Dec. 18th. Lectionary 193. Scripture: Jeremiah 23:5-8. Psalm
72:1.12-13.18-19. Matthew 1:18-24
Our only description of who Joseph is appears today in the conclusion of
Matthew’s first chapter. Joseph is the husband of Mary and the
foster-father of the child born of her, Jesus. We see him not as an old
man who is there just as a protector of Mary, but truly as a strong and
just person who has all of the best of human qualities that a father should
have. Only the Apocryphal Gospels picture him as old. The New Testament
says nothing about his age and handles the delicate relationship he has
with Mary in a sane and different way that makes sense to us who have the
Christian faith. Our passage then is the fullest description of who he is.
Though short it contains much with in it as do most of the passages in
Scripture. The passage is central to the mystery of the Incarnation and to
our salvation. Joseph is the parent who gives the name of Jesus to the
child according to the information he receives from an angelic messenger
sent to him from God in a dream.
The key word to describe Joseph is “dikaiosyne” in the text of Matthew. It
is multivalent in meaning; here are the words used in the dictionary of the
New Testement’ Greek: just, upright, righting wrong, doing what God
requires, putting oneself in a right relationship with God and neighbor,
doing acts of charity (Matthew 6:1), and one who fulfills his or her
duties. Joseph is such a person who has all of these qualities and virtues.
The word in Hebrew contains the same meanings. It is tsadiq. Here are a
few examples of how it is used to day among Jewish persons. ” A word from
the same root as tsadiq is tsedakah, “charity.” Tsadiq and tsadeket are
powerful words. This is the ultimate compliment to someone or to someone’s
memory. Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov said,”I hope I can love a tsadiq as
much as God loves a wicked man. Tsadikim are greater in their death than in
And from the Short dictionary on the Psalms we learn that the word tsadiq
has three main meanings: the objective right of persons, the respect of
this right (social justice) and the quality of relationship with God–one
is righteous (tsaddiq) if he or she respects God’s plans for the world.
This is one of the principal designations of the believer in the Psalter.
Our devotion to St. Joseph has him as the Protector of the Universal Church
and as the Patron for a peaceful death. We can see that the word that
describes him is correctly handed on in the tradtion about Joseph in our
prayers dedicated to him. May he guide us this day of Advent as we sing
the second O Antiphon. Amen.