Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary ~ The Very Rev. Lady Sherwood, OPI
Reading 1: 2 SM 7:4-5A, 12-14A, 16
R Psalm: 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 AND 29
Reading 2: ROM 4:13, 16-18, 22
Gospel: MT 1:16, 18-21, 24A
Liturgical colour: White.
Today, we come together as the church to celebrate St. Joseph, the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the step=father of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
Where Joseph lived is not entirely clear in the scriptures as in Matthew, it implies that he lived in Bethlehem, whereas in John it states that Joseph actually originally came from Nazareth. When Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, even though they hadn’t yet been wed but were currently bethrothed, he “planned to dismiss her quietly” because he was “unwilling to expose her to public disgrace.” But before he could cancel their wedding, “an angel of the Lord” appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:21).
Just imagine the seriousness of the situation which Mary and Joseph were in with Mary’s virgin pregnancy. In the days of Mary and Joseph, Jewish women in ancient Israel were passed from one male authority (their fathers) to another (their husbands) at a very young age. Most were betrothed by the time they were thirteen and married by fourteen. With such early marriages, premarital sex was most likely not a common occurrence, but indeed it did happen as we can see by the law set in place in the Old Testament and the punishment metered out for breaking this law:
If a man marries a girl who is claimed to be a virgin, and then finds that she is not, “they shall bring the girl to the entrance of her father’s house and there her townsmen shall stone her to death” (Deut. 22:20).
As you can clearly see from the holy scripturs,, the status of betrothal was almost identical to the status of actually being a married woman. A betrothed woman who lay with a man that was not her intended husband, was subject to the punishment of being stoned to death, it was considered to be the same as if she had actually committed adultery.
Mary knew the punishment she faced— that of death by stoning. She had nothing but the story of an angel to tell to her parents and also to Joseph, the man to whom she was betrothed to marry. Joseph would have been well within his rights—even within his duty of the time—to expose her sin and to witness her death by stoning.
It was only with the intervention of an angel and with Joseph’s own faith-filled acceptance of the angel’s message, that saved both Mary’s life and the life of her unborn baby, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus christ, the Son of God.
From the Holy Scriptures we learn that St. Joseph’s great virtue was his obedient faith. “He did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him to do. Joseph took Mary as his wife.” (Mt. 1:24). He took her in the mystery of her motherhood and he acted in obedient faith, just as did Mary when she said, “Let it be done to me according to your word.” (Lk. 1:38).
St. Joseph proved himself to as a righteous man, as husband to Mary, and as an earthly father to Jesus. Joseph brought Jesus up as his own child, with all the natural love and affection of a father’s heart, even though he was only His stepfather (it is commonly said as foster father, but the husband of a wife with a child, is a stepfather). Joseph placed his entire life in the complete service of God in his self-giving for our Lord and Saviour who grew up in his house. And Jesus grew “in wisdom and in stature and in favour with God and man.” (Lk. 2:52.)
Such faith and devotion Joseph indeed had! He accepted the news from the angel about Mary’s pregnancy by the Holy Spirit, he took her wholeheartedly as his wife, sparing her from the certain disgrace and death as per the law in those days. Then Joseph accepted Jesus as his own son and raised him with all the love and care that a true father should.
Joseph is an excellent example as a righteous man, as a husband and as a loving Father. We can all take from this example within our own lives. He listened to the angel who spoke to him the will of God about Mary’s pregnancy. He accepted in faith without question. He accepted Mary when he could’ve abandoned her to certain death, and then also accepted Jesus, to be as though his own Son.
Do we follow the example of both Mary and indeed of Joseph within our own lives? Are we willing to believe even though we haven’t seen? Are we willing to follow the will of God in all circumstances, just as they did?
Let us pray:
Blessed Joseph, Husband of Mary,
Be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the virgin Mary;
Loving and accepting Jesus as your own son.
You saved both Mary and the unborn Lord Jesus from certain death by your faith and acceptance of God’s holy will.
We pray that you defend the church,
And all the household of God,
Which was purchased by the blood of Christ.
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