St. Joseph Part 7: Hidden, Ignored, Yet Fruitful & St. Joseph Part 8: Good Soldier

~by Louis Templeman

St. Joseph Part 7: Hidden, Ignored, Yet Fruitful


Luke 2: 25, Simeon . . . came in the Spirit . . . when the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform the custom of the law . . . The child’s mother and father were amazed at what was said about him and Simeon blessed them . . . .

Could Joseph have felt any greater anonymity than he did at the Temple that day? There was no feast to swell Jerusalem’s walls, but there was a census the entire population of the Roman Empire was responding to. Jerusalem may have been very crowded. Accidental pilgrims, taking advantage of their trip to Jerusalem or surrounding areas, were visiting the Temple and ancient sites, holy to Jews. Looking very ordinary and feeling rather common Joseph purchased the economy priced sacrificial animals and took his wife and son to the Temple.

Even though Joseph knew (through his own dreams, Mary’s testimony and the strange story of the shepherds) he had something very special in Mary and Jesus he still was swallowed up in the goings-on in the Ancient city. Its history and tradition radiated a past and promised a future that dimmed the mundane lives of visitors. Perhaps, he thought; no, he knew somewhere deep inside that his son and perhaps even his wife would join the luminaries that shone forth in the celestial backdrop of Israel’s amazing history. Still, as he walked through the Temple and city recently rebuilt by King Herod, one of history’s most successful city-builders, his own sense of personal significance must have been overwhelmed. It is an all too human condition that allows the daily drudge of life to shadow over and lessen the impact of God’s words and acts in our lives. Joseph was participating in a walking miracle. Did he feel it at that moment as he entered the Temple with hundreds of other seekers? Doubtful.

Joseph heard the words of Simeon; saw the delight in Anna’s eyes. Soon after he heard of the reputations of this prophet and prophetess. They were out of character in their prophetic action and words that day. They quit preaching, “He is coming.” Now they proclaimed, “He is here!” Even in all the excitement Joseph understood the gravity of the prophet’s words. His son would face a tough road and his wife would experience injury and sorrow in her care and support of him. The Scripture says, “The child’s mother and father were amazed at what was said about him and Simeon blessed them . . .”

Joseph took his little family back to Bethlehem. The last several months gave him a good deal to consider: Dreams.

Angels.

Fears of immorality versus the angelic claim of virgin conception and birth.

Reception of May at the angel’s bidding.

An unplanned, government initiated trip the Bethlehem.

An unpaid vacation forced on a poor family.

A chilly reception in Bethlehem.

The unpleasant experience of his wife giving birth in a barn.

The strange ecstasy and surprise visit by shepherds.

The public spectacle of offering a poor person’s sacrifice.

The prophesies of Simeon and Anna.

In all this Joseph had been a helper, a supporter and stage hand in a divine play. He saw by prophesy all that lay in store for Jesus and Mary and yet his name was unmentioned. This was not his show. Yet, without him the show could not go on. Joseph embraced his secondary role while enabling the story to be told.

St. Joseph Part 8: Good Soldier


In Matthew 2: 10-12 we read the story of the visit of wealthy religious men, magi, from the east. Joseph received these magi into the house where he was renting space. He is not mentioned. He is silent. Yet, he is in charge. Mary is young. Had recently given birth. Was busy with an infant boy. He listens to the magi’s story. They were alerted by a star and probably by knowledge of prophetic texts and their understanding of astrology. Astrology was the science of astronomy with vast attachments of superstition and religious practice. Joseph was certainly puzzled. These were foreigners, uncircumcised practitioners/priests of a foreign cultdoing homage to his son. Men outside the covenant and promises and salvation of God were in awe of Israel’s promised Messiah and were leaving impressive gifts. They let him know that they had been to see the king. King Herod, so he said, was happily awaiting news of their findings. They had discussed his son with Herod before they even saw him. Now they would return and give the king Joseph’s address.

With all this on his mind, Joseph went to sleep only to awaken to find the magi had changed their plans. They had been warned in a dream not to go back to the king. They spoke of a sense of danger. Was this some sort of cosmic comedy? Gentiles, of a strange, foreign religion, no less, tell this Son of David and follower of Moses his son is the newborn king of the Jews and this is now news in the palace in Jerusalem. “Wait until we tell King Herod.” Then a day later it’s, “No better not. Danger! Danger!” And they are gone.

As the magi left Joseph must have been thinking over the chronology of recent events. First he finds a lovely young wife. Beautiful. Holy. He is in love. Then he fears he’s been fooled by a Run-around Sue. Then he’s visited by an angel. Mary is pregnant by God. He is to raise the son. Call him “Yahweh Saves,” because he will be the Messiah. Then he is forced to travel to Bethlehem at his own expense to pay tax. He can’t find lodging. His wife labors in a barn. His son is born on the ground, where only a few layers of clothing separate him from the spot where animals have defecated for years. The memory of it is painful. He feels responsible. He failed them. But he did his best. The angels send visitors to that humble circumstance. The secret of his shame would be spread everywhere. The shepherds would announce the infant Messiah was asleep in a feeding trough. Later in the Temple he hears prophetic exclamation from an old man and an old woman. Later he is visited by foreign priests who were led to him by the heavens. They have expensive gifts and tell him they will probably go visit the king in his palace. Then after sleeping on it they change their story – “No wait! Not a good idea.” Then they head south.

With this on his mind Joseph sleeps. He is visited in his dream by an angel, “Rise and take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt and stay there until I tell you.” Herod is going to search for the child todestroy him.” The angel tells not Mary, but Joseph. He has the vocation. He is on duty.

Joseph is prompt to obey. What faithfulness. What faith. The same faith that received Mary when known to be pregnant/ that named the child in the smelly barn; in spite of the wonder and perplexity obeyed now. It was germane to his character. Prompt obedience. Matthew 2: 14 “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” The angel said, “. . . until I tell you.” Scripture says, “he stayed there.” Joseph the good son, good father, good husband was also the ideal soldier. He must have been very comforted by his new found wealth. It would underwrite their exile. Joseph was experiencing the contradiction of a divine vocation. His child was born in a barn. Yet, his exile to Egypt is well-financed.

St. Joseph: Part 1—Son of David & Part 2—A Righteous Man

St. Joseph: Part 3—A Chaste Man & Part 4—Obedient Pilgrim

St. Joseph: Part5–Man of Questioning Faith & Part 6: The Observant Jew

NEXT WEEK: Part 9–Steady Worker & Part 10 Simple Man

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Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D. Louis has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and is fighting the good fight. Much of what he writes these days he is sharing his journey with us. Please keep Louis and his wife Joy in your prayers.

CLICK HERE to visit Louis’ Catholic Journeyman Archive

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