Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. Joseph, with special
“solemnity”—thus the second reading before the
Gospel and alternative Gospel selections. Mary’s husband,
Jesus’s “foster father,” is a much-honored, well-beloved
saint, as evidenced by so many places and institutions named after
him, including St. Joseph, Missouri, and San Jose, California, various
colleges and universities, and of course what we call “St.
Joe’s” Hospital in our Creighton University Medical
Aside from the practical bargaining and petitioning, the conventional image in the Nativity scenes and the constant and taken-for-granted presence in our notions of the life of Jesus, who is this man Joseph? Father, Worker, Protector – he is also, surely, a role model of trusting God when life doesn’t go as expected. Both of the two alternative Gospels show this. Matthew tells how Joseph found that his betrothed wife was already pregnant, and he responded kindly, planning to “divorce her quietly,” – until it was revealed to him that he, a seemingly ordinary man, had an extraordinary life ahead. Luke tells how Mary and Joseph searched for the twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem, and it was revealed to them that he, a seemingly ordinary child (though they knew better!) already knew that he had an extraordinary life ahead.
Personally, I identify with the parents searching in the second narrative – amidst the great crowds gathered there for the Passover feast, where perhaps an older child would easily find many relatives and friends to stay with, but where the mother and the father would still be increasingly anxious and unhappy until they saw their child. Perhaps the worst time in my whole life was when my son, about five years old, was missing at Omaha’s Crossroads shopping center. Although the Douglas County sheriff working mall security that day had a page broadcast throughout the Brandeis department store, it could not be heard in the area where John stood waiting to be found. Luckily someone who had heard the page elsewhere happened to spot him, but many frantic minutes had elapsed. And Jesus was missing for three days! I would have died!
In the Gospels, both stories reveal Jesus, Son of the Father, and also inspire us to emulate the loving protection and faithfulness in the very real life of his “foster father” Joseph. Further, the Church teaches us we may pray to St. Joseph and ask him to protect us, be kind to us, and intercede for us.
Today I see one other idea in reflecting on these narratives about Joseph. The Church teaches me that through Baptism I share in living in Christ. As the Scriptures reveal to me, I, a truly ordinary person, do have an extraordinary life ahead – eternal life. Today we celebrate the sainthood of Joseph, but we can also say: St. Joseph, celebrate with us the gift of faith in our Savior, Jesus.
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