Immersed in Christ: March 19, 2020
Feast of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary, Foster Father of Jesus
The readings for the feast of St. Joseph are all about faith, hope and promise.
In Matthew 1:16-24 the angel tells Joseph “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” What was he afraid of?
We usually assume that Joseph thought Mary, to whom he was engaged, was pregnant by another man, and for that reason was going to break off the engagement and “dismiss her quietly.”
Another interpretation is that Mary told Joseph exactly what had happened, and he believed her. He was intending to take Mary as the wife who would be the mother of his children. But when Yahweh, the LORD, made it known that he had chosen his fiancée to be the mother of his own Son, Joseph’s reaction, as a devout Jew, was to back off in reverent “fear of the Lord.”
The angel affirmed that Joseph was to be Mary’s husband anyway — and fulfill the role of earthly father to Jesus. “You are to name him,” the angel said, which was the father’s prerogative. But the real Father, Yahweh, chose the name: “You are to name him Jesus....”
Thus Joseph had a double role: as the one everybody assumed to be Jesus’ real father, 1 he was to be for Jesus everything a father should be on earth. But he was to exercise his role as “steward” of God the Father, whose place he held. And see his son Jesus always through eyes of faith that told him whose Son Jesus really was.
Every Christian mother and father must see their children as more God’s than theirs. At Baptism parents deliver their children over to death. Yes. Shocking, but true. We are incorporated into the body of Jesus on the cross to die in him and rise with him to live for nothing except to let Jesus continue his divine mission in our body, through our human words and actions. Christian parents are charged to raise their children as divine, to live on the level of God. Could that cause doubt and fear?
We need faith to see our own children as divine: bodies in whom Jesus Christ is living and acting. 2 Samuel 7:4-5, 12-14, 16 calls us to add hope to that. Nathan tells David God “will raise up your offspring after you... and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.”
In spite of David’s sins, God kept his promise to him — and will keep the promise he made implicitly to us when he called us to be parents: that if we remain conscious in faith and steadfast in hope, “blessed is the fruit of your womb.... “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.”2
We don’t always see God’s grace reigning in our children. Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 shows us Abraham “hoping against hope” when it seemed his son, Isaac, was lost to him forever. Hope is based, not on what we see, but on what we hear. We find it in God’s word. Whose child have we? “The Son of David will live forever” (Responsorial, Psalm 89).
Initiative: Believe in what is. Hope in what can be. Work for it with love.
1 Matthew 13:33; Luke 3:23, 4:22.
2 Luke 1:42; John 15:16.