He was a righteous man

That’s how we often think of St. Joseph, isn’t it?   The righteous man who did not want to expose Mary—his pregnant spouse—to the shame of public scandal and punishment.   According to Jewish betrothal customs, he and Mary were considered to be married already, but he had not yet brought her to live with him in his home.   That made her pregnancy problematic, to say the least. So he took the righteous demand of the Law and tried to soften it.   He intended to divorce Mary quietly and move on with his life.   Righteous and compassionate, that’s Joseph.

But his story didn’t end there.

Joseph’s plan was interrupted when an angel told him to go ahead and take Mary into his home:   her pregnancy was from the Spirit, and it was for the salvation of Israel.   There would have been plenty to fear about such a union:   Mary’s condition might bring shame to his household and family name.   Neighbors would look askance at them, and his own integrity would be in doubt.   Customers might hesitate to hire him as a carpenter.   And what of his position in the synagogue?

But Joseph didn’t hesitate.   He did what the angel counseled.   Bringing Mary into his home, he willingly accepted the shame and disgrace that could have fallen on her.

Joseph was able to take all this on because he trusted God.   He believed the angel’s word that God was doing something new in Mary and in her son.   What’s more, in some mysterious way, Joseph’s actions prefigure what Jesus would do for each of us:   like Jesus, he placed his own reputation on the line.   Like Jesus, he accepted rejection and opposition for the sake of God’s plan.

That puts Joseph at the head of a long line of saints who chose obedience to God at the risk of their own reputations.   Think of St. Francis of Assisi, divesting himself of his riches to live as a holy beggar.   Or St. Joan of Arc, defying social limitations to follow her divine mission.

So don’t be afraid to say yes to the Lord, even if it puts you at odds with the status quo.   Remember you have Joseph as a father to care for you every step of the way.

Word Among Us