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SERVE THE LORD WITH GLADNESS | By examining St. Joseph’s life, we’re challenged to live closely with Jesus

Joseph shows us the importance of acting with integrity, focusing on family and protecting the vulnerable

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

This week we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph (March 19) in what Pope Francis has designated as the Year of St. Joseph. It’s an opportune time to pause and reflect on the foster father of Jesus.

I recommend reading “Patris Corde” (“With a Father’s Heart”), the pope’s reflection on St. Joseph. But read it as it was written, with a contemplative heart — not only reading the words, but pondering the events of St. Joseph’s life, and how they might challenge and inspire us to live closely with Jesus, as Joseph did.

It’s interesting that, although we know St. Joseph was a carpenter, he left no samples of his work. The only thing he left behind was his family, and his example of caring for them. This doesn’t mean that work isn’t important — far from it! Joseph’s work was important in sustaining the Holy Family. But the family is what remains, not the work. That’s an important lesson in priorities.

We often ponder Mary’s fiat — her “yes” to God’s plan. It’s interesting to ponder Joseph’s fiat. Scripture records no words spoken by St. Joseph, only his actions — and in those actions we see his “yes.” Again, it’s not that words aren’t important! But in a time that seems dominated by written and spoken words, St. Joseph reminds us that the integrity of action speaks louder than words.

One of St. Joseph’s great actions is to protect the vulnerable. Pope Francis draws special attention to this when he says, “Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man.” Mary is vulnerable, as is her child — unprotected by the law and by society. Moreover, this situation is not Joseph’s fault. What does he do? He steps in and steps up, and accepts responsibility for them. How much better we could do on that front in our society!

The Old Testament Joseph (of the coat of many colors) gathered and stored Pharaoh’s treasures, and distributed them for the salvation of God’s people. The New Testament Joseph received God’s greatest treasures — Jesus and Mary — and provided for them, so that they could be given for the salvation of the world. This shows us that the greatness of a man can come from supporting others.

When there was no room at the inn, and Mary was about to give birth, Joseph did the best he could with the circumstances he was given, and it turned out to be perfectly fitting. If we give God the best we can, He makes it more than good enough.

We tend to think that God only works through greatness. Joseph took his family to Nazareth — which shows us that even what is small can be of the utmost importance in God’s plan.

Finally, Joseph is the patron of a happy death. Although the Scriptures never put it this way, a few moments of reflection make it clear that he lived and died in the presence of Jesus and Mary. That’s the highest hope we can have for our own living and dying.

Sometimes our lives and our daily tasks seem small and unimportant. That’s when we should remember St. Joseph. As Pope Francis says: “St. Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”

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