Today is the feast day of Joseph. There is precious little that we know about Joseph. Who are his family? Where does he come from? How did he know Mary and her family? Was he older or younger? Did he have children of his own?
We are left with so many questions. What we do know is that he is righteous. He is compassionate. He is obedient to the Lord. He is obedient even at the risk of bringing shame upon himself and his extended family.
Mary has the larger place in the church’s imagination and worship life. We sing her magnificat at Christmas time and during evening prayer. We don’t sing anything of Joseph’s. But, what we do, though, is recognize his characteristics of humility, compassion, righteousness, and obedience.
I would also like to say his strength of character as well. Does it not take a strong man to whisk a family away into a foreign land based on a dream? He left his business and all that was familiar for the son that was not truly his.
He has the strength of character to keep Mary as his wife and to raise a child that is not his own. He guards and protects them both. Joseph is the reason Jesus lives to die on the cross later. Certainly, Joseph’s consent is just as important as Mary’s.
I recently read Susan Howatch’s book Glittering Images. Remarkable book in so many ways. One of the developments in the story is that Dr. Charles Ashworth’s love interest, Lyle Christie, becomes pregnant by her Bishop. Charles takes Lyle as his wife and raises, guards, and protects her son just as vigilantly as his own.
As it turns out, part of Charles’ healing after his spiritual and mental breakdown was coming to terms with his own upbringing. Turns out Charles’ father was not his biological father. What a story that turned out to be!
This part of Glittering Images makes me wonder about Joseph. What was it like for him to take Mary as his wife and raise Jesus as his son? Perhaps in heaven, we will have it all explained to us. Until then, I am grateful for the example that Joseph sets before us. He is humble, compassionate, righteous, and obedient.