St Joseph

St. Joseph

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4th Sunday of Advent - Cycle a:


In an effort to rescue these last few days before Christmas from the onslaught of crass commercialism, someone once coined the catchy phrase: “Jesus is the reason for the season”.  This simple statement was intended to redirect our energies and efforts to the person who should really be the focus of our Advent observances and activities.  With the Feast of Christmas drawing ever nearer, our scripture readings also engage our attention with the reminder that Jesus’ incarnation and birth were prompted by the passionate love of a God who freely, and lovingly, chose to become personally involved in all things human.  In one word, the essence of what we celebrate at Christmas is Emmanuel – God with us.


As we get ready for Christmas, we remember the Prophecy of Isaiah about the virgin who would bear a child. Thus, we remember Mary.  But we also remember the shepherds, too, as well as the angels and the wise men.  All of them are part of the Christmas drama.  But today we are reminded of another player in the Christmas story. Today, the gospel reminds us of Joseph.


Usually overshadowed by our devotion to Mary, we often overlook Joseph’s role in Jesus’ birth.  But Matthew didn’t.  He even tells the story of Jesus’ birth from Joseph’s point of view.  In Matthew’s version, Mary receives little attention.


One point that Matthew had to make to his readers was that Jesus was the one foretold by Isaiah.  In our first reading, Isaiah tells us of a sign that will be given.  The sign is meant to validate his prophecy.  The sign is also miraculously extraordinary a virgin would give birth to a son.  This child would be called “Emmanuel”, or  “God with us”.  God’s promise – made through Isaiah – was that king David’s ancestry would continue through his heir.  It is through Joseph that this promise finally finds fulfillment.


Joseph connects us to the real humanness of the birth of Jesus.  The free choice of a humble carpenter to accept a pregnant spouse when he could have lawfully sent her away changed our world.  In doing so, Joseph bravely acted contrary to the socially acceptable custom which permitted divorce.  Even though it is traditionally believed that Joseph died before the start of Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph took care of Jesus from birth right up to his young adulthood.  We cannot underestimate the influence that Joseph exerted on Jesus as he was growing up. No man had more influence on Jesus than Joseph.  He was the man closest to Jesus.  No other man spent so much time in the company of Jesus.  Jesus did not spend more time in the company of any other man.  Jesus displays such an intimacy with his heavenly father that he must have learned from Joseph how a father and a son can be intimate.  Jesus would have called Joseph “father” long before he would teach us to call God “father”.


It was Joseph who would have taken Jesus to the synagogue.  Joseph taught Jesus how to pray.  Joseph would have helped Jesus prepare for his bar mitzvah.  It was Joseph who would have modeled for Jesus a man’s love and how to treat a woman properly.  Joseph taught Jesus how to be a carpenter and how to stand up for what is right.  Joseph taught Jesus to be proud of his family and his ancestry.  In short, Jesus learned from Joseph how to be a man.


Joseph remains the model for all fathers who feel inadequate or confused over the proper way of raising their sons to be good men.  Pope Pius IX, who proclaimed St. Joseph patron of the universal church, must have had all such husbands and fathers in mind when he recommend them to “go to Joseph”.



All too often, we make Mary much larger than life.  This has not happened to Joseph.  He is still the humble carpenter from Nazareth who stayed faithful to his wife despite every reason not to.  He was a father who worked hard to provide for his family.  He was a religious man who wasn’t afraid of being religious.  If we want to stay connected to Christmas, all we have to do is to look to Joseph and remember a father’s love for his son.  Amen.



The information about St. Joseph is taken from Fr. James Martin's book, "My Life with the Saints".

Homily by Rev. James Keating, O.S.A. December 22, 2013