Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the foster father of Jesus. In our Gospel today we heard that “Joseph was betrothed to Mary,” which is legally the equivalent of a marriage, but they had not actually lived together as husband and wife yet. Joseph is characterized here as a just man, a righteous man. When we say a ‘just man’ this is something that is quite difficult to interpret. Because when we say “just” we think of someone who is fair, and perhaps even strict about justice. Everyone gets what is their due.
But being “just and righteous” means even more. In Aramaic the term for “just man” has several other connotations and meanings, such as being pious, quiet, kind, not given to quarrelling, and that sort of thing. The term “righteous” itself means being in a right relationship with God. So there are several other things going on here besides being “just” according to the Law. He was a faithful follower of God, as far as we can tell from what we can read in the Scriptures, and he was a quiet, kind, peaceable man. But he had a dilemma here of what to do with his betrothed wife, who was getting more and more visibly pregnant.
Joseph, being a man of honor and wanting to spare Mary public humiliation, decided to divorce her informally. When he was sleeping the angel of the Lord came to him saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.” So when Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do.
Here we see that Joseph, aside from being a “just and righteous” man, who was knowledgeable of the Law, chose also to protect Mary over the law, to save her possible punishment. He is not just the protector of Mary but of the Holy Family.
In the same way, we are also called to become a protector, to protect everything not just to human being. As Pope Francis said “we are called to protect all creation, respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, and most especially those who are neglected by the society.”
It also means “caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness.”
We also need to protect our environment, our forest, our water and everything on earth. We are not here in order to abuse them but rather to take care of them. That is why we are called to share in God’s as creator. We participate with God in the ongoing creation here on earth. If we go back to the creation story, humans are created not to have domination over nature but to see the dominion or sovereignty of Yahweh the Lord (dominus) over creation. It is not the handing over of ownership to human beings but they are given the task of caring for creation as the Lord does.
May this feast of Saint Joseph help us to imitate him to have a strong and courageous heart yet with great tenderness and to develop in us a spirit of caring and a genuine love and a deep concern for one another.