraham and his descendants should inherit the world (Rom 4: 13).

Gregory Pearson OP


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