4th Sunday of Advent: Saint Joseph, a man of Great Virtue

The Infancy Narratives in the Gospel of Luke present Joseph as the foster father of the Lord, but the main focus outside of Jesus is placed on Mary. It is today’s Gospel of Matthew that focuses on Joseph.  This makes a great deal of sense.  Matthew’s main audience was Jewish Christians.  Joseph was of the line of David.  The Jewish people were very much aware that God had promised David that his Kingdom would never end.

But the Gospel also makes it clear that Joseph was not the natural or birth father of the Lord.  Mary was a Virgin.  The child was conceived through the Holy Spirit.  So, why is Jesus seen as part of the line of David through Joseph?  The ancients viewed adoption as both a legal act and a spiritual act.  When a man adopted a child all that was part of that man including his background and ancestry was bestowed upon the child.  The prophets predicted that the Messiah would come through the line of David.  This takes place through Joseph.

Even though the infancy narratives in Matthew focus on Joseph, Joseph is never quoted.  But we still know a great deal about him.  We know that he was a righteous man.  That meant that he was in the right with God.  And we know that Joseph was open to the guidance of God, given to him three different times in dreams. 

St. Joseph, received three dreams which we know of.  In the first, and most important, he was told not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife.  Joseph knew of the prophecy of Isaiah and how a virgin would give birth to the Holy One of God.  When he saw this prophecy being fulfilled in his wife Mary he was fearful that he might be interfering in this miraculous event.  A second dream took place after the birth in Bethlehem. Joseph was told to take the Child and his mother and flee to Egypt since King Herod meant to kill Jesus.  After Herod died, and while the Holy Family was in Egypt, Joseph had another dream telling him to bring his family back into to Palestine, which he did while avoiding Jerusalem.  The most important knowledge we have about Saint Joseph is not that he was a dreamer; it was that he was a humble, obedient, righteous, just and compassionate person. 

There is a great deal that we need to learn from Saint Joseph, including his willingness to follow God’s plan in becoming the husband and father in the Holy Family.  He put his relationship with God before all else in life and cared for people as God would care for them.  In his humility and obedience Saint Joseph became a model to imitate in the Universal Church.  Today we pray that St. Joseph may give us the courage to likewise be humble, obedient, righteous, just and compassionate. 

Fr. Tom