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The Christophers: St. Joseph’s Strength and Humility

Fr. Ed Dougherty, M.M.,


On March 19, we celebrate the Feast of Saint Joseph, when we honor the role he played as the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, for instance, we read of the dilemma Joseph faced upon discovering Mary’s pregnancy. He was, “unwilling to put her to shame” and “resolved to send her away quietly.” Then Matthew writes, “But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.’”

This scene speaks volumes about Joseph because we first see that he is a merciful man in the way he reacts to Mary’s pregnancy. He doesn’t want to see her shamed. And his reaction to the divine revelation given to him by the angel shows his willingness to follow the hard road to do God’s will.

So, we can see why God chose Joseph to care for Mary and for the child Jesus in His infancy and formative years. Joseph could be depended upon to do what was right regardless of his own self-interest. At the birth of our Lord, we see Joseph caring for Mary and Jesus under trying circumstances. And it was only in Joseph’s heeding the warnings of the angel of the Lord that the Holy Family was able to avoid the wrath of Herod and flee into Egypt. Later, Joseph shares in Mary’s anxiety as they search for Jesus and eventually are relieved and astonished to find Him teaching in the temple at a mere 12 years old. We see in these actions that he was a loyal protector of Mary and Jesus.

After Luke’s account of the finding of Jesus in the temple, we read that Jesus went with Mary and Joseph to Nazareth and “was obedient to them” and “increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man.” That’s the last we hear of Joseph until Jesus is an adult and referred to as “the carpenter’s son” and also simply as “the carpenter,” which draws us to conclude that He had learned the trade of carpentry from His father.

From these scant yet beautiful nuggets of family life, we can glean important aspects about Joseph. First, we see that Jesus was obedient to him, demonstrating that Joseph was chosen by God for his decency to act as a guide to Jesus as He was growing up. And Joseph’s guidance produced good fruit because Jesus grew in wisdom.

So much of what Jesus learned from Joseph would have come from the work they did together as carpenters. And in this trade, we can imagine what was perhaps the greatest wisdom Joseph was able to pass down to Jesus: his toughness and humble work ethic, two qualities that were essential for Christ to carry out His mission.

It seems fitting that Joseph’s feast day should occur during Lent in the time leading up to Christ’s Passion because the toughness and humble submission to the will of God that Joseph taught Jesus carried Him through all He accomplished for us. So, let’s honor Joseph and carry his memory in our hearts as we approach our commemoration of these climactic events in salvation history, remembering all he did for Jesus and all he can do for us as an intercessor and a model of humility before God.


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