Today is the solemnity of St Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The scripture tells us very little directly about St Joseph, so to appreciate him better, I’d like to take a somewhat imaginative approach.
Imagine for a moment that you are God the Father. When the first man and woman sinned at the dawn of humanity, you promised to send them a Savior. For more than a thousand years, you have been preparing a nation through prophecies, religious and political leaders, and mighty works, to be ready to receive Him.
This child will be the most important person in all of human history, the King of Kings, the Savior of the World, holy, righteous, generous, noble, self-sacrificing, and all-powerful. He will live in a society where the role of a father is crucial for the survival of a family and for the religious and social future of the children. Although divine, the only-begotten Son of the Father, paradoxically He will also be a human being, Jesus of Nazareth, “like us in all things but sin.” Until He reaches maturity, He will need a protector and a role model who can help Him, and yet not get in the way – someone who will support Him but stay in the background. In short, Jesus needs a foster father. At the same time, this man will be the celibate husband of Mary, the most holy woman of all time. He will have to trust, love, and protect her in a totally selfless way.
In order to carry out this mission, he will have to be able to recognize and follow, without hesitating or questioning, divine commands whispered to him in his sleep. You – imagining yourself as God the Father – have to select a human man to fulfill this role. What kind of a man would you choose?
He would have to be a man of great wisdom, virtue and moral rectitude. A man who is strong but humble; passionate, but obedient and self-controlled. He would have to be diligent and hard-working as well as spiritually mature, a man of prayer. When God the Father had to make that decision, the man that He chose was Joseph of Nazareth.
This is not to say that St Joseph had all these almost superhuman qualities by his own merits. In fact, none of us can take full credit for our gifts and virtues; we receive them from God and develop them with the help of divine grace. God chose St Joseph because He had the humility and the courage to be a faithful and trusting instrument in God’s hands, and that is what made him great. He started as a poor carpenter; he became the foster father of the Son of God, and consequently, patron and protector of the whole Church.
He is also a great example for us to follow. When it seems that we need superhuman virtue to overcome the temptations and difficulties that afflict us, let us ask St Joseph to intercede for us, asking God to transform us, as St Joseph himself was transformed, into saints and servants of the Lord.