Today, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of Saint Joseph. Considering that none of his spoken words are recorded in the Bible and very little is written about him, we often dismiss the fact that we can study his life in any detail. However, I think we can gain valuable insight by taking a close look at what is written in Scripture about this great man. Let’s look at some of Joseph’s qualities and explore some of the reasons why he’s so worthy of emulation.
Just – Scripture tells us clearly that St. Joseph was “a just man” (Mt 1:19). This powerful statement is made in reference to his initial decision to divorce Mary after she became pregnant. While at first this sounds like a contradiction, there are several opinions about Joseph’s motivation. St. Justin Martyr, St. John Chrysostom, and St. Augustine felt that St. Joseph suspected Mary of adultery and decided to obtain a divorce (which was permissible under Mosaic law) until the angel explained the situation to him. St. Jerome held the view that Joseph couldn’t explain Mary’s pregnancy and decided that a “quiet” divorce was the most charitable option. Finally, St. Bernard of Clairvaux and St. Thomas Aquinas subscribe to the theory that Joseph was fully aware of Mary’s mission, but felt unworthy to be a part of the plan. Therefore, he decided that a quiet divorce was the best option. While these theories are quite different, the common thread is that St. Joseph wanted to do the right thing.
Humble – The fact that so little is known about Joseph helps us to see the importance of humility. The vast majority of us perform our daily work in relative obscurity, but that’s how we achieve our sanctification. St. Joseph shows us that we don’t have to be famous to do great things.
Obedient – Throughout his life, Joseph was obedient to God’s Will. When the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained the virgin birth, Joseph took Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20-24). When the Lord instructed him to take his family to Egypt, he did so without complaint (Mt 2:13-15). He then obeyed the angel’s subsequent commands to return to Israel (Mt 2:19-20) and settle in Nazareth (Mt 2:22-23).
If we can learn to imitate St. Joseph and become just, humble and obedient to God’s Will, we will be on the road that will lead us to eternal life in Heaven. While any of these qualities are difficult (if not impossible) to master on our own, with God’s help ALL things are possible. Through the intercession of St. Joseph, let’s ask the Lord to help us become just, humble and obedient!
St. Joseph, pray for us!