Hopefully there will be many fine essays, blog-posts, and sermons written today on the topic of Saint Joseph. This isn’t one of them. I don’t have a whole lot to share or opine on. There isn’t much in Holy Scripture that unpacks Saint Joseph’s life the way my own inquiring mind would like it laid out in a systematic way.
He is listed in the Abrahamic generation in Matthew’s first chapter (v. 16), and denominated the husband of Mary. The Evangelist tells us of Joseph’s discovery of the pregnancy, his own desire to deal kindly with Mary, and the subsequent dream/vision wherein the Angel of the Lord informs him that It is God’s Son via a Virgin Birth-worked miracle of the Holy Ghost that Saint Mary is carrying.
Joseph’s dutiful and obedient faith to the Lord was heroic and simple. Were that all Christians would be as able to bow the knee of the “will” to the Word of God.
True courage and manhood was evidenced by Joseph’s public defiance of the social norms and mores of the 1st Century Jewish community. It took a real man to bear up under the slanders, gossip and sniggers that Joseph, no doubt, had to endure.
He is not mentioned in Matthew’s Epiphany narrative, but does reappear in 2.12 when he again was warned by the Lord in a dream to depart quickly with his wife and the Child and to travel to Egypt. In the chapter’s final two verses Joseph learned of Herod’s death and then moved his young family back to the Galilean village of Nazareth.
True courage and manhood was evidenced by Joseph’s work ethic and servanthood. Despite the fact that he had carpentry as his vocation, it could not have been easy to live in the foreign land of Egypt, whether he was living and working amongst an expatriate group of Jews or not. And, then, making the decision to return to a land, Galilee or not, that was still being ruled by Herod’s relatives, bespoke a trust in God’s “shield and buckler.”
For whatever Holy Spirit “reason,” Joseph is not mentioned in either Mark or John’s Evangel. It is very likely that both the oldest and the youngest of Jesus’ Disciples (Peter and John) never knew Saint Joseph—that he had died years before they both met the Lord at the Jordan and seaside of Tiberias.
Saint Luke’s own narrative supports the implied thesis that Joseph died many years before Our Lord’s public ministry began.
Joseph appears in verse 27 of Luke’s opening chapter as the “man” that the virgin was espoused to, when the Archangel visits her for the Annunciation. Joseph is next mentioned in 2.4 as a member of the Tribe of Judah, King David’s descendent, to show the need for his, and Mary’s traveling to Bethlehem for the Roman census.
Joseph appears only two more times in Holy Scripture; each time, as heretofore, in the background as but a supporting character in God’s drama of Salvation. Joseph was with Mary and the Babe in the Temple on the fortieth day after Christ’s birth for both the Child’s Presentation and Mary’s Purification. The Carpenter also appears in the “12-year old boy Jesus teaching in the Temple pericope” at the end of the chapter (Lk 2. 42-52).
I know that all of you know this. But it delights me to simply both think about Joseph and to write what little we “know” about Joseph.
Christ Jesus Our Lord knows everything about His step-father, beloved teacher and mentor. Joseph had at least a dozen years with Christ as his “charge” under his tutelage and care. Joseph has forever been surnamed with the honorific title “Guardian of Our Lord.” Joseph was the most important man in Jesus’ crucial years of development—development per His state of “Humility” in growing from infant to toddler, to child, and then to young man. One would be not just charitable, but accurate, in assuming that Saint Joseph taught the Christ Child many, many things about being a man. The mysteries of the hypostatic union do not permit much on this topic but: Divine feelings of gracious mystery and gratitude.
Assuming, as I believe it is safe and prudent to do, that Saint Joseph died sometime between Christ’s 12th birthday and His appearance at the Jordan at around the age of 30…Joseph’s death might well have been the first earthly death that Our Lord encountered on very personal, face-to-face, eyeball level. Just contemplating the tears flowing from Jesus’ eyes as His step-father breathed his last breath, and the burning pain in Our Lord’s breast (He was moved in His reins) as He saw this brave, devoted, courageous, and loving man slip from life to death, is both poignant and touching.
No, we know “next to little” (in a biographical way) about Saint Joseph the Nazarene Carpenter: Guardian of our Lord, but we do know that Christ Jesus loved him and died for him and saved him as He has saved all of us.
Oh the stories, anecdotes, and supernal tales that Joseph will tell of the sui generis honor to have been married to the Blessed Ever-Virgin, and to have participated in raising His own LORD and GOD.
Soon we too will meet and greet Saint Joseph and joy in his joy; our Joy—the resplendent Redeemer and Easter Victor.
Jesus, thank you for Saint Joseph and the Grace You bestowed upon him. May all of us fathers, brothers, and sons also show forth Saint Joseph’s courage and manhood as You permit us to be formed into Your own cruciform brethren.