On March 19 we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph in this Year of St. Joseph declared by Pope Francis.
Joseph is my “name saint,” and for many years I have had devotion to him in my daily life. In this special year, and especially during this long pandemic, I find my prayer and reflection turning often to St. Joseph.
On earth, Jesus called St. Joseph his father. So should we. From St. Joseph, Our Lord learned how to walk, how to pray, how to work, and how to love. More than anything, Jesus learned from his earthly father that the meaning and purpose of our human lives is found in doing the will of our Father in heaven.
When Jesus teaches us to pray “thy will be done,” we know that he witnessed this every day growing up, in the example of his earthly foster father, not to mention in the life of Mary, his mother.
We see in St. Joseph what a life totally devoted to doing the will of God looks like. He entrusted his whole life to serve God’s plan of salvation.
All of us are born with a part to play in the divine plan. We are not put here for no reason. Our heavenly Father calls us each by name, we are his beloved sons and daughters, and he gives us a part to play in building the family of God — his Church and his kingdom — on earth.
That is why the Savior of the world came to live a very ordinary human life in the home of Mary and Joseph. Because God’s kingdom comes — not only in the wars and great struggles of history, but also in the decisions and details of ordinary life: in our work, in our participation in schools, churches, and communities, and in a special way, in our homes and families.
March 19 also marks the beginning of the Year “Amoris Laetitia Family,” which Pope Francis has dedicated for reflecting on the joy of family love. Again we reflect that in God’s plan, salvation comes into our world in the person of a Child born and raised in a human family. Our Lord’s plan continues in the way we love and raise our own families.
In everything, we are called to serve God’s plan as St. Joseph did, in humility, “hidden” from the world. The political and religious leaders of his time — the emperor, King Herod, the chief priests, and scribes — none of these people knew who St. Joseph was.
St. Joseph was known only to his neighbors and family. He was the carpenter, the husband of Mary, the father of Jesus. It is the same with us. Few of us are known beyond our circles of family, friends, and co-workers.
Salvation history is playing out in all these places — in our relationships, in the events of our days, in the people we encounter. In all these conditions, God wants to work through us to accomplish his plan of salvation. He works through us, even though he is aware, as we are, of our fears, weaknesses, and shortcomings.
In “With a Father’s Heart,” his beautiful and challenging letter for the Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis writes: “As we read the infancy narratives … a superficial reading … can often give the impression that the world is at the mercy of the strong and mighty.”
We can feel this way in our own lives, like God is not in charge, like our lives are in the hands of “experts,” authorities, and forces we cannot control or even influence. These tendencies were present in our society before the pandemic. The long months of enforced isolation and emergency orders have only increased these feelings for many of us.
In the life of St. Joseph we see that even in the violence and chaos of the events, God continues to work for the world’s salvation. And for our salvation, too.
“So too, our lives may at times seem to be at the mercy of the powerful,” Pope Francis writes, “but … God always finds a way to save us, provided we show the same creative courage as the carpenter of Nazareth, who was able to turn a problem into a possibility by trusting always in divine providence.”
Trust in God is the key to living with hope and without fear. So let us try to live as St. Joseph lived, with love for Jesus and Mary, and with the intention to do the will of God in everything. If at times, like St. Joseph, we do not fully understand what is being asked of us, let us remain open to God’s will, and know he will give us the courage to do what the moment demands.
Pray for me and I will pray for you.
And let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help us to learn the lessons of her spouse, St. Joseph. Just as her Son did.