St. Joseph had to believe
I have a number of icons and a few images in my office, one of which is pictured to the right. It is an old print titled “The Death of St. Joseph.” I’ve always liked this print, because it points out the trust in God St. Joseph had to have in many ways. Joseph must have had a heck of a prayer life. And if we look at it from our vantage point, we can see the heavenly rewards for the Patron of the Church. We can see it all now in hindsight. He didn’t have that luxury, and instead had to see with the eyes of faith. From all accounts, that had to be a test, one he passed with flying colors, but a test nonetheless. There’s a way of looking at St. Joseph’s life and it seems like he was always in for disappointments — from a human perspective, that is. But he never buckled. This scene of his death even — he would have to die before Our Lord’s Resurrection. St. Joseph would not be able to see the first Easter in his life as Mary would. Although we aren’t positive when St. Joseph died, he is not mentioned during the public ministry of Jesus, so it must have been before Lazarus was raised from the dead. St. Joseph had to instead trust what he could figure about God by seeing his son, Jesus, as his own foster son.
Each of us has some share in that aspect of St. Joseph’s life. We have to trust God and the promises He gives though His Church. Take, for instance, the first Gospel choice for today’s Solemnity. This is the one in which the angel comes to Joseph in a dream. I think most people don’t understand why God went to such lengths. They never think about it or just skip over it. It was because reason could not possibly reveal the facts and how Mary came to be pregnant with Jesus. I love it that God came to Joseph on Joseph’s terms to explain what the heck was happening!
For some reason, God really tested St. Joseph on so many levels. Here was a guy that for all we can tell was 100% prime grade ordinary awesome. Tradition tells us he was a carpenter and he must have been interesting to talk to because Mary thought it was fine to be with him and was to marry him. But, he was about to get launched into a set of circumstances that make no sense. Mary was pregnant. Any reasonable man knows how that happens. To Joseph, he had only one choice and that meant to him that Mary was not who she said she was, and he decieded to take care of the issue quietly.
God would expect no less. Thus, he sent an angel to tell Joseph the side of the story Joseph could not know. Mary’s reputation deserved for the situation to be explained. Moreover, God was testing Joseph to believe.
Says the Gospel,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
That’s the account from the Gospel of Matthew. That angel that came to Joseph had to be convincing.
Now, we know the rest of the story and what happened, but have you ever thought of how that must have been for Joseph? Imagine the temptations in the back of his mind – the temptation to second guess, the temptation to go on his own way. The thoughts had to occur to him, “what the heck am I doing? this isn’t even my child!” But, St. Joseph never gave those temptations room to grow.
Joseph could have walked away, or continued and put Mary away (divorce). There had to be some moment that Joseph prayed and said “OK, God.” The Gospels tell us about Mary’s fiat, but they merely imply Joseph’s. He, after that dream, had to say to himself, “what this angel tells me is true, and I don’t understand it, but I’ll do as he says.” Joseph had to say in his own way, “I’ll do what God asks of me — fiat.”
For the next months, he’d have to wait to see Jesus. What happened at the birth of Jesus, with angels appearing and bringing the shepherds would be his reward. An incremental revelation of what was to come. So it was with St. Joseph, that he had to see with the eyes of faith, and then wait. Seeing God come through for him had to bring trust in God.
It bears out in that image. He had to know from Jesus what was going to come, but he’d not seen Lazarus, the blind made to see, the deaf to hear, and the mute to speak. We get all that in hindsight. Poor St. Joseph had to guess what this Son of God, his own foster son, was going to do.
Whatever sort of problem you have that is difficult to bear or requires some patience for God to work out and manifest a solution, St. Joseph is perfect to ask for help. Just look at his own life — he knows!
God has rewarded this spiritual longsuffering of St. Joseph, though. He is a universal intercessor!
Says St. Thomas Aquinas of his powers, “Some Saints are privileged to extend to us their patronage with particular efficacy in certain needs, but not in others; but our holy patron St. Joseph has the power to assist us in all cases, in every necessity, in every undertaking.”
St. Joseph, pray for us!
Try this little prayer:
O St. Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God. I place in you all my interests and desires. O St. Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, so that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.
O St. Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, patron of departing souls, pray for me.
This article, St. Joseph had to believe is a post from The Bellarmine Forum.
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