Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, Dear Friends
Today, when we praise the Holy Family, I would like to dedicate my thought to Saint Joseph, as a precious example of to be a holy man and wonderful father.
Joseph does not say anything. He does things. He wins a victorious fight with himself, he overcomes the darkness, and he listens to God. He is great because a real man wants to be great. The faith of Joseph is seeking God’s will and faithfulness along the way.
Is there a specific point of male faith?
Yes, there is. Although different contemporary charlatans of this world tell us that gender difference is a purely conventional, invalid or even harmful thing. In the face of gender ideas, I suggest keeping common sense and faith in the word of God. And it says that God “created a man and a woman in His image.” We are different but equal. Different so that we can help each other, complement each other. Help in what? In everything. In being (becoming) a mature man and a mature woman, in love, in dealing with evil, in loneliness, in illness, in good and bad fate. Also in development on the path of faith.
Mary has her own annunciation and Joseph has his own. There are obvious similarities, but also differences. A woman and a man believe in the same God, but their relationship with Him is somewhat different. God respects this distinction because He invented it himself. Let us take a look at the male faith of Saint Joseph. How is his relationship with God shaped? What does Joseph teach us? Not just men, about all of us.
Rich from home
The evangelical passages about Joseph are modest. Mainly because the Gospel is about Jesus Christ. He is the foreground figure, He is the Good News. Other heroes appear because of Him. Besides, Joseph was a modest man. He agreed to stay in the shadow of the Father. He served God and relatives in the place where God put him. And in the way God offered him.
The most important biblical text that shows the spiritual profile of Saint Joseph, is a fragment from the first chapter of the Gospel according to Saint Matthew. Men’s annunciation. Matthew looks at the mystery of the conception and birth of Jesus from the point of view of Joseph, Luke on the part of Mary. Both Evangelists also give the lineage of Jesus, although each in a slightly different way. Different exposures of the same mystery. Let us pause for a moment with the pedigree of Jesus in the version of Matthew (1, 1-16). This fragment is the context introducing Joseph to the stage. Pedigree should not be treated as an exact historical reconstruction of the roots of Jesus. This is a cipher. Symbolic demonstration that the Saviour grows as a man from the history of the chosen people. He comes to the world as a Jew with a specific pedigree, raised in the faith and tradition of his ancestors. It is the fulfilment of the promise Israel has made since the time of Abraham. Matthew calls Jesus “son of David” and “son of Abraham“, from whom begins the list of ancestors, ending with Joseph, husband of Mary. The man who directly gives Jesus the “sonship” of Abraham and David is Joseph. He will fulfil his father’s duty to Jesus: he will circumcise him and give him a name, he will go to the temple with him.
Did Joseph know about the divine origin of the Son of Mary?
If he knew (because Mary had told him), it would mean that he had taken the idea of moving away, because he felt unworthy of participating in a mystery beyond the framework of the “justice” he knew, he intended to go into the shadows. St John Paul II sees it this way: “Joseph did not know how to behave towards Mary’s “miraculous” motherhood. He probably looked for the answer to this tormenting question, but above all he was looking for a way out of this difficult situation.” If Joseph did not know the true cause of Mary’s pregnancy (which Pope Benedict XVI suggests in turn), his intention to leave Mary also shows his nobility. According to Moses’ law, Joseph could demand a trial that would explain whether Mary was guilty of adultery or was a victim of violence. Joseph preferred to go away quietly, so as not to expose his beloved to such humiliation.
Whatever it was, Joseph experienced very hard times. He was looking for a solution according to God’s will, but he did not immediately notice it. This is another important lesson of faith for us. Trying to make a good way through life, we will encounter moments of darkness, uncertainty, struggle, temptation. There are times in which it seems to us that there is no good (God’s) solution. And we do not know what to do. We have to rely on God, even if it seems like a jump into the abyss without insurance. God is a security. And only He.
He did as the angel said.
For Joseph, intervention from heaven helps. “Do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife”, says the Angel. God brightens the darkness, suggests a solution. But the decision must be made by Joseph. And he makes it. “He did as the angel of the Lord commanded him.” A man needs clear messages, especially when he is in a fog of indecision, when he is battling with the darkness (this is an important hint for women!). “He took his wife to himself.” This first act will set the direction of Joseph’s path of faith. Three times in Matthew the same pattern will be repeated. At night, Joseph hears the order from ‘Above’ and obeys it. When Herod threatens the life of Baby Jesus, the Angel will tell him: “Get up, take the Child and His Mother and go to Egypt.” And Joseph’s answer: “he arose, he took the child and his mother in the night and went to Egypt” (Mt 2: 13-14). He precisely completes the command. In the same order: he takes the child first and then his mother.
