Feast of St. Joseph

03-20-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Chris Axline

Hello St. Mary Magdalene,

Happy feast of St. Joseph! What a beautiful time to celebrate and reflect on the universal patron of the Church, he who cared for, watched over, and protected St. Joseph. Because of his role in welcoming Jesus and Mary into his life, he’s the patron saint of the universal Catholic Church. He’s also a role model for us too as we strive to make room for Christ more and more in our daily life.

Personally, over the past several years, the Lord’s been moving me to cultivate a deeper devotion to St. Joseph. This began during the years of my seminary formation (August 2007 through May 2013) at the Pontifical College Josephinum. Josephinum is a Latin word meaning “house of Joseph.” As a result St. Joseph was featured regularly in our retreats and spiritual reflection times. What’s always fascinated me about St. Joseph is that he has no words recorded in Scripture. It’s not the absence of words per se that intrigues me so much as the fact that he doesn’t need them! His actions speak for him and he’s remembered as “a righteous man.” What a great challenge for each of us: if history were to remember us only for our actions and not our words, how would we be remembered? So little a description “a righteous man,” yet such profound a tribute! What exactly do those words mean, “a righteous man?” Biblically, whenever a person is described as a righteous man it means that their entire life belongs to God. Their thoughts, words, and actions seek to align themselves with God’s Will. Does that mean they always succeed? Of course not, Joseph isn’t perfect. Other righteous men in Scripture are: King David, Moses, Joseph from the Old Testament. All three of these men sought the Lord in all things like St. Joseph, but didn’t always make it. In those moments (and this is perhaps the most inspiring trait of all the saints) they ran as quickly as they were able to to God’s Mercy. They also asked questions, spent a great deal of time in prayer as they sought God in all things.

David, described as a man after the Lord’s own heart turns away through adultery and murder but then cries out to God asking for mercy. This cry for mercy and his restoration are recorded for us to read in Psalm 51!

Moses, the chosen leader who led Israel forth from slavery constantly interceded for his people and, despite his own betrayal of the Lord by taking credit for God’s action, (Numbers 20:6b-13), Moses too repents and is permitted to see the Promised Land before he dies.

Joseph, the youngest son of Israel, was betrayed by his own brothers and sold into slavery where he made his way to Egypt and then became a high ranking official in Pharaoh’s court. He would later forgive his brothers and save them when they came to Egypt seeking refuge. There they flourished and Joseph would eventually die in Egypt (Genesis chapters 37-50).

St. Joseph did the same. Remember how in Matthew’s Gospel (Matthew 1:18-25) after the angel appeared to Mary and told her she was to become the Mother of God? Joseph, we're told, sought to divorce Mary quietly since he was “unwilling to expose her to shame (Mt. 1:20).” This small verse shows Joseph’s struggle, he believes Mary and her fidelity to him but he also doesn’t know what to do or how to act accordingly. Lo and behold, the Lord speaks to him in a dream and he proceeds with his betrothal and marriage to Mary and would claim Jesus as his son (Matthew 1:18- 2:23).

From these four (and really all scriptural figures and/or saints), we see that following God’s Will isn’t always easy, nor does it always make sense. However, the Lord knows that and allows us to seek Him in those times, to trust in the certainty of His plan for us. That is what truly makes St. Joseph a truly righteous man; he seeks the Lord and acts according to God’s plan once it’s made known. Let us pray therefore that St. Joseph will intercede for us and help to seek the Lord at all times that He may be found! St. Joseph, patron of the universal church and guardian of the Holy Family…pray for us!