Tag Archives: St. Joseph

St. Joseph

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Readings

“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41

At twelve, Jesus entered a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah,” when he took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he summarized as: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Who led him to that new stage? It had to be Joseph and Mary. Matthew’s Gospel gives Joseph a major role in Jesus’ birth. He provides Jesus with a genealogy going back to Abraham. He’s told by the angel not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife; he shouldn’t divorce her as Jewish law called for, and he should name the child, Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins.”

After the visit of the Magi, Joseph was directed to take the child and his mother and flee to Egypt. Then, the angel tells him to return to Israel with them after Herod’s death. Finally, he makes a home in Nazareth in Galilee, where his family would be safer away from Herod’s heir, Archelaus, who ruled in Judea.

Clearly, according to Matthew’s gospel, Joseph is an important figure in the birth and early life of Jesus Christ. Then, he silently disappears from the gospels. There’s no record of his role at Nazareth or his death.

The gospel calls Joseph an “upright” man. He was upright because, like his neighbors at Nazareth, he observed all the Jewish laws. But not from lip service. Joseph firmly believed in his heart in the God of Israel, who loved all things great and small, yes, even Nazareth and a humble carpenter.

An inward man, Joseph saw in the simple, ordinary world about him more than others saw. His neighbor casting seed on the family field he loved – wasn’t God’s passionate love for the land of Israel like that? Even as he built a village house or a table, his thoughts sometimes turned to another world: was not God building a kingdom for his people?

An inward man, Joseph saw beyond the fields and mountains of the small town of Nazareth, but he said little about his inmost dreams to others. A quiet man, he kept his own counsel.

Jesus, the Son of God, was known through his earthly life as Jesus, the son of Joseph, “the carpenter’s son.” Growing up as children do, he naturally would acquire some of Joseph’s traits, perhaps the way he walked and spoke.

From Joseph, Jesus first learned about the people of the village, their sorrows and their joys. He saw his love for Mary and the people of his village. As a child Jesus learned from him how to use a carpenter’s tools and began to work at his side. The rabbis said: A father who does not teach his son a trade teaches him to steal.

The two were constant companions at the synagogue in Nazareth. Together they celebrated regularly the great Jewish feasts, listened to the Scriptures, and journeyed as pilgrims to Jerusalem.

Jesus must have seen in Joseph a simple, holy man who trusted God with all his heart. Someone like Joseph, so unassuming, so steady, so quietly attentive to God, was like a treasure hidden in a field. He could easily go unrecognized.

Later, would Jesus remember lessons and tell stories he learned earlier at Nazareth from Joseph, the carpenter?

Friday Thoughts: Innocence Itself

saint-joseph-and-child-jesus

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A small, beautiful child.

What could be more innocent?

The tiny face of one born a few days before.

What could be more pure?

At what age does that stop?

When is it that we no longer see an innocent child, but instead, just one more man or woman walking the crowded streets?

If the child is our own, probably never.

Parenthood is a gift.

A gift beyond telling.

Yet every person we shall see this day was once a child.

Every person we shall see this day is still a child.

A small, beautiful child.

What could be more innocent?

The tiny face of one born a few days before.

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Can you imagine what Saint Joseph felt?

What it was like to hold Jesus in the crook of his arm?

To present Innocence Itself to the world?

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True humility has little to do with wanting to be humble.

It has nothing to do with wanting to look small, tiny, and somewhat sad.

True humility comes through grace.

The grace of knowing that no matter what you do, no matter how hard you try, you on your own cannot stop innocence from being slaughtered.

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Somewhere, right now, the infant Jesus is being rejected.

Saint Joseph can hardly believe it:

Here He is. The Son of Man. Please don’t do anything, don’t say anything, don’t even think anything that offends His dignity.”

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The next time we are tempted to judge anyone perhaps we should remember that.

Perhaps we should use our imagination, our faith, our hope, our love—all the gifts and talents that come from God, that return to God, but that God Himself lends us for the time being—to find a child.

For wasn’t that very person, the one who is about to be judged, once too only a few days old?

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Think of Saint Joseph holding Innocence Itself.

Think of Saint Joseph humbly holding a tiny child, a tiny innocent child reaching out to all mankind with outstretched arms—so innocent that it’s hard to even imagine that all the world, that each and every one of us doesn’t immediately reach back with all our might to tenderly embrace this most precious gift—the most precious gift that a guilty world could receive.

