An Earthly Obedience

Scripture Reading

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.

Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
(Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24)

Scripture Study

1:16 the husband of: The final link in the genealogy breaks with the preceding pattern. Joseph is not called the father of Jesus but only the spouse of Mary. This prepares for the virginal conception of Jesus in 1:18–25. Joseph is, however, the legal foster-father of Jesus and exercises his paternal duty by naming the Child (1:25) and protecting the Holy Family (2:13–22). Following Jewish custom, Jesus received full hereditary rights through Joseph, even though he was adopted (CCC 437, 496).

1:18 betrothed to Joseph: Betrothal in ancient Judaism was unlike modern-day engagements. It was a temporary period (up to one year) between the covenant of marriage itself and the time when spouses lived together. Because couples were legally married during this intervening phase, a betrothal could be terminated only by death or divorce (Deut 24:1–4). of the Holy Spirit: Often read as an editorial comment addressed to the reader. Others take it to mean that Joseph himself had come to learn that Mary’s pregnancy was the result of a miracle.

1:19 just: Or, “righteous”. Joseph is a man of sterling moral character, committed to living by the Mosaic Law (Deut 6:25; Lk 1:6). put her to shame: The Greek verb does not necessarily have a negative connotation. It simply means “to expose” or “to exhibit”. send her away: Joseph is said to be righteous because of his deep humility and reverence for the miraculous works of God.

1:20 Joseph: The angel’s message is urgent: Joseph must maintain his marriage in order to be the foster-father of Jesus. As a descendant of King David, he imparts to Jesus Davidic (royal) rights of inheritance.

1:21 Jesus: The Greek name lēsous is equivalent to the Hebrew name Joshua (yehoshuaʹ), meaning “Yahweh saves”. It was a popular name among first-century Jews. ● Even greater than Joshua, who led Israel into the Promised Land (Sir 46:1), Jesus leads God’s people into the eternal land of heaven (25:34; cf. Heb 4:1–11). Greater also than David (2 Sam 3:18), Jesus will save his people from their sins, not from their national enemies (i.e., the Romans) (CCC 430–32, 2666).

Scripture Reflection

Friends, on this feast of St. Joseph, our Gospel focuses on some powerful spiritual themes, all of which surround the birth of Jesus.

First we look at the sadness and the quandary of Joseph. He had become betrothed to Mary and then he finds that his betrothed is pregnant. So, the engagement has to be called off because of an irregular pregnancy. This must have pained him at the deepest emotional level: the feeling of betrayal by one he had loved. It is a wonderful tribute to the goodness of Joseph that he didn’t vent his frustration. Instead, he looked to the feelings of Mary, resolving to divorce her quietly.

Still, this must have been spiritual crisis for him. What does God want him to do? Then the angel appears to him in a dream and tells him to take Mary as his wife. Joseph realizes that these puzzling events are part of God’s much greater plan. He was willing to cooperate with the divine plan, though he in no way knew its contours or deepest purposes. Like Mary at the annunciation, he trusted and let himself be led.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.