In 1989 John Paul II wrote the encyclical “Redemptoris Custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer) which is a reflection on the person and mission of Joseph in the life of Christ and the Church. For the first three Sundays of Advent we have been reflecting on the message of John the Baptist and Mary being the two pillars of Advent. On this fourth Sunday of Advent we reflect on the message of Joseph.
While the message of the Incarnation was announced to Mary in the gospel of Luke, Matthew complimented the announcement of the Good News in his gospel through Joseph. Luke and Matthew traced back the genealogy of Jesus in the lineage of David through Joseph. This is a very important consideration because the true messiah should be the son of David. Being the legal father of Jesus, Joseph provided such connection in the Davidic line otherwise Jesus would not be the Messiah; without such connection, He would be an impostor.
In the Annunciation according to Matthew, the message was given to Joseph through a dream wherein the angel Gabriel explained to Joseph the extraordinary situation of Mary. Without speaking a single word, Joseph accepted the message as well as his role in such an overwhelming mystery. In accepting his role in the birth of the Messiah, Joseph would also accept Mary to be his wife. This, too, was very important because without such marriage, Mary would be forever disgraced in the sight of their people.
Just like any other Jewish father, Joseph would have provided the following roles to Jesus, being his legal son 1) give the name to Jesus 2) circumscise Him 3) teach Him the Scriptures 4) teach Him a trade. Although it was usually the father who would look for a wife for his son, for obvious reasons Joseph did not go this far. After the Infancy narratives, nothing was written more on Joseph until his death, providing now the full stage to Jesus in His public ministry.
Joseph was entrusted by God a very special role in the mystery of the Incarnation and subsequently in the history of salvation. In fulfilling such huge and important task, he faithfully accepted, reared and guarded the Son of God as if his son and Mary as his wife. In the present time, being the patron of the Universal Church, Joseph continues to watch and protect the Mystical Body of Christ.
We, being part in the continuation of the unfolding of the mystery of the Incarnation, have also been given our roles in the history of salvation. We can only discover it through prayer, silence and discernment. Each one has been entrusted, like Mary and Joseph, “the seed of the Word” who continues to speak in the silence of our hearts and in our dreams. As stewards of the Incarnation, like Mary we try to give birth to it joyfully and like Joseph we nurture it in silence everyday in the ordinariness of our lives. This includes all the hardships, pains and sacrifices which are all part of the gift as well as the surprises of great happiness and joyful excitement where Jesus would lead us as we follow him unreservedly and faithfully….