Beato Angelico - José y Maria - Joseph and Mary

St. Joseph: a model for the lay Dominicans

Joseph has been much on my mind recently. We don’t really give him much thought – but then, neither does the Bible. We hear about him only four times: when the angel tells him about Mary’s extraordinary pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-24); when he takes her to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2:4-5); when an angel (the same one? We don’t know) tells him to take his family away from Herod’s jurisdiction (Matthew 2:13-15); and when he and Mary frantically look for Jesus and find him in the temple in Jerusalem talking to the teachers (Luke 2:48-50). If it comes to that, we don’t hear a great deal about Mary either, but she certainly has a starring role in the story of salvation.

So what can we say about Joseph, the invisible man? Well, for a start, look at his reaction to Mary’s pregnancy before the angel’s intervention: he knows he is not the father of the child in her womb, and he not unnaturally decides to break his engagement – but he decides to do it privately, not to denounce her before the whole community, not to make a drama of the situation. That’s the behaviour of a generous, good-hearted man. Then, when the angel tells him who is the father of the coming child, he gives his assent immediately. We talk about Mary and the crucial nature of her “Yes” at the Annunciation; but Joseph has his annunciation too, and exactly like Mary he says “Yes”. Without his “Yes” the story of our relationship with God would be very different.

Then there’s his instant response to the second angelic intervention: he assumes full responsibility for his family and makes the necessary arrangements for them to leave Judaea and go to Egypt to keep the child safe. Because this is told in a rather throwaway manner by Luke, we tend to forget what was involved: packing their belongings, making a long journey, somehow maintaining Mary and Jesus while they were living so far from home. It’s impressive, isn’t it?

The last time we hear of him is as he and his wife frantically search for the boy they’ve lost track of. They were travelling with friends and family; it’s perfectly understandable that at first they supposed Jesus was with an uncle or an aunt, a cousin or a family friend. They have to trek all the way back to Jerusalem to find him; and when they do, notice what Mary says: “Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” – or, as another translation puts it, “Your father and I have been frantic”, or yet another, “Your father and I have been worried sick”. Anyone who’s ever lost track of a child can understand this reaction; and it was three days since they’d last seen him. (Three days… remind you of anything?) But what I want to draw attention to here is that Luke tells us that Mary said “Your father and I”. Not “My husband” or “This very nice man who’s helped to bring you up”. Even she, it seems, thought of Joseph simply as Jesus’ father. In human terms, that was exactly who he was.

Joseph was a working man with a very special wife and child. He never – so far as we know – wrote anything or made any public pronouncements. He was a lay person who made his own invaluable contribution to the life of the most important child in history, and thus to the life of all humanity. What a wonderful model for us lay Dominicans as we prepare for Christmas!

St. Joseph: a model for the lay Dominicanshttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Beato-Angelico-Adorazione-Giuseppe-e-Maria.jpghttp://www.fraternitiesop.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/Beato-Angelico-Adorazione-Giuseppe-e-Maria-150x150.jpgRuth Anne HendersonEnglishSliderSpirituality,,
Joseph has been much on my mind recently. We don’t really give him much thought – but then, neither does the Bible. We hear about him only four times: when the angel tells him about Mary’s extraordinary pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-24); when he takes her to Bethlehem for the census...
Joseph has been much on my mind recently. We don’t really give him much thought – but then, neither does the Bible. We hear about him only four times: when the angel tells him about Mary’s extraordinary pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-24); when he takes her to Bethlehem for the census (Luke 2:4-5); when an angel (the same one? We don’t know) tells him to take his family away from Herod’s jurisdiction (Matthew 2:13-15); and when he and Mary frantically look for Jesus and find him in the temple in Jerusalem talking to the teachers (Luke 2:48-50). If it comes to that, we don’t hear a great deal about Mary either, but she certainly has a starring role in the story of salvation. So what can we say about Joseph, the invisible man? Well, for a start, look at his reaction to Mary’s pregnancy before the angel’s intervention: he knows he is not the father of the child in her womb, and he not unnaturally decides to break his engagement – but he decides to do it privately, not to denounce her before the whole community, not to make a drama of the situation. That’s the behaviour of a generous, good-hearted man. Then, when the angel tells him who is the father of the coming child, he gives his assent immediately. We talk about Mary and the crucial nature of her “Yes” at the Annunciation; but Joseph has his annunciation too, and exactly like Mary he says “Yes”. Without his “Yes” the story of our relationship with God would be very different. Then there’s his instant response to the second angelic intervention: he assumes full responsibility for his family and makes the necessary arrangements for them to leave Judaea and go to Egypt to keep the child safe. Because this is told in a rather throwaway manner by Luke, we tend to forget what was involved: packing their belongings, making a long journey, somehow maintaining Mary and Jesus while they were living so far from home. It’s impressive, isn’t it? The last time we hear of him is as he and his wife frantically search for the boy they’ve lost track of. They were travelling with friends and family; it’s perfectly understandable that at first they supposed Jesus was with an uncle or an aunt, a cousin or a family friend. They have to trek all the way back to Jerusalem to find him; and when they do, notice what Mary says: “Your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety” – or, as another translation puts it, “Your father and I have been frantic”, or yet another, “Your father and I have been worried sick”. Anyone who’s ever lost track of a child can understand this reaction; and it was three days since they’d last seen him. (Three days… remind you of anything?) But what I want to draw attention to here is that Luke tells us that Mary said “Your father and I”. Not “My husband” or “This very nice man who’s helped to bring you up”. Even she, it seems, thought of Joseph simply as Jesus’ father. In human terms, that was exactly who he was. Joseph was a working man with a very special wife and child. He never – so far as we know – wrote anything or made any public pronouncements. He was a lay person who made his own invaluable contribution to the life of the most important child in history, and thus to the life of all humanity. What a wonderful model for us lay Dominicans as we prepare for Christmas!

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2 thoughts on “St. Joseph: a model for the lay Dominicans”

  1. Dear Ruth Anne:

    I have greatly enjoyed reading and meditating your article. So much, that I have translated it into Spanish for the benefit of our non Spanish speaking brothers and sisters, and have forwarded the translation to Edoardo for publication in our page.

    Thank you for your contributions to our page.
    Héctor, OP

    Public CommentUserDear Ruth Anne: I have greatly enjoyed reading and meditating your article. So much, that I have translated it into Spanish for the benefit of our non Spanish speaking brothers and sisters, and have forwarded the translation to Edoardo for publication in our page. Thank you for your contributions to our page. Héctor, OP

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