Today’s Gospel reading tells a great deal about St. Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin and adoptive father of the Lord Jesus Christ. What a marvelous man and example for all Christians, especially fathers. The Church often speaks of the virtues, both cardinal and theological. The cardinal virtues are justice, temperance, fortitude, and prudence. They are called ‘cardinal’ because they are the ‘hinge’ on which the well-lived life turns. Theological virtues are of a higher order, given to us by divine grace. These are faith, hope, and love. On all virtues, St. Joseph shows the way.
We are told that St. Joseph was a righteous man. In previous reflections, we have explored the concept of righteousness from a biblical perspective. Justice is central to righteousness, which carries with it a sense of rendering what is due to each. Righteousness is conformity to the divine will. St. Joseph thus exemplifies what it means to be a virtuous man, showing the habitual disposition of deference to God and devotion of the self to Him.
When he finds the Blessed Virgin Mary with child, St. Joseph remains temperate. Before he knew of God’s plan, he resolved initially to divorce her quietly. Less holy men would have reacted differently, seeking to make a spectacle or at the very least showing outward displeasure. Though he surely felt something akin to sorrow, St. Joseph shows that his reason is in control of his emotions.
St. Joseph exemplifies fortitude in many ways. For example, persisting through difficulties in moving Mary into his home sooner than expected, making the journey to Bethlehem, to the Temple, the flight to Egypt, the return home, and then maintaining a holy home for the Lord Jesus and Blessed Mother. We can be certain that life threw serious challenges at St. Joseph, yet he remained steadfast.
St. Joseph demonstrates the highest form of prudence when he immediately does as the Angel of the Lord commanded him. There was no second thought or equivocation. He immediately recognized the right path of action, marshaling and aligning the other virtues toward the good shown to him by God.
Of course, the cardinal virtues order us to human flourishing which is well and good. The theological virtues have God as their end and on these St. Joseph shines forth to all who seek to find an example.
On the virtue of faith, St. Joseph shows his belief in God and all God has revealed in all actions taken. He fully trusts in divine providence, living by faith. It would not otherwise be possible for St. Joseph to undertake the mission God gave him, which included relocating, providing for, and being a paradigm example of holiness for the Holy Family.
St. Joseph shows us the proper way to hope, whereby we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness. In choosing to follow the divine will, he willingly gives up all claim to lasting joy in temporal pleasures. In his faithfulness to God and the Blessed Virgin, St. Joseph remains a chaste man, rightly supporting the Blessed Mary’s loving ministry to humankind as set apart, the pure bearer of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. In all these, St. Joseph shows us that his hope is in God and eternal rest in Heaven.
We also see love (charity) most exemplified in St. Joseph. To love is the will the good of the other, as other. It is to love God above all things and to love the things that God has made because He made them. St. Joseph so loves God that He happily gives away His entire life as an offering. He makes himself clay in the hands of the Great Potter. St. Joseph loved the Blessed Mother and the Lord Jesus, protecting and providing for them. He led the Holy Family through trial and tribulation, not for his own sake, but for the sake of love. St. Joseph dedicates his life to loving his fellow man by helping to raise the Savior of the world. We also know that St. Joseph continually intercedes for us, thereby showing a perpetual love for God and creation.
Much more could be said about the wonderful St. Joseph. Perhaps another day. Thank you, Lord, for St Joseph.
St. Joseph, pray for us!