Friday, March 19, 2010

Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

(II Samuel 7:405a.12-14a.16; Romans 3:13.16-18.22; Matthew 1:16.18-21.24a)

“Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and the Pharisees,” Jesus proclaims on the mountain, “you will not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Perhaps Jesus discerned this new righteousness by observing his foster-father St. Joseph.

In today’s gospel Matthew tells us that Joseph is a “righteous man.” The measure of his righteousness is seen by his not allowing Mary to be exposed to shame. There exist motives for him to do so. We can imagine Joseph’s sense of outrage upon learning that his betrothed is pregnant by another. Also, it is reasoned that he would be able to keep Mary’s dowry if he divorces her publicly. But Joseph, as Jesus recommends throughout his sermon on true righteousness, moves secretly so that only God sees his good deed.

As we know well, Joseph’s accepting responsibility for Mary and Jesus involves ever greater sacrifices. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ birth, Joseph must take his family to Egypt as refugees. Also, since Mary remains a virgin, Joseph foregoes sexual intimacy. Nowhere in the gospel does Joseph say a word, much less utter a complaint. He is the quiet hero who exemplifies the implicit righteousness that Jesus comes to bestow on all humans.