Feast of St. Joseph, March 20, 2017:

The ontological importance of St. Joseph (on two levels)

  1. By the supernatural faith of obedience to the divine command to take Our Lady as wife, he entered into engendering the God-man:

That is, as Mary became “cause” of the humanity of the Creator by her free act of faith (“fiat”), so Joseph entered into the same causality by a similar act of faith in taking Mary as spouse. Read carefully:

“There is a strict parallel between the ‘annunciation’ in Matthew’s text and the one in Luke. The divine messenger introduces Joseph to the mystery of Mary’s motherhood. While remaining a virgin, she who by law is his “spouse” has become a mother through the power of the Holy Spirit. And when the Son in Mary’s womb comes into the world, he must receive the name Jesus. This was a name known among the Israelites and sometimes given to their sons. In this case, however, it is the Son who, in accordance with the divine promise, will bring to perfect fulfillment the meaning of the name Jesus-Yehos ua’ – which means “God saves.”

Joseph is visited by the messenger as “Mary’s spouse,” as the one who in due time must give this name to the Son to be born of the Virgin of Nazareth who is married to him. It is to Joseph, then, that the messenger turns, entrusting to him the responsibilities of an earthly father with regard to Mary’s Son.

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took Mary as his wife” (cf. Mt 1:24). He took her in all the mystery of her motherhood. He took her together with the Son who had come into the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this way he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel.[1]



  1. When, soon after the Annunciation, Mary went to the house of Zechariah to visit her kinswoman Elizabeth, even as she offered her greeting she heard the words of Elizabeth, who was “filled with the Holy Spirit” (Lk 1:41). Besides offering a salutation which recalled that of the angel at the Annunciation, Elizabeth also said: “And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord” (Lk 1:45). These words were the guiding thought of the Encyclical Redemptoris Mater, in which I sought to deepen the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, which stated the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully preserved her union with her Son even to the cross,”(5) “preceding”(6) all those who follow Christ by faith.

Now at the beginning of this pilgrimage, the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph. If Elizabeth said of the Redeemer’s Mother, “blessed is she who believed,” in a certain sense this blessedness can be referred to Joseph as well, since he responded positively to the word of God when it was communicated to him at the decisive moment. While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the angel’s “announcement” in the same way as Mary, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife.” What he did is the clearest “obedience of faith” (cf. Rom 1:5; 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5-6).

One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the Annunciation. The Council teaches: “‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith man freely commits himself entirely to God, making ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him.”(7) This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.

               2) Hebrews 5, 8: “Son, though he was he learned obedience frm what he suffered.”

               Jesus Christ has a created human will. Chalcedon teaches that Jesus Christ is One Person with Two natures: divine (uncreated) and human (created). Therefore , He has a created human will that He must determine in Himself just like you. That created human will was laden down with all the sin of all men of all time: He takes on the guilt of all the self-seeking, vanity, laziness, impurity, attachment to things, impoverity, etc.2 Cor. 5 , 21: “He made Him to be sin who knew nothing of sin.”  Christ turns all the self-seeking sin that He freely takes on, and turns it into obedience – to death, on the Cross.  This means that He lives out Who He is as pure and total relation to the Father by turning the acquire rebelliousness of our sin into obedience. That is, He had to learn obedience.

               And He learned it at the side of Joseph in the carpentry at Nazareth. He had to go through the apprenticeship of carpentry to learn how to subject his created human will to the Joseph’s authority and expertise. That is, the Creator of the world had to be told: No, you don’t do it that way. You do it this way. As 100% man (He is 100 % God), He must learn to be a carpenter.  And for that , He must learn obedience through His human will that is not annulled by the presence of the divine will.  The  two wills are not in parallel, but “one” in that the same divine “I” lives out His divinity through each.

               This obedience of Christ is prefigured in the obedience of Abraham who is told to kill his dearly beloved and first born son, Isaac. This is the prefigurement of the meaning of faith. Christ is the prototype by His obedience to death on the Cross. He as formed into this in the workshop of Joseph.

May we understand that obedience to the will of God in the ordinary life is precisely the divine way of sanctity in the world – and we learn it next to Joseph who is next to Our Lady.

[1] John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, Apostolic Exhortation, August 15, 1989.


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