I just felt compelled to write a few words about a simple man, a man of incredible faith, unyielding loyalty, and a heart so filled with love for his wife and child it might have exploded if that were possible. I am referring to Joseph (Yosef in Hebrew) the husband of Mary and the earthly father of the Messiah, Jesus Christ. We all know him as St. Joseph.
I am not going into any theology here. Nothing about the Pauline Epistles or the Gospels of Mark and Luke or the apocryphal works that have varied “opinions” about the man and his time. I just want to look at Joesph as a husband and a father and try, just a little bit, to get into his shoes (sandals).
First of all, Joseph was a “righteous” Jew. This meant he followed the Law of Moses and did it to the best of his ability. He was a true man of faith. I do not care how old he was when he became betrothed to Mary. All I know is that “betrothal” under the Jewish law was like a pre-marriage. Sort of like a post-engagement. There even had to be a rabbi officiating. You did not walk away from a betrothal. No sirree, to get out of a betrothal you needed a divorce.
So what happens? Joseph and Mary become betrothed and Joseph finds out she is pregnant. This is not 2012 we are talking about, this is over 2000 years ago. Mosaic Law permitted the actual execution by stoning of the woman. What would I have done? What would you have done? Damn–I can’t imagine being confronted with that situation. So, I don’t know what I would have done. Not our man, Joseph. He loved this woman and married her anyway. I know, I know, he had the dream and everything. But haven’t you ever dreamed and I do suggest that, as a man during those times, being faced with the reality of what was going on, he could have ran away from that dream like an Olympic sprinter dashing toward the stadium exit instead of the finish line. Yet, he married her and they had a nice reception, they moved in together and about four months later it was time to travel to Bethlehem for the census.
So now I’m thinking of me and what would I do. I’m thinking; My wife is due any day.I have little money and I have to make an 80 mile trip over rugged and dusty terrain that will take maybe four to five days if, I can do 20 miles a day. Heck, I don’t want to make the trip so how is she going to be able to deal with 20 miles a day for 4 days? Okay, okay, there is no choice. Dang, I hope that donkey can take it. I probably would have tried to hook up with a caravan as I traveled assuming it would be safer in numbers. I do not know if Joseph actually did that. The bottom line is, he had to take his pregnant wife and let her sit on the back of a donkey and travel 80 miles. Nice trip. I would probably hate myself for doing that. Think about it, we can drive 20 miles in 20 minutes doing 60 mph and we still complain.
Anyway, he gets to Bethlehem and there is no place to stay. Not a lousy room anywhere, even in a dive. She is already in labor and he is probably freaking out a bit. If it was today at least he probably would have had an old Chevy or something that she could have laid down in. He winds up in a smelly stable with animals and straw and his son is born and it is a beautiful thing but I’ll bet he would have done anything to get his wife and son into a room, any room. And along comes Herod and his insane jealousy.
Joesph hears about King Herod wanting to kill his baby. Just imagine for a moment that the government had soldiers out looking for your child so they could kill it. I can’t imagine. In fact the maniac king has thousands of children killed figuring sooner or later he would kill the right one. MADNESS—-Why? EGO.
The trip to Bethlehem was a cake walk compared to the Egypt trip. But Joseph somehow manages to make it about 300 to 350 miles to Egypt with a wife and a newborn and remains there a few years. Then, when he knows it is safe, he goes to Nazareth and resumes his trade as a carpenter, teaching his Son the law and the trade. He passes away before his Boy begins his public life. His Son is at his side as he breathes his last.
I love this man. Thank you Lord for giving us St. Joseph, the best husband and dad ever. All of us should think of him this Christmas. He deserves it. I’m done.