Solemnity of St Joseph
March 19th, 2019
2 Sam 7:4-16; Luke 2:41-51
Today is the feast of St Joseph, who is patron of the Parish of Benalla, and I am so very pleased to be with you today to celebrate your Feastday. All we know definitely about St Joseph can be found in Infancy Narratives of the gospels of St Matthew and St Luke. St. Luke’s focus in the Gospel we read today, is on the identity of Jesus and the focus is on St Joseph.
We don't know a lot about Joseph himself – but we do know that his father’s name was Jacob and that he was the husband of Mary. We know that he was a carpenter and that he lived in Nazareth. We also know that he was a righteous man who followed the law: He observed religious law – we know he went to Jerusalem for the Jewish festivals. He also followed civil law: He went to Bethlehem for the census. We also know that Joseph had dreams. God spoke to him in his dreams and he did as God asked.
We know that after Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, the family returned to live in Nazareth. Only two other incidents are mentioned where Joseph was present. One was at the circumcision of Jesus eight days after his birth. This was when they met Simeon who made prophecies about Jesus’ future and spoke of a ‘sword of sorrow’ which would pierce Mary’s heart. The other, which we read about today, was when Jesus was 12 years old, and went with Mary and Joseph to celebrate the Passover in Jerusalem.
As a good observant Jew, and lover of the Law of God, St. Joseph would gladly make the long journey to the Temple in Jerusalem each year for the great feasts. This was one way for him to demonstrate that his whole life was turned towards the God of Israel. With him went his beloved wife, the Blessed Virgin, Mary Most Holy, and the child Jesus, now close to taking up for himself the religious responsibilities proper to adults.
After the celebration, Jesus, unknown to his parents, stayed on in the city and he was only found by them three days later discussing with the teachers of the Law in the Temple. Without doubt, the episode of the loss and finding in the Temple was painful to St. Joseph in a way we can barely imagine. But no actual rebuke to him can be found in it. Jesus insisted, rightly, that his first loyalty and love had to be to his heavenly Father.
That is the last reference to Joseph in the Scriptures and it is not known when he may have died. During the public life of Jesus, only his Mother is mentioned as being with him up to his death and resurrection.
What is also interesting to me is that nowhere in the Gospels do we ever hear anything Joseph says. But he’s a man of action: he does what the angel tells him; he takes Mary as his wife; he goes to Bethlehem; he finds a place to stay for the night; he takes his family to Egypt... He’s a man of action – not a man of words.
And just as God had a plan for Joseph, God has a plan for each one of us. The plan does not need to be more than that He wants us to be righteous. God wants us to follow the law – observe the commandments. We may feel insignificant, that we have nothing to offer. Still, God has a plan for us. God speaks to us in our thoughts as we get to know and speak with him.
St. Joseph may have been a simple carpenter, but today he is venerated as one of the greatest saints in the Church. Today we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary. The Church has been observing this feast since the 10th century. And Joseph has another feast, a Memorial on 1st May. the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker. St. Joseph is the patron saint of husbands, of fathers, the patron saint of families, the patron saint of homes, the patron saint of workers. In 1870, St. Joseph was declared patron of the universal Church. And of course, we all know that St. Joseph is the patron of our parish, St Joseph’s Benalla.
That’s a huge list of responsibilities for a man of so few words! But it is a perfect job for a man of action, and I am sure St Joseph would be delighted with your school website – particularly the newsletters which are a great way building the Catholic school community, as well as providing amazing insight into your planning and action for providing a wonderful education for our students. Congratulations to all who help with this important initiative!
Saint Joseph appears in the Gospel as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.
And so, as we journey through Lent – especially when we gather around the Eucharistic table, let us pray to St. Joseph: Let him guide us and help us open our hearts to God’s plan. That we may be upright and righteous; that we may be men and women after God’s will; that we may be able to pray, “Dear Father in heaven, show me how I fit into this plan of yours”.
Finally, we call upon St. Joseph to guide our world, trusting that the heart of the humble working man of Nazareth, now overflowing with immeasurable wisdom and compassion will always harbour a singular and precious fellow-feeling for the whole of mankind. Therefore on this great feast, to the man whose words we do not know, but whose life speaks so eloquently to us all, we simply say: St Joseph pray for us!