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Feast of St. Joseph, March 19, 2012

March 20, 2012

Scripture: Lectionary 543: II Samuel 7:4-5. 12-14.16. Psalm 89:2-3.4-5.27.29. Romans 4:13.16-18.22. Matthew 1:16.18-21.24. or Luke 2:41-51.

Messianic readings are the context for understanding the New Testament passages about Joseph in Matthew and Luke.  All is seen in the promise made to David who becomes the recipient of God’s covenant for keeping the messianic lineage in the ages to come.  Joseph is of the royal house of David and is the person to whom the promise of a personal messiah comes to us through salvation history. 

Psalm 89 is a royal messianic psalm with God as king and the servants of God who are called kings in the Davidic lineage.  The psalm can be applied to all those kings who succeeded David. More than other psalms this long hymn focuses on the magnificent covenant relationship that God has with his holy anointed ones. We learn much about the covenantal love of God with Israel through this psalm.

Joseph is the person who will be called to give to Jesus the messianic claim expressed in the readings.  All that God will work through this righteous and silent man  will be filled with grace.  St. Paul in the letter to the Romans says, “All depends on faith, everything is a grace.”  Matthew demonstrates this in the hereditary lineage of Jesus extending through Joseph back to David and then even to Abraham and Sarah our ancestors in faith.

We celebrate this feast under the title of Joseph the Husband of Mary.  It is to Joseph that Mary is betrothed and then married.  Jesus is totally legitimate through this marriage as we learn from St. Matthew.  According to the laws of that time by means of Joseph’s accepting the child as his legally, it is therefore legitimate even though it only through the virgin mother that Jesus is conceived without the gift of intercourse in marriage.  Our text from Matthew stops with the male begetting when we come to Joseph and Mary. “And Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born  Jesus who is called the Christ (the Messiah) (Matthew 1:16).

Joseph was called by God to a special vocation in marriage to Mary of Nazareth and would be the guardian and protector of both Mary and Jesus her baby. This would continue up to the beginning of Jesus’ own manhood when he declares that he must be about the business of his heavenly Father.In probably the best homily ever written on St. Joseph St. Bernardine of Siena describes and proclaims the vocation of Joseph as a special calling of grace.  He is entrusted with the Messiah and the mother of the Messiah, Jesus.  Both Joseph and Mary trusted and believed in the promises God made to his people and saw them revealed in the Son born of Mary.  It was unexpected and exceptional in the manner in which this came about as our reading from Matthew attests. St. Bernardine proclaims, “Whenever the divine favor chooses someone to receive a special grace or to accept a lofty vocation, God adorns the person chosen with all the gifts of the Spirit needed to fulfill the task at hand.”

This special calling is seen in Abraham, in David, and in John the Baptist. All these persons were saintly in their calling and believed so strongly in their vocation as a gift from God that all were entrusted with bringing history into the time of fulfillment of God’s plan (salvation history).  Joseph, the descendant of David, realized through a God-given dream that Mary his spouse had conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and her special graced vocation was joined to his in their holy state as married persons. Both were righteous before God as we learn from Luke in his first chapter.

We as Christian believers learn from Joseph how to love and respect Jesus and how to protect and venerate the person of Mary who was a person filled with God’s Holy Spirit. 

Joseph carried out his vocation with complete fidelity until God called him home in the kingdom.  We hear the echo of Jesus’  words in this calling, “Good and faithful servant, enter into the joy  of your Lord.” 

Bernardine continues his sermon telling us, “Joseph brought the line of patriarchs to its promised fulfillment. What the divine goodness had offered as a promise to them, he held in his arms.” 

Catholics in their appropriation of the lines said in Genesis about the just and righteous Patriarch who was named Joseph, carry on the spirit of the command “Ite ad Joseph” (Go to Joseph). This is part of the Catholic tradition about Joseph who has two feasts dedicated to him, today’s March 19th and May first entitled Joseph the Worker.  A religious congregation is named the Josephites and several womens’ congregation are also named after Saint Joseph.  Amen.

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