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St. Joseph in perspective

December 10, 2015
Brother John M. Samaha, SM

During the Advent and Christmas seasons, St. Joseph holds a prominent place in the liturgical and historical celebrations.

To appreciate St. Joseph properly we need a clear perspective more than historical facts from Scripture and tradition. In fact we know very little historically about the man who raised Jesus.

The three critical instances recorded about Joseph’s life are his betrothal to Mary, learning that Mary is with child, and the revelation in a dream about Mary’s condition. This ordinary worker and righteous Jew was a carpenter building useful things for others and to honor God. These special moments teach us about the transition from the Old Law to the New Law and the hope it brings. They indicate the shift that must take place in our own lives when God asks us to do the extraordinary and unimaginable.

Fascinating insights into the character of Joseph come to us when we observe him through various lenses as spouse of Mary, father of Jesus, man of obedience, man of faith, man of hope, man of charity, man of courage, man of poverty, man of purity, man of prayer, man of patience, man of labor, man of virtue, man of the church; shepherd, protector, and guardian. Then we understand better why God chose Joseph to help raise Jesus with Mary. Jesus needed an earthly father who was mature in age and wisdom, and would have the attributes needed to cope with the challenges of parenting the son of God.

Joseph was head of a household that sheltered the most extraordinary persons. His overarching intention was to care for Jesus and Mary because in doing so he was serving God. Every service for them was an expression of love and thanksgiving. God entrusted Joseph with the greatest and most unimaginable gift. And Joseph through his dedicated care returned the gift perfectly. He was the man closest to Christ.

For us to observe Joseph as he raised Jesus is a lesson about the basic elements of our Catholic faith and presents a model of Christ-like living. This is Joseph in proper perspective.

The church honors St. Joseph twice in its liturgical calendar: the Solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19, and the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1.

Marianist Brother Samaha lives in Cupertino.

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