Innocence Itself.


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—Howard Hain

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St. Joseph: March 19

“Each year Jesus’ parents went up to Jerusalem for the feast of the Passover, and when he was twelve years old they went up according to festival custom.” Luke 2,41

At twelve, Jesus enters a new stage in life – his “Bar Mitzvah.” He took on the responsibilities of the law, which later he said was: “Love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart…Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Growing up, Joseph and Mary led him to know God and his neighbor in nature, in the scriptures and in ordinary human life at Nazareth. Their hand is evident in his later teaching; they influenced him. Now he entered a new stage in his life; “each year” the attraction to the temple increased, until he “had” to go up to Jerusalem. His destiny was there.

The young Jesus was absorbed in the life of the temple, Luke indicates. Here he questioned the rabbis in its courts, but more importantly here he experienced in a unique way the Presence of God. “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house.”

What did Joseph and Mary make of this as they anxiously searched for the Son they raised as their own? Certainly it raised questions, but did they too grow in love of his Father’s house when they found him? Did he deepen their thirst for the living God who dwelt there?

Patron of Blended Families

The great old stories from the scriptures have a way of speaking to us today, if we  hear them right. Tomorrow’s gospel from Matthew is about the announcement of Jesus’ birth made by an angel to Joseph.

Joseph is ready to divorce Mary who is mysteriously pregnant, but prompted by the angel he takes her into his home and raises her Child as his own. Anything like that going on today?

How about all the blended families we meet now, where divorce or death have created other groupings not based on original marriage vows or blood relaltionships? The holidays will bring many of them together. Stepfathers and stepmothers, stepchildren.  Some of these families have known divorce, maybe once, or twice or three times. There are kids and relatives from family number one, number two, number three.

Joseph loved  Jesus and Mary with a love, not based on flesh and blood, a love that made him father, husband, and all the other relationships that blood or vows are supposed to bring. He showed us that love is what counts after all.

Later on, Jesus said in Capernaum, when they announced that his family were outside waiting to see him: “Who are my mother and my brothers? “  He was proclaiming a love higher than that based on flesh and blood. He saw it in Joseph.

How about naming Joseph, Patron of Blended Families?

The Holy Family

The Feast of the Holy Family

In New York City’s Metropolitan Museum there’s a painting by the 15th century Italian artist, Andrea Mantegna, called “The Adoration of the Shepherds,” which portrays two shepherds coming from the hills to see the Christ Child. They’re wearing tattered clothes, and from their rough faces you can tell they’re not quite sure what to make of the Child they see. Mantegna pictures the Child Jesus laying on a great rock–not in a manger– enfolded in the dark blue cloak of Mary, his mother, who kneels before him.

Off to the side is St. Joseph, in a bright yellow cloak, with his head in his hand, leaning on a dead tree stump, fast asleep. Years ago, when I first saw this painting I thought it was strange to see Joseph asleep at this dramatic moment, just when the shepherds arrive. Why is he sleeping? ( http://www.metmuseum.org/TOAH/hd/bota/ho_32.130.2.htm)

As the gospel reminds us, Joseph is the one to whom the angel speaks in dreams, while he is sleeping. And so, picturing him sleeping, the artist wants us to remember the questioning Joseph, who’s looking for answers about the Child and his role in the Child’s life.

Of course, the angel gives him some direction. “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” “Take the child into Egypt.” “It’s safe, take them back to Israel.” But the angel’s answers were few. For the most part, Joseph and Mary were on their own.

In other words, they lived by faith, with plenty of questions.

That’s the way most of us live our lives, too, by faith with plenty of questions. That’s especially true about family life today. Plenty of questions, and not many answers.

Why get married anyway? Why have children? Is marriage between a man and a woman? What about gay marriage? What’s a father’s role, a husband’s role, a mother, a wife’s role? What are the rights and responsibilities of children? What should government do for families?

There are plenty of questions in our society about family life today.

Yes, we have some answers, but in an unstable society like ours we can’t expect to be perfectly secure. Perhaps our best security is the promise we have from the Child whom God sent into the world. He will give us wisdom and courage to build our families as he wills. Be patient, and don’t be afraid. Live with your questions.