The news is disturbing. A government leader actively seeking to kill any person he deems is a threat to his power. We know he has already killed his own family members in his paranoia. Then there is the news of people forced to flee their country and live as refugees in other lands. Locally a young girl is facing an unplanned pregnancy and there are serious legal implications. And in the That’s Outrageous Category, a happy event, a christening, was ruined by warnings of future doom from the presiding priest. Makes you want to turn off the television, except these events occurred long before television was invented.
These crises were all faced by one man in his life time. He is Saint Joseph.
He is often depicted as an old man holding a staff with a flower blooming on its tip. He is mentioned briefly in the Bible and is described either as just or righteous depending on the translation. He is said to have been a carpenter.
Stop for a moment and recall the world that Saint Joseph lived in. His country was occupied by Rome. Saint Joseph, as a direct descendent of King David, was the legal heir to the throne. Herod, a puppet of Rome, sat on that throne. You can imagine how Hollywood today would depict Joseph as he leads an army to crush the usurper.
Mary’s pregnancy today would be fodder for the tabloids. On television there would be name calling and chairs flying at each other. Or the alternative would be an abortion so both could get on with their lives. But both Joseph and Mary kept silent about the pregnancy and spent the rest of their lives devoted to the child.
The Bible tells us that Joseph first kept his silence because he did not want to expose Mary to the law and its penalty, death by stoning. He still loved her despite what his eyes were telling him. He could not believe that she would betray him even with the evidence before him.
Mary kept her silence because she believed it was not her place to offer an explanation. She had given God her permission to do with her as He willed. She trusted that God would work things out with Joseph if that was indeed His plans.
The Bible tells us that an Angel speaks to Joseph in a dream and explains that the child Mary carries is the promised one of the ancient prophecy, “a Virgin shall bear a son.”
God wills that Joseph takes Mary as his wife to provide protection from the law, and the prying eyes and gossips all around. Instead of outlandish behavior that results in a broken family there is the unconditional love of the Holy Family. Jesus becomes a helpless baby and His heavenly Father chooses Joseph to protect Him and His mother and not a legion of Angels.
The challenges in Joseph’s life are faced today by many families. Unplanned pregnancies, violence and forced dislocation. These are today’s realities for many. Saint Joseph can relate to these hardships because he lived them. For those facing these and other burdens, he is the saint par excellence to appeal to for guidance and help.
Joseph lived his life seeking to do the will of God the Father. Like us, the future for him was a mystery. In faith he sought and obeyed the will of God. By doing so he helped transform the world. Our lives too can help transform the world if we take him as our role model.