Today, as you might imagine, is a special day for me. It’s my “name day,” the feast day of St. Joseph. One aspect of celebrating your name day is to know and love your namesake Saint. So let me share with you three things that I love about St. Joseph:
- He’s a model of fatherhood and of sanctity in daily life.
May 1st celebrates St. Joseph the Worker. Today, we honor him as a husband and father. In the Gospel today, it says that Jesus went down with Mary and Joseph “and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.” Sit with that for a moment, because it’s one of the most radical lines in the whole Gospel.
God, the God of the entire universe, the God who made you and me and Mary and Joseph, chose this Jewish couple. He chose them, He was born into their family, He took His lineage as Son of David from Joseph, just as He took His Flesh, the Flesh He gave for the life of the world, from the Virgin Mary. It’s through St. Joseph that God fulfills the promise He made in today’s first reading. But to Jesus, that was not enough. He chose to go beyond this, to humble Himself before them, to obey them.
If a mere man, before that day, had claimed that God obeyed him, he would be a blasphemer. Not so with St. Joseph. Jesus, God, truly obeyed him.
So what kind of adoptive father did Jesus choose for Himself? Not a successful one, by worldly standards. The Holy Family lives in a part of Israel so poor that one of the Apostle, Nathaniel, says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Not a very flashy one. Joseph doesn’t utter a single word in all of Sacred Scripture. He listens to what God has to say, then he gets up and does it without a lot of fuss. He quietly follows God, loves his wife, and raises his Son. Like many husbands and fathers, the world takes little notice of Joseph’s quiet care for his family. But God noticed.
- Saint Joseph is an unworthy leader.
It’s controversial today to talk about the idea of a man being the head of his family. It’s viewed as sexist, as if we’re saying that women aren’t in charge because they’re inferior in some important respect. God shows us, through St. Joseph, that this isn’t the case.
After the Annunciation, we hear nothing more about God the Father speaking to the Virgin Mary. Instead, He reveals His will by having angels appear to St. Joseph in his dreams. Waking up from one of these dreams, Joseph packs up his family and flees the country in the middle of the night to go to Egypt (Matthew 2:12). After a few years, he has a similar dream, and they return to Israel (Mt. 2:19).
Take a moment to think about this. God chooses to respect Joseph’s headship over his Wife and Child, even though his Wife is sinless and his Child is God. And this is the way that God operates. He chooses the weak and the lowly, and He works His art with broken instruments.
- Saint Joseph reminds us to stay close to Jesus and Mary.
Before the Annunciation, St. Joseph was betrothed to a young woman, and probably had a particular vision of his own future. That’s not how his life turned out. The Incarnation turned his life upside down. He was faced with all sorts of scary and baffling situations: a wife who was the Virgin Mother of the God-Man Jesus Christ; a king who wants to murder his child, leading him to flee his hometown, never to return; and the daunting task of raising the Messiah.
His problems make our problems look tiny by comparison. And yet he remains strong, steady, stable. And how does he do it? He trusts in God, he obeys without hesitation, and throughout it all, he remains close to Jesus and Mary.
One of the highest compliments you can pay a good family man is to love his family. On this St. Joseph’s day, let’s take the time to reflect, and to truly love St. Joseph’s family.