The Gospel: Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24A
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
After the Gospel:
Happy Feast Day, Br Giuseppe, Br Joseph, as we join in celebrating your patron saint!
Twenty-four years after arriving here, our founding monks certainly weren’t living thru The Good Old Days! In fact, they faced an uncertain future.
The years surrounding the War Between the States had been filled with troubles,
they were begging and borrowing money, two dozen monks lay buried in the cemetery, and there were no new monks … all of which was wrapped up in their prayer.
That’s when the community chose St Joseph as the Patron, Protector, and Defender of the Monastery of Gethsemani, asking him to increase the merit and number of the brethren …
They were confident that the one who had preserved the Christ Child from the plots of a wicked Herod was able to protect Gethsemani from dying out.
The big stone tablet on the front porch bears witness that since 1872, St Joseph has protected Gethsemani.
Of all the saints to choose from in an hour of need, why did the monks pick St Joseph?
Because of all men to choose from, God had selected Joseph for one special service:
to be Husband of Mary, Head of the Holy Family.
For the Son of God to become Man,
a human Mother was needed,
a foster father was needed to protect them both.
Without Mary, without Joseph, the whole thing would have fallen apart.
The monks saw how Joseph was the Silent Partner through it all,
not a single word from him recorded in the Gospels, his language is silence.
He paid attention to angel voices in his sleep;
prompt and generous obedience was asked of him;
and his manual labor earned Jesus the reputation of being “the son of the carpenter.”
But about Joseph himself, there’s little else …
So, what is it that made him such a good friend of God and of our monks?
Joseph was a “Righteous Man,” that’s how St Matthew describes him.
In the dictionary, “Righteous” means
consistently acting in accord with divine or moral law,
free from guilt or sin,
honorable and fair in dealings with others.
They chose him because Joseph believed God was present in his life,
he wanted to follow God’s law and live a life of faith,
was content to be behind the scenes, hidden,
an ordinary craftsman with no personal greatness to make him stand out,
not always in control, not always making the decisions,
following along quietly, always silent and obedient,
remaining in the shadow of the mysteries of Jesus,
seeing a little heavenly light thrown upon the mysteries every so often by an angel.
They chose Joseph because he trusted the Lord enough to allow Him to be his Shepherd,
guide him through the hardships …
Hardships which came one after another…
Starting after his engagement in Nazareth… discovering his intended wife was pregnant,
but coming to believe it was God’s work, and accepting it.
Then forced to go to Bethlehem…
– 90 miles – walking in winter with a heavily pregnant woman…
a birth in a cave because there were no welcoming relatives or friends with a spare bedroom…
a second forced march to flee a killer…
– 430 miles – walking to Egypt, with a woman and her young baby,
carrying their own provisions… Skins of water, a lot of bread.
In Egypt … living as refugees,
treated as foreigners by an alien people of strange language and religion and customs,
then, after three years, walking all the way back to Nazareth … 500 miles …. having to start all over again back where they started from.
Somewhere under those adversities, many of us would have given up and quit…
Joseph, however, didn’t. Nor did he ask how the story would end:
How would Jesus save his people?
Most of us would’ve had questions ….WHY .. HOW ???
or requests .. to help things work out…
A big house for the mother and child to live comfortably… …
Servants to help with the chores, the garden, the food, to fetch water and firewood.
Protection from sickness and troubles …
A few coins each month for safe measure …
After all, this is the Son of God we’re talking about…
Joseph’s story, however, isn’t about perks and privileges,
it’s about a God who has a plan, and needs co-operation …
a God willing to stoop down to become like us… in all things but sin …
however, but He needs a Yes.
Joseph was willing to work along with God’s plan, whatever that plan might be.
Willing to be a carpenter and work like everyone else in the village to support a wife and child,
live through troubles and sickness like everyone else,
not knowing what tomorrow would bring.
Willing to become a partner in God’s plan of redemption,
even though he couldn’t see what the whole plan would look like,
even though he might not live long enough to see it happen.
He was a man filled with faith,
he loved God, trusted God enough to say Yes,
because he knew how faithful God was.
It was his “Yes” that brought down God’s blessings:
Joseph became the legal and foster father of Jesus,
able not just to see God and to hear him,
but take him in his arms and kiss him, wash him, clothe him,
show him to people or hide and protect him.
Eight days after the birth of Jesus,
it was Joseph presiding over the Jewish rite of circumcision
that made the new-born child one of the chosen people.
When the Magi arrived, Joseph was not only present but the one who received them
as Head of the Family.
This year’s feast of St Joseph is certainly bittersweet,
with the world facing an uncertain future, with so many churches shut down.
We’re blessed to be able to celebrate Mass as a Community, to bring all our concerns wrapped up in prayer.
We’re blessed to gather in honor of our Protector,
the Joseph whose “Yes” enabled Jesus to come into our world and save it,
the Joseph who saved the Christ Child from the plots of a wicked Herod,
the Joseph who has protected Gethsemani over the years.
Saint Joseph, Pray for us now! Be our Patron, Protector, Defender in 2020! Amen.