Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
I am taking a break from the daily readings for Lent to commemorate the Feast of St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary, and Guardian of Jesus. What follows is a collection of random thoughts, several of which I’ve reworked from a blog post written three years ago.
All that we know of Joseph we learn from the first two chapters of the Gospels according to St. Matthew and St. Luke. He is mentioned only in passing in Luke 3:23; John 1:45; John 6:42 as the supposed father of Jesus. Mark does not mention him at all.
Though the Bible tells us little about the husband of Jesus’ mother Mary, we know that he was a carpenter by trade. There are several references to Jesus as a carpenter in the Gospels, a trade he obviously learned from Joseph. Above all, Joseph is shown as being devoted both to God and to Mary and Jesus.
Joseph is never quoted in Scripture. He is remembered more for his actions than his words. Perhaps that is why it took the church nearly 1500 years to establish a feast day in his name.
St. Joseph is the patron Saint of Spain, where March 19 is celebrated as Father’s Day, along with Italy and Portugal.
Of course, our experiences with our earthly fathers shape our images of God as father. Not all children have positive, wholesome, or meaningful relationships.
I thank God for my life with my father, who died when I was 13. Brief as it may have been, I am blessed for the time that God gave us together.
Joseph’s silence and obedient character often make me think of my father, who was also the silent type. Yet, as I remember, he always seemed to have time for me. When one is young, the images of a father are larger than life. We spent a lot of time together. I recall my aunt telling me once that, as a toddler, I was almost like a permanent fixture on his shoulder, or his back, or holding his hand.
When I misbehaved at home, my mother’s greatest threat was, “If you don’t stop, I’ll tell your father when he gets home.” Those words would stop me in my tracks, not because I feared punishment, but because the last thing I wanted to do was disappoint my dad.
I’ve tried to model my father’s example with my 52-year-old autistic son, David, who has taught me patience above all else.
Two passions that my father instilled in me were baseball, and faith, not necessarily in that order.
In the summer of 1979, I returned to Puerto Rico on a visit after 27 years away, and I recall going to a baseball park in San Juan where we used to go as a child. I had one of those magical transfiguration experiences in which, for an instant, I was a child again.
Obviously, I am a pastor because of my father’s influence, although it took me several detours in other vocations before I finally answered the call.
If you are a father, or blessed with a father, or there is someone who is a father figure in your life, remember St. Joseph today. May your day be filled with the wonder and imagination the love of a father brings.
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