Husband of Mary, Father of Jesus, and Model of Faith in God
St. Joseph was betrothed to the Blessed Virgin Mary when Jesus was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jewish custom, betrothal was the first of a two-part ceremony. In the first part, the erusin, the bride is dedicated to the groom and the two become husband and wife. In the second, the nissuin, the dedication is completed. It is only then that the husband and wife are free to engage in sexual relations.
Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant and he knew, of course, that he was not the biological father. He was a just man and so he knew that, in the law of Moses, this called for divorce. Though, he was “unwilling to put her to shame (Mt 1:19).” He knew that according to the Deuteronomic Law, the community would believe that Mary had committed adultery and thus she would be put to death by stoning.
The Sacred Scriptures say that he “resolved to divorce her quietly” as he was considering all these things. He did not want any harm to come to his wife. Certainly though, he was afraid. And he was also human. Did he perhaps have even a fleeting thought that perhaps his wife had been unfaithful to him? I do not think anyone could really fault him if he did entertain the notion, as virgin births were not a common occurrence.
Yet, an angel appeared to St. Joseph, told him not to be afraid, and told him to go through with the second part of the marriage. The angel also confirmed the miraculous reality: this child was to be called Jesus, which means “God save us,” and he was conceived in the womb of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
With great faith, St. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded and defended his bride. He completed his marriage to her, though he protected her virginity his whole life long. He was the foster father of Jesus and raised Him alongside the Blessed Mother. He brought the Holy Family away from the danger of Herod into Egypt. He taught Jesus his own trade of being a tekton, so that He could support Himself with work.
In the whole of the Gospels, St. Joseph is described and takes action in the beginning and in Jesus’ early adolescence. However, there is not a single word of St. Joseph recorded in Sacred Scripture. His silence is deafening. In the incomprehension of his circumstances, St. Joseph grasps and comprehends the only important thing: to trust in God.
So, what can we learn about this silent giant of faith? We can learn to trust. We can trust, as fathers, that God has given us the grace in every circumstance to rise to the occasion and be a man. We can trust, as husbands, that marriage does not make it easy, but it makes a great many things possible. We can trust, as children of God, that we ought to go wherever He is telling us to go. We can trust, as men, that we should seek to make, provide, and defend things for our families ourselves and not rely on our community, friends, or government to do it for us.
St. Joseph does not say a word in Scripture because the Gospel writers knew the power of the man who acts in righteousness and trust. Be like St. Joseph. Be an upright man of God, trusting in God’s providence, guidance, and grace.
St. Joseph, foster father of Jesus, husband of Mary, righteous man of God, universal patron of the Church, and terror of demons, pray for us.