When God chose to come into the world, he did so in a way that reaffirmed the goodness of the divine plan for the family. If there ever was a single woman who was more capable of being a loving mother, guide and protectress of a child, it surely was the mother of God. And given her elevation, holiness and status as the mother of God, it would certainly be difficult to be her spouse, that is, to measure up to her as a spouse.
But, while God chose to be conceived and born in a singular and exceptional way, the son of God was not to be raised by a single mother. Joseph was chosen to be her spouse and her loving partner in the raising of the most unique child that ever entered this world. Mary really didn’t absolutely need a spouse to be who she is. But Jesus evidently needed a father figure as well as a mother in order to be who he is as a man. So we can be fairly certain that while many men become husbands more or less by chance, there was nothing chance about the selection of Joseph to be the spouse of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. He was chosen, and chosen from all eternity.
We don’t know much biographical data about Joseph, but we know a fair amount about him from what is told to us by the Scriptures, and this knowledge is not from simply from what it says about Joseph directly, but from what it says about the Patriarchs, the saintly models of bridegrooms and fathers and the general moral and spiritual teaching when related to what it means to be a good father and husband. Joseph was the culmination of all of this scriptural reference. And he would fulfill his appointed role not by receiving continual messages in dreams, but simply by being a good man, a good husband and a good father figure, just as he had learned all this from the Scriptures and from his biblical based culture.
Joseph was the last of the Patriarchs, and self-evidently the greatest, since he was chosen to be the Patriarch who actually received the Messiah into his arms and into his care. Joseph was first of all a just man, which in scriptural terms means that he was a holy and virtuous man. He must’ve been exemplary in his holiness and virtue, the greatest of the Patriarchs in the sense also, for how else can we imagine him being chosen to be the husband of the holiest woman who ever lived and the foster father of the very son of God. God prepares people for their mission by his special graces, and the mission of St. Joseph was to love and care for the two most precious creatures that ever came into God’s creation.
Jesus, because he was truly a Son of Man needed a mother to love Him and nourish his soul with the highest virtues by her teaching and example, and Jesus needed a human father to raise him and shape him in all the virtues and characteristics of true manhood. He needed a father figure to model his life on just as his heavenly Father is perfectly reflected in his divine person. That same divine person required the presence of a human father figure, and we can be sure that his human personality must have reflected the manhood of Joseph who was his guardian, his model, and his teacher in the ways of manhood.
Joseph is also to be seen as the model husband, for how could we imagine that Mary would not have had a husband who would be a model for everyone else who becomes a husband. Joseph was the head of the holy family, and Mary obeyed him as all good Jewish women obeyed their husbands, and just as Jesus the son of God obeyed both his human parents. If it did not detract from Jesus’ divine dignity to obey human parents, surely it did not detract from the dignity of the mother of God to obey a human husband. But Joseph’s authority surely was the example of what Jesus was talking about when he said, “it cannot be that way with you.” Christian authority is simply service flowing out of love, not domination flowing out of power.
Joseph, as husband, would have truly served Mary and Jesus in his daily activities. A good husband lives for his wife and children, just as a good wife lives for her husband and children. Joseph would serve Mary because he truly loved her with the greatest love, and such love only wants to serve, as Jesus would later teach his disciples and the human race. And Jesus must’ve witnessed this in Joseph, that is, how Joseph served Himself and Mary out of such great love and that he only wanted to love them through his role as father and husband. Joseph didn’t wed Mary because he was told in a dream that she was to be the Mother of God (holy ambition); that would more likely and almost did scare him away, except for the true reasons, which included obedience to God and his deep personal love for Mary, whom he desired to be his spouse, and for her divine child.
And finally, Joseph must’ve been very self-effacing and humble. He simply could not have been the kind of father is always taking the spotlight before his son and wife. Indeed he would’ve only wanted Mary to be the focus of his son’s attention, and for obvious reasons. Being humble and self-effacing is not the path to success in today’s corporate society, big government and big business. People who work as small artisans and run small businesses are perhaps more likely to have such qualities than the moguls of government and large corporations, and their marriages are likely to be more successful. Surprise? St. Joseph would have wanted to keep Mary and Jesus in the spotlight, simply because he loved them, and because that love made him capable of seeing what they possessed and could offer to others.
That certainly does not mean Joseph was a wimpy guy. No, he was a man who acted like a man and was thus ready to do whatever was necessary to protect and serve his most precious and most valued loved ones, no matter what the cost. In the end, he was called home before Jesus began his public life. He was not to be a diversion from Jesus’ mission or Mary’s. Maybe that is why he is patron of a good death. He was always dying to himself. Today he is held up as a model for what it means to be good father and a good husband. It all fits together for faith.
You can find another reflection on St. Joseph worth reading today at http://www.davidwarrenonline.com