Friday, March 19, 2010

Joseph Was A Righteous Man

Saint Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Reading I
2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
The Lord spoke to Nathan and said:
“Go, tell my servant David,
‘When your time comes and you rest with your ancestors,
I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins,
and I will make his kingdom firm.
It is he who shall build a house for my name.
And I will make his royal throne firm forever.
I will be a father to him,
and he shall be a son to me.
Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me;
your throne shall stand firm forever.’”
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Psalm 89
The son of David will live for ever.
The promises of the Lord I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness,
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
The son of David will live for ever.
“I have made a covenant with my chosen one,
I have sworn to David my servant:
Forever will I confirm your posterity
and establish your throne for all generations.”
The son of David will live for ever.
“He shall say of me, ‘You are my father,
my God, the Rock, my savior.’
Forever I will maintain my kindness toward him,
and my covenant with him stands firm.”
The son of David will live for ever.
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Reading II
Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Brothers and sisters:
It was not through the law
that the promise was made to Abraham and his descendants
that he would inherit the world,
but through the righteousness that comes from faith.
For this reason, it depends on faith,
so that it may be a gift,
and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants,
not to those who only adhere to the law
but to those who follow the faith of Abraham,
who is the father of all of us, as it is written,
I have made you father of many nations.
He is our father in the sight of God,
in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead
and calls into being what does not exist.
He believed, hoping against hope,
that he would become the father of many nations,
according to what was said, Thus shall your descendants be.
That is why it was credited to him as righteousness.
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
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.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
All we know about Joseph, husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus comes from the Scriptures. We know that he was a working man, a carpenter, since the skeptical people of Nazareth as about Jesus, “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt. 13-55; Mark 6:3). He was not a wealthy man, since when he took the infant Jesus to the Temple to be circumcised, and Mary to be purified he offered of two turtledoves or a pair of pigeons, which was allowed for those who could not afford to sacrifice a lamb (Luke 2:24).

In spite of his humble occupation and his poverty, Joseph came from royal stock. Although Matthew and Luke differ in some details of his genealogy, both mark his descent from King David (Matthew 1:1-16, Luke 3:23-38). The angel who tells Joseph how Jesus came to be conceived addresses the carpenter from Nazareth as “son of David”, a royal title used later for his foster son, Jesus.

Joseph was a compassionate and caring man. When he discovered the Mary was with child, after they had been betrothed, he knew the child was not his, and he considered divorcing her according to the Law of Moses, but was concerned for her safety and wellbeing. He decided to divorce her quietly, and not expose her to the penalty for women accused of adultery: death by stoning (Matthew 1:19-25).

Joseph was a man of faith, obedient to whatever God asked of him, without knowing the outcome. When the angel revealed to him the truth about the child Mary was carrying, Joseph immediately, without question or concern for gossip, took him into his home as his spouse. Later, when the angel warned him that his family was in danger, he left everything he owned, his family and friends, and fled to a foreign land with his young wife and the baby. He remained in Egypt without question until the angel announced that it was safe to return to Israel (Matthew 2:13-3).

Later, when the boy was preparing for his Bar Mitzvah, Joseph brought him and his mother on a pilgrimage to the Temple in Jerusalem. On the way back to Galilee, he learned that Jesus was not with the men or with the women, who traveled separately, he brought Mary back to Jerusalem, where they spent three days searching for him, eventually finding him in the Temple, discussing the Scriptures with the Teachers of the Law (Luke 2:48). When the family returned to Nazareth, Joseph treated Jesus as his own son, since the people of Nazareth are recorded as saying about Jesus, “Isn’t this the son of Joseph, the carpenter? Where did he get such knowledge?” (Luke 4:22).

Since Joseph is not mentioned during Jesus’ public life, or at his death and resurrection, the scholars conclude that Joseph had likely died before Jesus began his public ministry. Assuming that this is accurate, Joseph is honored as the patron of happy death, since he left this world with Jesus and Mary at his side.

Joseph is the patron saint of carpenters, of fathers, and of the universal Church.

There is much more we wish we could know about Joseph, but the gospels leave us with the most important knowledge of who he was: “a righteous man” (Matthew 1:18). Through his intercession, may we, like his foster-son, grow in wisdom, knowledge and righteousness before God and before men.

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