By Brother John M. Samaha, S.M.
Are we overlooking Saint Joseph? Is he being ignored? Neglected? So often he is relegated to the background – in Holy Scripture, in public and personal prayer, in preaching and teaching, in memory.
The reserved, quiet, removed husband of Mary and guardian of Jesus remained in the background as he faithfully and silently supported God’s plan for the Incarnation and Redemption. We have no paintings of Joseph’s annunciation or other prominent roles in Jesus’ growing years and upbringing.
Joseph is the forgotten player in the infancy narratives and early years. This neglect is somewhat understandable because the evangelists and other writers of the New Testament ignore him. Only Matthew takes notice of him. Luke mentions him in passing, and Mark not at all. John says, “Jesus of Nazareth, Son of Joseph” and that’s all. Joseph is given short shrift. He is virtually ignored.
Is this the treatment we are giving to the person who played such a momentous role in salvation history? We’re dealing with the man who saved Jesus from Herod’s ghastly plot, who taught Jesus a trade, who formed Jesus in his Judaic heritage.
Meet Saint Joseph, the ignored. By and large history has ignored him. We’ve overlooked quite a person. But the guardian of Jesus and the devoted partner of Mary takes it all in stride relying on God’s grace to enact his role faithfully. Strong, silent, determined, dedicated, responsible. Puzzled and finding himself between a rock and hard place, in a situation he could not fathom, between dream and reality, between grace and law, between a promise made and the voice of God, between reputation and shame, Joseph stands firm. Enter the world of Joseph the fearful, Joseph the troubled, Joseph the puzzled. Appreciate Joseph the ignored.
Like Saint John the Baptizer, cousin of his foster Son, the little we know about Saint Joseph speaks volumes of Gospel truth without uttering a word. At Gabriel’s invitation from God, Mary responded “Let it be done to me according to your word.” Joseph simply and unhesitatingly acts on the revelation he receives in a dream and does what God requests. Joseph takes Mary and the Child growing in her as God gives her to him. In doing so Saint Joseph models for us how to listen for God in the ambiguities and struggles of life. Joseph’s overlooked faith hangs-in and hangs-on to the dream and to God’s promise instead of trying like a handyman to fix matters by himself. It was his choice to step up and stand by Mary and Jesus.
The Gospel prayer and hymn, Ave Maria, is one of Christianity’s most popular tributes. “Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.” We should also honor Joseph in a similar way with an Ave Joseph. Hail Joseph, full of faith. The Lord is with you too. You lovingly fulfilled God’s will for Mary and Jesus and for our redemption. Amen.
Saint Joseph deserves better press. After all, he is the man closest to Jesus, and the spouse of Mary.