Tag Archives: Saint Joseph

Joseph – just, docile, free

Joseph, the silent actor, was just, docile, and free.

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Today, because March 19 fell on a Sunday, we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, the spouse of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of Jesus. Yesterday, however, we celebrated the feast of Saint Joseph in the village of San José Quebraditas, where I preached.

There is very little in the Gospels about Joseph. We never hear a word he might have spoken. He is the silent witness of the Incarnation of the Son of God. But he listens – even to dreams – and acts.

In the Gospel for the feast, Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a, we hear of a man who is just, docile, and free.

Matthew calls Joseph a “just man” or, as some translations put it, a “righteous man.” Joseph is just with the justice of God – not with a merely human justice.

The merely human justice of the law of his day would have condemned Mary to death by stoning – as an adulteress. But Joseph had already chosen a different kind of justice, the justice of mercy and compassion. He had planned to put her away privately.

But Joseph was also docile to the call of God. In a dream an angel calls him to take Mary as his wife. Joseph had proposed a good thing for Mary, but God calls his to go further. Joseph is open to God’s call; he is docile, teachable, and so takes on his role as guardian of Jesus, the Son of God make flesh. For Joseph, his pray to God is not “my will be done,” but “thy will be done.”

In all this we find a free man. Joseph was not so tied to his own ideas that he could not give them up to the dreams of God. Joseph was not so bound by his own culture or his own plans that he could not let God change his plans and move him to respond in an unexpected, loving, and free way to God’s call to change his plans. Joseph is free. As Father Alfred Delp, SJ, wrote from a Nazi prison, “Without complaint he lets his own plans be set aside.”

We would do well to imitate Joseph – the just, docile, and free person who listens and acts.


The photo was taken on March 19, 2017, in San José Quebraditas, Concepción, Copán, Honduras.

The quote from Father Alfred Delp, SJ, comes from The Prison Meditations of Father Delp  and is also found in Alfred Delp, SJ: Prison Writings,  p. 63.

 

In silent service

Today, in Honduras, we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph as Fathers Day – as is only fitting.

St. Joseph, Gracias, Lempira, Honduras

St. Joseph, Gracias, Lempira, Honduras

In many families here the father is absent – some have gone to the big cities or the United States to seek a job to support their families, others have abandoned the woman (or women) who bore their children. In some families the father is aloof but I have seen many instances of fathers showing a profound tenderness for their wife and children.

These days I find myself developing a deeper sense of devotion to Joseph. He is, after all, my confirmation patron saint. He was also the patron saint of the high school I attended.

But, above all, I am beginning to appreciate how he could – in silence, in loving service – put aside his plans and open his life to the call of God.

He was not attached to a false sense of his “autonomy” or to doing what he wanted to express his individuality. He recognized that responding to the call of God and changing our plans can open us to the grace in the deepest recesses of our souls.

He is the saint who worked in the shadows but put God first in a life of loving service.

I think Jesuit Father Alfred Delp, writing from a Nazi prison, puts it well:

Joseph is the man on the outskirts, standing in the shadows, silently waiting, there when wanted and always ready to help. He is the man in whose life God is constantly intervening with warnings and visions. Without complaint he allows his own plans to be set aside. . . .
Willing, unquestioning service is the secret of his life. It is his message for us and his judgment of us. We have crabbed and confined God within the pitiable limits of our obstinacy, our complacency, our mania for ‘self expression.’ We have given God only the minimum of recognition…

Joseph’s silent yes to the angel speaks to me of the call to be “here” for others, quietly accompanying them, in love.