The Humble Extraordinary Man of God   « Catholic Insight

On this Solemnity of the Glorious Patriarch St Joseph, I would like to appreciate with you the figure of this most humble and extraordinary man of God. In order to do that I would like to present some salient passages taken from Pope Francis’ apostolic letter Patris Corde, which was issued on the 150th anniversary of the Proclamation of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church.

The humility and the extraordinary spirit of this man of God, named Joseph of Nazareth, is easily detected because he was a beloved father. Pope Francis writes: The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation”.vSaint Paul VI pointed out that Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home” (no. 1). Do you ask St Joseph to be your spiritual father and companion in your faith journey?

Furthermore, the humility and the extraordinary spirit of this man of God, named Joseph of Nazareth, can be appreciated because he was a tender and loving father. Pope Francis reflects: Joseph saw Jesus grow daily “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour” (Lk 2:52). As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him (cf. Hos 11:3-4). In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps 103:13). In the synagogue, during the praying of the Psalms, Joseph would surely have heard again and again that the God of Israel is a God of tender love, who is good to all, whose “compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9) (no.2). In your hour of trouble do you resort to St Joseph to protect you by his most powerful intercession?

St Joseph’s humility and extraordinary spirit is also revealed because he was an obedient father. On this point the Argentinian Pope states: In every situation, Joseph declared his own “fiat”, like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. In his role as the head of a family, Joseph taught Jesus to be obedient to his parents (cf. Lk 2:51), in accordance with God’s command (cf. Ex 20:12). During the hidden years in Nazareth, Jesus learned at the school of Joseph to do the will of the Father. That will was to be his daily food (cf. Jn 4:34). Even at the most difficult moment of his life, in Gethsemane, Jesus chose to do the Father’s will rather than his own,[16] becoming “obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:8).  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews thus concludes that Jesus “learned obedience through what he suffered” (5:8). All this makes it clear that “Saint Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood” and that in this way, “he cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation and is truly a minister of salvation.” Am I letting St Joseph help me to become obedient like him to the Father’s holy will for me?

The greatness of St Joseph in front of God’s heavenly throne of grace is shown because he was an accepting father. Pope Francis says of him: Joseph accepted Mary unconditionally. He trusted in the angel’s words.  “The nobility of Joseph’s heart is such that what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity. Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the bigger picture, he makes a decision to protect Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life. In his hesitation about how best to act, God helped him by enlightening his judgment” (no.4). How much do I rely on St Joseph to educate me in accepting others as they are and not indulge myself in judging them harshly and destroy their reputation and my capacity to love them?

Adding to this, St Joseph’s humility shines because he was a creatively courageous father. Only the humble can be really courageous. Pope Francis tells us: As we read the infancy narratives, we may often wonder why God did not act in a more direct and clear way. Yet God acts through events and people.  Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage. Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). Faced with imminent danger from Herod, who wanted to kill the child, Joseph was warned once again in a dream to protect the child, and rose in the middle of the night to prepare the flight into Egypt (cf. Mt 2:13-14)... At the end of every account in which Joseph plays a role, the Gospel tells us that he gets up, takes the child and his mother, and does what God commanded him (cf. Mt 1:24; 2:14.21). Indeed, Jesus and Mary his Mother are the most precious treasure of our faith (no.5). Do I pray to St Joseph to intercede for me to have his same courageous and creative faithfulness as he had?

The Foster Father of the Son God teaches you and me how to be a working father. Pope Francis reminds us of this great characteristic of St Joseph in his apostolic letter when he writes: An aspect of Saint Joseph that has been emphasized from the time of the first social Encyclical, Pope Leo XIII’s Rerum Novarum, is his relation to work. Saint Joseph was a carpenter who earned an honest living to provide for his family. From him, Jesus learned the value, the dignity and the joy of what it means to eat bread that is the fruit of one’s own labour (no.6). Do I pray to St Joseph to help me be a committed and responsible worker? Do I ask him to assist me in seeing work as a powerful means to bring about the common good?

Lastly, St Joseph’s humility is highlighted in the fact that he was a father in the shadows. Pope Francis reflects: In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way. We can think of Moses’ words to Israel: “In the wilderness… you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you travelled” (Deut 1:31). In a similar way, Joseph acted as a father for his whole life (no.7). Do I seek St Joseph’s intercession so as to grow in loving others with the same hidden commitment as Joseph magnificently did with Jesus and Mary?

May we through veneration, intercession and imitation grow, more and more, in Jesus through that humble outstanding witness of St Joseph as we ardently pray to this Glorious Patriarch and Custodian of the Redeemer:

St Joseph, with Mary your bride, lead me to Christ. Amen.

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