Let’s spend a few moments now with Joseph who is the patron of a happy death, a model of fatherhood and a protector of families.
Joseph, when you were a boy, did you ever imagine the role in history you would play? When you fell in love with Mary, could you ever have possibly imagined her role in history? What was it like for you when you held the tiny baby, Son of God, in your arms on that first Christmas night? When you looked into the eyes of baby Jesus, what peace must have filled your whole being! I think that that moment made all the anguish you went through during your engagement period to Mary so worthwhile. Remember how upset you were when Mary told you she was pregnant and you knew that you were not the father. Even in your turmoil over this situation, you trusted in God.
And God did come to your assistance when he sent the angel to you in your sleep to assure you that it was OK to marry Mary and that her baby was truly God’s Son. You could have had Mary stoned, as that was the custom when women were unfaithful. But you did not. Instead you planned to put her away quietly. You knew in your heart that Mary could never be unfaithful to you. How tender and just you were. How you loved and honored Mary, your wife! (Matthew, chapter 1)
What tremendous faith in God again you had when you obeyed the angel a second time who told you to flee to Egypt with your family because the Child whom God entrusted to you was in mortal danger from King Herod. You, Jesus and Mary were foreigners in a strange land. You went there out of obedience to God’s will. This can be found in Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 2, verses 13 and 14. Once more you displayed trust in God whom you obeyed when the angel told you to take your family back home to Israel because Herod had died. (Matthew, chapter 2, verses 19 to 22) How your tender heart must have ached when you learned of the slaughter of the innocent male babies by Herod because he was unable to find Jesus, whom he feared to be his rival. I’m sure there were many other times in your lifetime that you needed to totally trust God.
You taught us how to trust in Divine Providence. Through your trust in God, you were able to care for your holy family in Egypt and keep them safe. In today’s world, as well as in the past, so many people who are fleeing for there safety can look to you for guidance and comfort. Your trust was based on your unfaltering faith in God. What a lesson for each of us. How we need Faith! How can you trust unless you believe? How can you trust if you don’t believe?
During the years that Jesus grew up, I would have loved to have been there and watched you teach the Son of God your trade, carpentry, and how to be a good Jew by loving and obeying the Jewish law. Amidst the joy and happiness during those years, however, there must have been times when your heart was heavy as you pondered the destiny of Jesus, whom you loved so much. All the fathers down through the ages can look to you for comfort when they worry for their children’s safety.
Joseph, when you held the Son of God in your arms as an infant and heard Him utter some of his first sounds, many years later, that Son of God, now a grown man, held you in his arms when you uttered your last words. No wonder that the Church, in her wisdom, has proclaimed you the Patron of a Happy Death!
You had the most awesome responsibility of any man who has ever lived. You were entrusted the lives of the Son of God and the Mother of God. You had to take care of them and keep them safe. And you did that in spite of the many dangers you encountered. It amazes me so much, Joseph, that Scripture does not record anything you have said. All we know about you is what you did, not what you said. I think of a saying that I am sure most of you have heard. And that is: “Actions speak louder than words.” Your life, as we know it from Scripture, does make this saying so true.
Your life, Joseph, was indeed complex. You were a lover, husband, father, protector, teacher, carpenter, listener and especially a prayer. You displayed so many virtues—trusting, obedient, loyal, responsible, humble, tender, patient, kind and strong, and yes, tough. You had to take your family to Egypt on a donkey, not a car. And you had to protect your precious family from harm, such as robber.
So, in your quiet, humble way, Joseph, you taught us how to trust, how to obey, how to be faithful, how to love tenderly. But most of all, you taught us how to live in peace by being just.
St Joseph, pray for us. De Colores!