March 20, 2023
by David Crawford
Creighton University - Retired
click here for photo and information about the writer

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Lectionary: 543

2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

Praying Lent Home

Contemplating with Joseph

What will people think?  I was raised in a loving home by Christian parents.  They taught me, with their words and actions, and many of those lessons were quite good.  Some, though, I wish had not stuck.  For instance: I am too often concerned with what others think, and I think I got that from my mother.  When I am faced with a decision, somewhere in the back of my head my mother’s voice asks in a very concerned tone some variation of the question, “What will people think?”  Back in early December 1989, when I told her that my fiancée (now wife of 33 years) and I had decided on a January 1990 wedding, Mom worried that people at church would think we were marrying quickly because we “had” to.  I think she worried for a full nine months, until it was evident that a baby was not on the way.

In today’s Gospel reading from Matthew, we find Joseph as he learns that the woman to whom he was betrothed, but who was not yet living with him, is pregnant.  What will people think?  Will they think that Joseph, known publicly as a righteous man, had engaged privately in unrighteous behavior?  Will they think he has questionable judgement in choosing women, since most probably did not know how Mary became pregnant?  According to the law, he could end the betrothal and marriage with a divorce, and he would have done so without the angel’s intervention. 

How Joseph responded throughout this situation provides a good model for us, especially since his actions are evidence of traits that God values.  After all, this is the man God selected to help Mary raise Jesus.

  • Joseph was merciful.  When he decided to divorce Mary, he was “unwilling to expose her to shame.”  Even at a time when (in Joseph’s mind) he had been wronged by his betrothed, when he may have been embarrassed, angry, or hurt, Joseph was merciful.
  • Joseph was obedient.  When God’s message came in his dream, Joseph responded immediately, “Yes.”  Having done so, Joseph was on hand to take the young, pregnant Mary to Bethlehem; to be with Mary as they received present-bearing dignitaries from the East; to flee with Mary and Jesus to Egypt; to return to Israel later to help raise the boy; and (as we see in the Luke reading) to lead the family in religious observances, like yearly trips to Jerusalem at Passover. 
  • Joseph was faithful.  Matthew describes Joseph as “a righteous man,” and it helps me to consider that phrase in concert with today’s second reading from Romans about Abraham’s righteousness.  In Paul’s writing, righteousness that comes from faith is preferable to righteousness associated with following the law.  As a faithful individual, Joseph recognized and responded to God’s message, without worrying about what other “righteous” folks might think, and without worrying about how God’s plans conflicted with his own.
  • Joseph was sufficient.  By that I mean, Joseph was sufficient because God made him sufficient.  As Paul writes at the beginning of 2 Corinthians 3, none of us are sufficient on our own.  Rather, our sufficiency is from God.

What will people think?  Specifically, what will other Christians think when I hear God calling me to show mercy or seek justice when my society, church and/or family may disapprove.  The Gospels are filled with accounts of religious leaders disapproving of what Jesus did (as well as when, where and with whom).  The centuries since are riddled with instances of some Christians resisting other Christians’ God-directed works.  I am most familiar with United States history, where we find Christians on both sides of the battles against slavery, child labor, women’s suffrage, the Civil Rights Movement, and many other issues.  There are many issues demanding our attention now, and these need righteous people – by which I mean faithful people who prayerfully hear, recognize and respond to God’s directions.  Trust in God to make you sufficient for the task at hand.

What will people think?  The best answer I can give is from the Lauren Daigle song, “You Say,” when she sings to God:
The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me
In You, I find my worth; in You, I find my identity.

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