ST JOSEPH, MOST OBEDIENT & PILLAR OF FAMILIES

ST JOSEPH, MOST OBEDIENT & PILLAR OF FAMILIES
 Retreat talk to Satellite Denary CMO
(Mt 1:16-25, 2:13-23; Lk 1:26-27, 2:1-7, 21-28, 41-52)

1.0.         OBEDIENCE OF ST JOSEPH

St Joseph was an excellently obedient servant of God. His form of obedience is not just in mere observance of the law; he shares in Mary’s form of obedience to God. St Joseph is an epitome of obedience because he gave way for the will of God in his life, i.e. he did all he could ever to obstruct the will of God. While Mary surrendered herself to the will of God, Joseph gave way to what God had predestined to happen. Joseph appeared like a resolute man, who knew what he wanted; a determinate man, who was strong enough to execute his plans and bring about his desired result! He was a man of action, who spoke by his works. Yet, he was a man of God, who would never resolve what would displease God, and was ready to execute what God commanded. Thus, his virtue of obedience lies in his faith and relationship with God.

St Joseph was a faithful son of King David’s lineage. He seemed to have embodied the hope of an eternal dynasty from the house of David; he was duly recognized as ‘of the house of David.’ He was a worthy son, a man that was down to earth with his family heritage, and was found worthy to stand in the name of his ancestor, David! Where David was recognized as a man after God’s heart, his lineage son, Joseph grew to become ‘father’, a man who dwells with God! So Joseph was faithful to the great virtues that characterize the hope of an eternal dynasty in the house of David. He was a chaste man, just, hardworking carpenter, quiet man, respects women, fears God, sensitive and attentive.

St Joseph was obedient even to civil authorities. He obeyed the directive of Emperor Augustus Caesar to go to his native town of Bethlehem for the census. Despite the inconveniences of making the long journey since Mary was due for delivery, Joseph obeyed the civil directive. It appears he travelled at the very dateline because of his low financial status and the inconveniences of travelling with a pregnant woman. That was why he could not get accommodation in the inn. He was also obedient to the religious laws of the time. This is obvious as he went with Mary to dedicate the Child according to the temple rules. And every year, he would lead Mary and Jesus on an annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem.

St Joseph’s act of obedience shines out the most in his encounter with the angel, through a dream. He obeyed the message of the angel to take Mary home as his wife. He obeyed when the angel told him to name the child, Jesus. He obeyed when told in a dream to escape with the child to Egypt, even without any definite time frame to return. He obeyed when asked to return. These were no easy moments for him, but he obeyed. Surprisingly, he even obeyed promptly and completely! Such a level of humble and unreserved response can only come from a man who lives under God’s commandments.

2.0.  ST JOSEPH, PILLAR OF FAMILIES

Pope Leo XIII declared St Joseph the patron and protector of the universal Church, the earthly family of God, in his encyclical, “Quamquam Pluries” on August 15th, 1889. God found him worthy to preside over the household that the Saviour would come from. St Joseph became an essential link through which the hope of Israel in general, especially the hope of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the hope of an everlasting dynasty in the name of David, would find their fulfilment. Thus, he became the PILLAR by which the hope of Israel towers to its fulfilment in Christ Jesus. In turn, St Joseph stood firm like the PILLAR by which the Holy Family is rooted in the socio-cultural and religious life of Israel. In other words, he gave the divine Son his cultural identity and upbringing; he gave him a ‘take off point’ to begin His ministry. Jesus would be called, ‘The Son of Joseph’ (Mk 6:3). And ‘Son of David’ (Mt 15:22, 21:9; 2Tim 2:8) became a messianic title for Jesus. “How can the Scribes maintain that the Christ is the son of David?” (Mk 12:35).

According to Pope Leo XIII in ‘Quamquam Pluries’ No. 3, Hence it came about that the Word of God was humbly subject to Joseph, that He obeyed him, and that He rendered to him all those offices that children are bound to render to their parents. From this two-fold dignity flowed the obligation that nature lays upon the head of families so that Joseph became the guardian, the administrator, and the legal defender of the divine house whose chief he was. And during the whole course of his life, he fulfilled those charges and those duties. He set himself to protect with a mighty love and a daily solicitude his spouse and the Divine Infant; regularly by his work he earned what was necessary for the one and the other for nourishment and clothing; he guarded against death the Child threatened by a monarch’s jealousy, and found for Him a refuge; in the miseries of the journey and the bitterness of exile he was ever the companion, the assistance, and the upholder of the Virgin and Jesus. Now the divine house which Joseph ruled with the authority of a father, contained within its limits the scarce-born Church. From the same fact that the holiest Virgin is the mother of Jesus Christ is she the mother of all Christians whom she bore on Mount Calvary amid the supreme throes of the Redemption; Jesus Christ is, in a manner, the first-born of Christians, who by the adoption and Redemption are his brothers. And for such reasons the Blessed Patriarch looks upon the multitude of Christians who make up the Church as confided especially to his trust – this limitless family spread over the earth, over which, because he is the spouse of Mary and the Father of Jesus Christ he holds, as it were, a paternal authority. It is, then, natural and worthy that as the Blessed Joseph ministered to all the needs of the family at Nazareth and girt it about with his protection, he should now cover with the cloak of his heavenly patronage and defend the Church of Jesus Christ.

As the pillar, St Joseph was not an absentee father. He was readily available, both in the difficult times and joyous times. His fatherhood was concretely expressed in his having made his life service to the mystery of Incarnation and the redemptive work connected with it. His devotion to his family is a model for fathers today, who are easily tempted towards allowing disordered attachments to pleasure to distort and hinder their dedication to their family. St Joseph was a reliable and trustworthy guardian of the Holy Family. According to St Francis de Sales, St Joseph was the custodian of the hearts of Jesus and Mary, the grace of love that he received from the Holy Spirit made him a participant of all the goods Mary possessed, and which made them grow marvellously to perfection.

The Church continues to recommend St Joseph as the patron of fathers. Family life today appears to be threatened. We have more things to tear us apart than to unite us; several forces are battling against unity in the home.  Many fathers are gradually losing their capacity to make binding commitments. We see from St Joseph how a person’s virtuous and spiritual life translates into a pillar that supports others. Joseph is like a mustard seed sown that grows into a big shrub (Mk 4:30-32). Let us embrace St Joseph today; seeking his intercession and learning from his example. Our families shall stand secure on Jesus Christ, who is the Cornerstone from which we rise as supporting pillars of God’s household. Amen.

Fr Jude Chinwenwa Nwachukwu, C.Ss.R
St Ann Catholic Church,
PPL, Okokomaiko, Lagos.
CMO DENARY LENTEN RETREAT
March 27th, 2021.
www.nwachinwe.blogspot.com

 

 

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