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Pastor's Column

Saint Joseph Gets a Surprise

Pastor’s Column

4th Sunday of Advent

December 18, 2022

Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.

Matthew 1:19

How did it come to pass that Mary and Joseph were to be married? We don’t know, but most likely it was an arranged marriage. In any event, St. Joseph certainly had no idea what he was getting into when he and Mary were married. Joseph was placed in a situation that was, to say the least, delicate. His wife was found to be pregnant, and the only thing Joseph knew was that he was not the father. Mary certainly knew the truth from the Angel Gabriel, but Joseph did not. Mary knew God would fill him in somehow; and God did, but not before Joseph decided to head for the divorce court.

After a delay of some time, after the Angel Gabriel appeared to Joseph in a dream, Joseph comprehended what had happened and took Mary into his home. Yet look at what Joseph was asked to do and believe! He was told that God was the father of Mary’s child, and he believed this. Would you? After all, this had never happened before in the entire history of Judaism. I’m not sure if a dream would be enough to convince me, but Joseph believed. Already, he is amazing in his trust in God and in his spouse. Why? Joseph grew into his new and challenging situation, without running away.

Guido Reni, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Joseph was to be the foster-father of the Son of God - a role he did not ask for. Mysteriously, according to God’s plan, Joseph was chosen very carefully. What did Joseph do? He was suddenly confronted with the will of God, being asked to raise the Son of God and the Messiah. Scripture doesn’t say if Joseph felt inadequate; but as a carpenter, Joseph must have had a limited education, though, no doubt, skilled in his craft. He and Mary were also very poor.

Joseph confronted one challenge after another. His wife had to travel a long distance while 9 months pregnant. He had to flee to Egypt with his family and find work there, leaving his home and relatives behind. He was told that his foster-son would be rejected when he grew up. He and Mary “lost” Jesus for three days and did not know where to look for him when he was lost in Jerusalem. Then Jesus pointedly tells Joseph he has another Father he must be obedient to besides Joseph! Scripture says Mary and Joseph did not understand him or the meaning of this incident, but had to reflect, so they were like all struggling parents.

You and I face many challenges, just like St. Joseph. God’s will is that we grow into our challenges and learn from them. No matter how extraordinary or difficult God’s will for us may be, we can be like Joseph: allowing the Holy Spirit to teach us, to allow us to grow in grace without ever running away from the crosses we are sent.

Father Gary


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