What does this tell us? What does he teach?
Faith of Joseph is rooted in the tradition of Israel. He is the inheritor of the faith of Abraham and the royal dignity of David. This is the first important lesson. The faith of each one of us is a heritage, a legacy, a continuation of history. Yes, faith has a personal dimension (more about this in a moment), but it first has a social, cultural and historical dimension. We are not born in a spiritual emptiness that we must fill from scratch. At the starting point, there is something for us. A community of faith older than me is given to me. To believe means to take root in this mighty tree, which has been growing for several dozen generations. It grows thanks to God’s love, in spite of human sins. Building the Church does not start with me – I am a continuator, I get something that I have to develop and pass on. Joseph could introduce Jesus to the world of the faith of Israel because he himself was firmly rooted in the spiritual heritage of his people: he read the Torah, kept the Sabbath, celebrated Passover and other holidays, went to the temple. We become believers to a large extent due to the fact that our grandparents and parents gave us faith: they were baptized, they were taught prayers. Of course this heritage can be rejected, but the message in the family and in the community of faith, culture and tradition is the basic channel through which God’s love and God’s truth reaches us. Joseph and Mary were materially poor people, but they came from the royal family, from the family of King David. Their most important wealth was the religion and faith in which they grew up, which they inherited and accepted as their own heritage.
Joseph was a Just man:
Matthew writes about Joseph, that he was a just man. In the Bible, the idea of justice has a much wider scope than in today’s secular language. In biblical language, the term “just” is above all religious. It describes the proper relationship between man and God, and only secondarily interpersonal relations. To be just means to follow God’s law, keep His commandments. This is the Old Testament ideal of perfection, the highest moral virtue.
The righteous is a devout man, an impeccable servant, a friend of God. It is someone full of God’s fear, living wisely and well. He not only formally keeps the law, but his heart is aligned with God’s will. Jews called such people ‘tsaddik’ (the term comes from the Hebrew word “just”). They believed that ‘tsaddik’ are like columns that support all humanity in the mercy of God. Without them, the world is falling. Joseph was someone just like that. In him Jesus met a faithful witness to the great tradition of Israel.
The Lord God confused Joseph quite seriously in his orderly religious world, in his holy routine determined by the Torah (law). They were after the word with Mary, but they had not lived together yet. And then his future wife gets pregnant. The Evangelist writes: “Her husband, Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly. But as he considered this, behold, and angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying: ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’ (…) When Joseph woke up from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife” (Mt 1: 19-20.24).
In this story we are interested in Joseph’s faith. Its characteristic is deed, action. Man likes challenges. He may be afraid and it is normal that he is afraid. But he can really achieve a lot when he knows that he is entrusted with some specific responsibility, a mission, let us not be afraid of that word – power (paternity). Joseph shows God the trust and obedience of faith. “God, you know better what’s good for me. Ok, I am going”. Did he understand everything? Certainly not. He trusted God’s will, and it gave him strength to overcome the darkness of his heart. He heard God because he was silent. Silence is a condition for the word of God to reach us. Undoubtedly, he was helped by the tradition in which he grew up. He listened to God in the synagogue since he was a child, he used his finger to scroll the Scriptures, he was prepared for a more personal meeting.
To believe as Joseph did
Let us summarise. Believe as Joseph did. What does it mean?
1. Discover the wealth of faith received in the inheritance and root in it (pray, read the Bible, go to church, confess your sins, fast, etc.);
2. Grow in the virtue of “justice”, that is, keep the commandments. To do really good things;
3. In times of darkness (questions, temptations, hesitations, doubts, sin), listen more to God than to our desires, because they fail in the moments of trial;
4. Have courage to transcend yourself, give more of ourselves to God;
5. To discuss less, to do what belongs to me, without murmuring;
6. Wake up from dreams about our own glory to a really hard life;
7. Live not for humanity, but for concrete people;
8. Be faithful to God in everyday grey drudgery;
9. Learn to recognise the voice of an angel, or envoy (we do not necessarily recognise him on the wing).
With love, friendship and prayers – Fr Marcin