In this week of Laetare Sunday, we have another reason for joy: today the universal Church rejoices as we celebrate the glorious Solemnity of St. Joseph, Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast takes on an added significance this year because we are observing a Year of St. Joseph. Pope Francis announced this special Year on December 8, 2020, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the proclamation of St. Joseph as patron of the universal Church.
In his Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde (“With a Father’s Heart”), the Holy Father shares some “personal reflections” on St. Joseph, whom he calls an “extraordinary figure, so close to our own human experience.” During the months of the worldwide crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have served and sacrificed in hidden ways, in the spirit of St. Joseph. The Pope says, “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support and a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
The readings for today guide us to reflect on the humble, quiet service of Joseph in God’s plan for salvation. The first reading is the famous promise to King David, given through the prophet Nathan, that the House of David would continue forever. Joseph is from the line of David. He is the man whom God chose from the beginning to serve as the father of Jesus. Because of Joseph, Jesus can truly be acknowledged and honored as a “son of David.”
St. Paul in his Letter to the Romans speaks of the faith and hope of the patriarch Abraham. These are spiritual qualities that shine out in the life of Joseph as well. He walked in the footsteps of his Father Abraham, and nothing seemed to daunt him. His faith did not waver when he discovered that Mary was with child, when he traveled with her to Bethlehem to be registered, when he fled with his family to Egypt, and when he returned from their exile. Indeed, in these and other situations in his life, Joseph’s strong faith in God was manifested. There was no doubt or hesitation in his responses. His faith-in-action witness is a fitting parallel to the faith of Mary in her wholehearted acceptance of the message of the Archangel Gabriel that she would be the Mother of God.
Joseph is for us a wonderful model of the interior life, which can only develop if it is built on obedience to all that the Father wills. Joseph’s obedience to the Father is constant in his strong, tender and humble care for Mary and Jesus. We can only imagine Joseph’s thoughts as he served daily as the head of the Holy Family, knowing that Jesus was the Son of God and Mary the Mother of God. Joseph served willingly because he was truly poor in spirit, a shining example of the anawim, depending totally on the Providence of God in humble obedience. Joseph’s whole life was a journey of trust, continuously offering himself to God as he did God’s will.
St. Joseph is also a striking model of silence; there is not a single word spoken by him recorded in the Scriptures. Interior silence is necessary for a deep interior life. Silence is the profound activity of listening love. Indeed, the more we extract ourselves from the noise of the world that surrounds us, the more we will be able to listen interiorly and discern the subtle voice of God. Joseph was such an attentive listener that he was able to hear God even while asleep. His ready response to the will of God, a fruit of his interior silence, is a sign of his great holiness. Holiness is not measured by what we do but by how much of our heart we entrust into God’s hands.
The words of today’s Gospel Acclamation can be applied to the lasting witness of St. Joseph: “Blessed are those who dwell in your house, O Lord, they never cease to praise you.” We honor Joseph, who provided a home for Jesus and Mary. As they were blessed to dwell in his earthly house, now he is blessed to dwell in their heavenly home and to join them in giving praise to the Father.
Can I learn from St. Joseph that a hidden life can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation? Is my life in the spirit of anawim, like Joseph, who humbly depended totally on the providence of God? In my walk in the interior life, have I experienced that silence is the profound activity of listening love?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 17, no. 3. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.