Since the events surrounding Jesus’ birth manifest the crux of our knowledge about St. Joseph in Scripture, the Advent/Christmas cycle is a perfect time to ponder his witness.
Though we do not know many details about him directly from Scripture, much can be inferred about him from what we do know. The litany of St. Joseph is a great place to get to know his characteristics. Among other things, it identifies St. Joseph as “most just.”
The justice on display in a figure like St. Joseph is often missing from today’s world. He offers a witness upon which we should meditate to learn the ways of God, who was fully alive in him.
To live as a man of justice, St. Joseph needed to be a man of faith, hope and charity. Take for instance the situation in which he found himself — betrothed to a young woman pregnant with a child not his own.
The justice of his day would have expected St. Joseph to abandon the young woman. More than that, it would have demanded the young woman be killed. While it’s clear he wrestled about what to do, St. Joseph’s action was definitive. He moved forward with his plans to welcome Mary into his home.
In God’s justice, St. Joseph’s heart was open to the truth. But this required great faith from him. The reality that Mary was expecting God’s own son was something that defied human knowledge and reason. To embrace Mary in this vulnerable state opened up St. Joseph to vulnerability as well.
St. Joseph’s faith informed his hope that God would provide for him because he was doing what was right, what was just. He knew it could cost him greatly, and for all we know it might have. That would only make sense according to the Christian logic of obedience and sacrifice. Consider what ramifications could flow from this small-town carpenter’s acceptance and protection of a woman most believed was an adulterer.
It was primarily a heart full of love that enabled St. Joseph to endure whatever difficulty might come his way.He loved God above all and wanted to accept his role in God’s plan for the salvation of mankind. In love, he laid down his life for his beloved Mary and the divine son she bore.
I often find myself imagining I was in St. Joseph’s shoes. So many situations of life present similar circumstances like he faced. The qualities of his life should be those appropriated by anyone who wants to follow Jesus more closely. When life’s darkest moments hover around us — akin to the dark days of December’s Advent season — we can ask St. Joseph to help us. We can turn to his example for strength to persevere. We should desire and seek to emulate his faith, hope and love. In meditating on the life and witness of St. Joseph we can learn a fundamental truth described by St. Paul: “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8: 28).
Michael R. Heinlein is editor of Simply Catholic. Follow him on Twitter @HeinleinMichael.