To the man whose words were never recorded in the Scriptures, the Church honors today with a great solemnity, so important his life and example are for us all.
St. Joseph’s privilege was to be the husband of the Virgin Mary – truly a match made in heaven. As her husband he became the head of the family. Indeed, as a wife, Mary was subject to him. But her natural submission to him as her husband protected her – he protected her honor, her life when her pregnancy.
Although he was foster-father to Jesus, let us never underestimate his fatherhood. St. Joseph had the same rights of a father over a son as any father of his day enjoyed and exercised. Not by the will of nature, but by grace Joseph was the father of Jesus, a fatherhood delegated to him by God. And as Jesus considers us his brothers and sisters, St. Joseph also becomes a father figure for us – our guardian and our protector.
He was responsible to provide food and safety from the sweat of his own brow to the young boy who would grow up to provide miraculous food to all freely. St. Joseph guided the boy Jesus in his relationships with the world, protected him at home and gave him the hands on experience of the job site. To imagine the young boy Jesus running into the open arms of St. Joseph, calling him “father”. Is it any wonder today is the anniversary of many priest’s ordinations (my own included), for when the priest receives Holy Communion, like St. Joseph with the vocation of being a Father, Jesus will also rush into my hands for me to embrace.
St. Joseph provides for us all a true example of faith in the midst of conflicts, doubts and contradictions. To accept the truth of Mary’s child, to accept that the God of the universe should be born in destitute circumstances, that accepted the exile of Egypt not knowing for how long. This was a man who could count twenty three kings of Israel as his ancestors, a man of noble blood who was now content to be a commoner, mending broken tables and ploughs for a living – a humble man without ambition or an agenda but to simply be faithful to God’s commands often against the odds.
His humility was his power. He knew when to bow out and take a back seat for when the young Jesus who grew up calling him father, looked to the heavens and called out to God as Father on that unforgettable day in the temple, we never hear of him again. But from his hiding place of heaven, peeking through the great cloud of witnesses, beside angels and saints, he looks towards the Blessed Lady he took as his wife, and with her, looks upon the face of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world.