Joseph, the carpenter, faithful servant of the Lord, took Mary into his home as his wife and named his son Jesus.
Joseph, faithful servant of the Lord, took Mary and Jesus and fled to Egypt in the middle of the night, remaining there until the appointed time then returning to Nazareth.
Joseph, faithful servant of the Lord, husband of Mary, the mother of God, earthly father of Jesus, the Son of God, lived his faith.
Joseph, faithful servant of the Lord, did all that was spoken to him by the Angel of God.
St. Joseph, the patron Saint of the Universal Church, unborn children, fathers, workers, travelers, immigrants, and a happy death. We do not know much about St. Joseph. Not knowing much though is intriguing, because Joseph could be any of us—a “regular Joe” capable through his faith and God’s grace of facing the challenges of his life and the times in which he lived.
Perhaps, the best place to start though is with what we do know about St. Joseph. We know that he was a carpenter (MT 13:54-55). However, according to scholars the Greek word “Tekton” would have been used to describe Joseph, meaning that he was a craftsman or contractor; someone very skilled at working with wood, stones, and metals. It is also likely that he traveled quite a bit to seek work.
We also know from Bible verses, that St. Joseph was a husband (the husband of Mary the Blessed Virgin) and he was the “foster” or earthly father of Jesus. These two pieces of information, along with the fact that he was a working class man not only make St. Joseph relatable, but they also suggest he was a person of great faith, courage and wisdom. Think about it…the husband of Mary, the mother of God, and the earthly father of Jesus, the son of God.
From the passages in the Bible, we can also see ways that Joseph’s life and his choices exemplify those of someone striving to be faithful to God. We know that he had dreams in which he was visited by an Angel of God telling him to not be afraid to marry Mary (that she had conceived by the Holy Spirit), a dream to flee to Egypt, and then to return from Egypt. We know that Joseph listened, trusted and did as the Angel of God instructed in each case – Joseph married Mary, named his son Jesus, fled to Egypt, and later returned to Nazareth in Galilee all upon the instruction of the Angel of the Lord in dreams.
We can also see wisdom in the spiritual work of mercy exhibited by Joseph in bearing patience against wrongdoing or perceived wrongdoing. Mary, his betrothed, is found to be pregnant, yet they had not had any relations yet. We can only imagine what Joseph’s first thoughts to this news were. I doubt anyone would have trouble understanding if he was livid and decided to leave Mary. Also in that day and time in history, it would have been well within societal expectations for Mary to be stoned to death. Yet, here we have Joseph, deciding to quietly divorce Mary, not wanting her to be harmed. Despite what must have seemed and felt like a “betrayal,” he saw it in his heart, to show mercy and compassion. Joseph’s response, even before a visitation from the Angel of God, is remarkable and seems one only possible by someone very prayerful and inspired by God.
It leaves one to wonder, how am I able to show mercy when I am wronged? How am I able to be patient and to persevere? How can I, how can we, use St. Joseph as a model?
In each of the situations described in Scripture, Joseph dies unto himself, sacrifices and cooperates with God’s will. He shows openness to and focus on God’s will at each point. He was able to survive and make it through difficult and challenging circumstances such as the journey to Bethlehem with an expecting Mary. The journey to Bethlehem would not have been an easy one. Then there is the impending birth of Jesus with nowhere to stay, the flight to Egypt, the journey back to Nazareth and beyond.
How can we have the faith and patience of Joseph? How can we, like Joseph, recognize and accept that things happen in God’s time, not according to our time, and to remember that God is faithful to those who are faithful to God? Do I remind myself of the ways that God has been faithful to and patient with me along my journey so far? Do I allow past experiences to help me to remain patient and faithful, and to continue to trust in God and in God’s timing?
Joseph wasn’t given explicit plans or an outline of all that would happen in the dreams he had. In the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2, we are told that Jesus is laid in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. We are also told at the presentation of Jesus in the temple that Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus would be glory for God’s people and that Mary’s heart would be pierced. It then says, “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him.” Joseph and Mary didn’t know all that was going to happen.
When we look at Joseph, he was just given a basic directive in his dreams…take Mary as your wife…flee to Egypt. He listened and let God lead him. He had faith in God, faith that we can only assume grew with each event in his life and most especially through the birth of Jesus and all that transpired in the time after his birth.
Martin Luther King said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” That’s the hard part, the “not knowing.” If we knew all the details of what was going to happen, it might be very easy to be patient, to let go of wrongdoings and to trust in God and in God’s plan.
Faith…trusting even when we cannot see the next step…trusting that it will be there when it is time to take that step. Waiting until it is there, taking direction from God and acting once the step appears and the way is made clear. St. Joseph, from what we know of him, did all of this.
It is more likely than not, especially at that time in history, as a father, Joseph not only provided for and protected his family, but also led his family in the observance of prayer and religious custom. We read in Scripture, “Each year his parents went to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, and when he was twelve years old, they went up according to festival custom.” (Lk 2:41)
With what we know of Joseph, it is not a stretch to imagine him as a very prayerful person.
For Joseph, the beginning of the journey that would lead him to emerge fully into who God created him to be and to fulfill his part in God’s plan, started with a dream, or a desire, long before the first dream, he had and that we read about in the Bible. The journey started with him saying “Yes” to letting God lead him, and continuing to say “Yes”, letting God continue to lead him all along the way. How can I, how can we, do the same?
Joseph the Carpenter rendered by Georges de La Tour