Today’s liturgical feast honoring Joseph inspires us to make the best of our God-given talents just as he did. We learn from the Scriptures that he was a carpenter or even better a skilled worker with stone, wood, and clay. He would be an engineer if he were among us today. We are led to appreciate our daily work, our ministry, and our appreciation for the good things we enjoy each day. His reputation in the Scriptures tells us he was righteous, an honor reserved for those who did God’s will through observing the precepts, statutes, and commandments of the Lord. As an integrated and wholesome person, he was entrusted with the mother of Jesus and united with her in the upbringing of her child, Jesus, the Son of God.
As foster-father, he became both the guardian and protector of Mary and Jesus in the years they were together in Nazareth. Matthew tells us that they also had a home in Bethlehem in those early years. St. John confirms the legitimacy of Jesus’ claim to be from the messianic lineage through the legal adoption of Jesus who was not his son according to the flesh, but solely the son of Mary in a miraculous way –the virgin birth.
In our tradition we associate him with the titles of Guardian of the Holy Family and Protector of the Church. He plays a strong role in chapter two of Matthew in carrying out the responsibilities of a protector of his family. He is led by his help from God through angelic messages to deliver the mother and child from the threat of one of the Herods. We have a record of who he is contained almost exclusively in Matthew’s Gospel in chapters one and two. The other mention of him in Luke as the betrothed of Mary and the holy family in John is what we learn from the other Gospels that have some facts about him.
The actual texts of the Gospels that mention him are few: Matthew 1:16-24; 2:13. Luke 1:27. 2:4-43. 3:23. 4:22. John 1:45; 6:42. Vatican II gives us an important document which shows how Joseph may have lived today. This document is used for the Office of Readings on the Feast of Joseph the worker. We can refresh our memories by going back to it and thinking of Joseph as we read paragraphs 33 and 34 of Gaudium et Spes. This shows us the Church in the modern world and how followers of Christ today should take on the values it suggests. In this contemporary reflection we see that the “Church is the guardian of God’s word, from which are drawn the principles of the religious and moral order…The Church desires to integrate the skilled knowledge of humankind, so that it may shine forth on the path which humanity has lately entered.” St. Joseph lives this out in the actual time of Jesus and Mary as their guardian and then in the Catholic tradition as the protector of the universal or catholic Church.
By our celebration we also offset the celebrations of Marxist and Communist nations that honor the worker. Unlike them, Joseph is a model for righteousness and the dignity of every human person to not only work but also to have their own home and property. (See the encyclical of John Paul II on Work or Laborem Exercens). Together with our Blessed Mother Joseph promotes as a model the new evangelization as Paul VI and John Paul II have encouraged us to be.
The following citation shows us what this means: “We are in the presence of a “new springtime for the Gospel” that bears on the new issues arising in this time of epochal change. Among these issues are the service of life in all its forms, the protection of the environment, the move toward greater unity among all peoples while respecting cultural diversity, the achievement of lasting peace based on truth and justice, the development of interreligious dialogue, and the defense of women’s dignity.” Servants of the Magnificat, page 125, Rome, General Curia O.S.M. 1996. Amen. Alleluia. Alleluia!