We celebrate the solemnity of St. Joseph on March 19. He stands as the last and also as the head of the patriarchs of Israel.
Joseph stands as the fulfillment of Abraham’s role in salvation history. As Abraham received the initial promises of God, not through the law but through faith, so St. Joseph received God’s final and definitive covenant — in Jesus — not through the law but through faith.
Joseph stands as the fulfillment of the Old Testament Joseph’s role in salvation history. As the Old Testament Joseph received God’s plan in dreams, so did St. Joseph. As the Old Testament Joseph was entrusted with the treasures of the king to be given out to save the people from famine, so St. Joseph was entrusted with the greatest treasures of the king — Jesus and Mary — to be given to the world for its eternal salvation.
St. Joseph stands as the fulfillment of King David’s role in salvation history. God promised David that his son would sit on the throne of Israel, and that his throne would endure forever; St. Joseph received and fulfilled that promise because his adopted son, Jesus, is the eternal king of Israel.
Because he’s the head of the patriarchs we turn to St. Joseph as a model. As a model, there are two things about him that I would like to hold up for our attention.
First: Joseph never speaks a word in the Gospels. He simply hears and obeys. He’s a perfect example of what the apostle James says: “Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works” (James 2:18).
That’s a challenge to us! Yes, we must also proclaim our faith through words. But in a world that does a lot of talking — and we’ll hear more of it as the election cycle continues — are we willing to follow St. Joseph, and let our actions do most of the talking?
Second: it’s interesting that we hear nothing of the death of St. Joseph, or of his burial. He was, in the words of one author, “gentle and faithful but dispensable.” Fittingly, he leaves behind no earthly trace of himself. Only Jesus and Mary remain.
That’s a challenge to us! We all want to leave our mark on the world; we’re concerned with our legacy. And, truthfully, that spurs us to some good works. But, in the end, is it really about us? Perhaps we would do better to follow St. Joseph’s example: to be content to disappear, leaving only Jesus.
The Gospels don’t tell us what happened to St. Joseph. But I think St. Bernardine of Siena was right when he said: “Obviously, Christ does not now (in heaven) deny to Joseph that intimacy, reverence, and very high honor which He gave him on earth … Rather we must say that in heaven Christ completes and perfects all that he gave at Nazareth.”
God deepened and fulfilled the role of the patriarchs in Joseph. Surely He deepens and fulfills Joseph’s earthly role in heaven. On earth, Joseph willingly adopted Jesus as his own and protected Him. Now, since we are members of the body of Christ, he willingly adopts us as his own and offers us his fatherly protection. With good confidence, then, we turn to St. Joseph as a protector and say: St. Joseph, pray for us!