Today the Church here and throughout the world celebrates and remembers the great and mighty Saint Joseph, who is one of the exemplars par excellence of what it means to make the will of the Lord the priority in a person’s life.
The Christian life is all about fulfilling the will of the Lord, and his will is that we recognize and fulfill the demand of love as that demand presents itself in the immediacy of the circumstances of life. Love is not simply a matter of an idea or emotions, but an act of will in which you seek to accomplish what is good for another person.
Willing the good for another person is how we come to fulfill the demand of love. The measure of this good that we will is not whether it is emotionally fulfilling or popular. The measure of this good that we will is not even whether the good that we offer to another person is appreciated or wanted. The measure of the good that we offer is that what we give is what the Lord asks us to give.
It was the fulfillment of the demand of love in the immediacy of his life’s circumstances that was the priority of Saint Joseph’s earthly life.
Saint Joseph is the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and though he was NOT the biological father of the Lord Jesus, he accepted the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary as his own. Saint Joseph might have had his own ideas and desires in regards to what it would mean for him to have a family, but he accepted these as inconsequential in relation to what God asked him to do.
God asked him to be the protector and provider of the Blessed Virgin Mary and her Divine Son, and Saint Joseph accepted this as his life’s purpose even though it meant his own freedom to choose and decide would be severely curtailed and that many of his own desires would go unfulfilled. Saint Joseph made his life an offering of love to those whom God loves, and in his sacrifice he fulfilled the demand of love. He loved what God asked him to love, even though what God asked him to love remained exceptionally mysterious and out of his control.
The scriptures assigned for today place emphasis on Saint Joseph’s identity as an Israelite (he is a descendent of Abraham) and as a descendent of King David. The point of this emphasis is to help us to understand the purpose of Israel and how God acted in an extraordinary way to fulfill a promise to David that God would be for the Israelites their true and eternal king.
God chooses the Israelites, set them apart as a people, for a particular mission, a particular purpose and this mission and purpose is to bear his revelation into the world. This mission and purpose is fulfilled and the revelation of God happens when God himself becomes an Israelite. This is who the Lord Jesus really and truly is- God, who becomes an Israelite, in real flesh and real blood.
It is through the marriage of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, that God in Christ inserts himself into the ancient family of King David, making himself the true heir to David’s Kingdom, and showing himself to be the true and eternal king of the Israelites. When you hear in the Gospels references to the “kingdom of God” or to the Lord Jesus as “Son of David”, these references are meant to evoke in our minds the memory of God’s promises in the Old Testament that God would become for the Israelites their true and eternal king.
The Gospel for today is an excerpt from the testimony of Saint Matthew in regards to the details that surrounded Christ the Lord’s birth.
The point of Saint Matthew’s testimony is to clarify that the child born of the Blessed Virgin Mary is the most important revelation of God because her child is God himself.
Saint Joseph, a faithful Israelite, not completely comprehending God’s purposes, seeks the Law of Moses as a guide for what he is supposed to do, but the Law proves to be inadequate in this respect, and he learns from an angel, that the love God asks of him will exceed the demands of the law.
The reference to the law in this respect is meant to signify the demands of ethnic custom, propriety and popular expectation. God reveals to Saint Joseph that greater than the demand of any of these will be the demand of love- of faith, hope and charity. What God reveals as good exceeds any other expectations.
Saint Joseph’s fulfillment of the demand of love will manifest itself in a low-key death to self through which he will willingly disappear into the mission that God gives to him. Anticipating that God in Christ will offer his life for him in an extraordinary way, Saint Joseph offers himself to Christ in the ordinary circumstances of his life.
St. Joseph’s greatness and mightiness is manifested, not in self-fulfillment, but in self-gift. Like all the saints, he allows himself to decrease so that Christ might increase. And this is what happens, as the power of Joseph waxes and wanes, the power of Christ increases and transforms him, until his mission is fulfilled and the heavenly glory of Saint Joseph is revealed.
May Saint Joseph, made great and mighty by his willingness to conform his life to Christ, intercede for us, and help us to conform our own lives to the demand of love that is revealed by God to us in the midst of all the events and circumstances of our lives.