Reflection: Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary – March 19th 19th March 2021
March 19th: Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary & Earthly Father of Jesus
Today in union with the whole Church, we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph. While we know that Joseph was Mary’s husband and the earthly father of Jesus, in reality we have very little historical information about him. Traditionally he is known for being a carpenter and his other feast is 1st May, St. Joseph the Worker. While today is a universal Church feast, it is also a very important day for us as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. Mary Immaculate, after whom we are named, is Patroness of our Congregation; ‘…we shall always look on her as our mother.’ (Constitution 10), while St. Joseph, who was one of St. Eugene’s patron saints, is Protector of our Congregation and Patron of Oblate Brothers. It is also worth noting today that Pope Francis has proclaimed the year from 8th December 2020 – 2021 as being dedicated to St. Joseph.
We know more about Joseph from what he did rather than what he said. In the gospels he is a man of few, if any, words. Clearly his actions speak louder than his words. Joseph is a quiet man of action, not an action man! He is not presented to us as ‘heroic’ in the traditional sense. Perhaps because of this, he is considered as a silent and even invisible member of The Holy Family. Sadly, we tend to gloss over him and even forget about him until we see him on traditional Christmas cards. Joseph is a man of courage, conviction and commitment. He is a man of hope and faith who trusted in God who called him personally by his name. He didn’t simply react; he responded faithfully to situations as they arose and faced them courageously out of concern for Mary and Jesus.
While the call of Mary in Luke’s gospel is known as The Annunciation, Joseph too had own personal call and annunciation. In Matthew’s gospel Joseph is depicted as a good and decent man who always did the right thing. He is a righteous man. He is concerned about Mary according to the Jewish Law. On discovering that Mary was pregnant before they were publicly married, Joseph decides to divorce her privately to save her embarrassment and shame. He is a good man, but also very human. His response and reaction are very normal. Imagine his confusion, fear and even disappointment. But God has a plan for him. In a dream, an angel appears to him with the message, ‘Joseph, do not be afraid, Mary is to have child through the Holy Spirit.’ I wonder like Mary, was Joseph deeply disturbed by these words and wondered what they meant? On waking he agrees to marry Mary and accept Jesus as his son. This is an act of strong and radical faith. Having endured fear and anxiety while Jesus was being born, Joseph again in a dream hears another message from God. He is reassured with the words, ‘Do not be afraid.’ Again in the midst of fear, anticipating the plight of being refugees and exiles, Joseph, in response, wakes, acts and does what is asked of him; he takes his family to safety in Egypt. Through several more dreams, God speaks to Joseph and each time he responds with courage, faith and hope.
“Faced with what seemed like the impossible, Joseph didn’t walk way away or give in – he trusted God and said yes. Given what we are all still living with, can we in any way look to Joseph and follow his example of trusting that God is truly with us today and every day?”
This shows us that Joseph is not mild mannered nor simply a silent partner. He is a man of radical and courageous faith. He was called by God just as Mary was and he said ‘yes’ as Mary did. He said ‘yes’ not out of certainty, but in faith, trusting that God who called him would continue to encourage and guide him. He responded to God’s call for him in trust and hope. Both Mary and Joseph were asked to take on what seemed like an impossible task, but they were not on their own. God, who called both of them personally by their name, would guide, lead and encourage them always.
This last year and even these current days continue to strain and challenge us in so many ways. What can we learn from Joseph these days? He teaches us how to be present in the joys and sorrows of life, to be steadfast, to live with integrity trusting in God who still calls and sustains each of us, regardless of what we are experiencing. Faced with what seemed like the impossible, Joseph didn’t walk way away or give in – he trusted God and said yes. Given what we are all still living with, can we in any way look to Joseph and follow his example of trusting that God is truly with us today and every day?
Joseph responded faithfully and courageously to the call of God and the promptings of the Holy Spirit. He responded out of concern for both Mary and Jesus. Our ‘calls’ may not come to us through dreams but more directly through others asking us for help and support. How do I respond when I am asked to help someone in my family, a friend or a neighbour, especially at this time when we are still living with the consequences of lockdown and social restrictions? Can I respond with care, concern and courage as Joseph did?
Today is also a day to remember and pray for all Oblate Brothers, whose patron saint Joseph is. Brothers have been part of our Congregation from the very beginnings of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate. The first man to profess his religious vows for life as a Brother was John Bernard Ferrand. This is was in 1834, only twenty years after we were officially founded as a Religious Order. As our current Oblate Rule reminds us; We come together in apostolic communities of priests and brothers, united to God by the vows of religion… (C.1). As priests and brothers, we have complementary responsibilities in evangelising (C.7) Oblate brothers share in the common priesthood of Christ… through their religious life and consecration, they offer a particular witness to a life inspired by the gospel. (R. 7c)
Saint Joseph, who answered God’s call: Pray for us
Saint Joseph, who said Yes in Faith: Pray for us
Saint Joseph, who cared for Mary and Jesus: Pray for us
Saint Joseph, Man of Courage and Commitment: Pray for us
Saint Joseph Man of Hope and Humility: Pray for us
Saint Joseph, Man of Conviction and Trust: Pray for us
Saint Joseph Man of Faith and Prayer: Pray for us
Saint Eugene de Mazenod: Pray for us
Mary Immaculate: Pray for us
Saint Joseph: Pray for us.
Loving God, during this season of Lent, you give us St. Joseph to whom we look to as an example and model of courageous and radical faith. Inspired by his confidence in you and in his love for Mary and Jesus, may we too respond faithfully when you call us by our name today. When we feel afraid and anxious, may we hear the words that you spoke to both Mary and Joseph when you called them; Do not be afraid. We offer these and all our prayers through Christ our Lord. Amen.
|Br Michael Moore OMI is an Oblate brother from Inchicore who is based in Kilburn and is part of the Oblate Partners in Mission Team.|
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