Saint Joseph: An Extraordinary Ordinary Man

Today (March 19) is the feast day of St. Joseph, husband of Mary, father to Jesus. There isn’t much said about him in Scripture. What is said, however, shows us an ordinary man rising to extraordinary occasions.

Joseph was an artisan, a humble skilled trade (Matt. 13:55). He lived in a town so unpromising that it has been excoriated in insults ever since: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46). But here’s what he did do.

He found out his young fiancée was pregnant by someone else, a horrible blow to his heart and pride. But instead of indulging his grief and shame by denouncing her, he decided to divorce her quietly to protect her from scandal that would ruin her life (Matt. 2).

He believed God’s angel when he was told that Mary was in fact impregnated by the power of God and would save his people—a message that contained, in fact, two unbelievable propositions: that Mary had supernaturally conceived and that this child would save his people . . . who had needed saving for centuries.

He went on believing ever after. He raised Jesus, with Mary, so that Jesus would actually come to believe the angelic, and preposterous, messages given to his parents. He raised Jesus so that Jesus could know even at twelve who his Father was (Luke 2:49) and could embark at thirty with confidence on his Israel-saving, world-changing mission.

Joseph believed (back when Jesus was a tiny boy) even when an angel told him to get up quickly, leave everything behind, and flee to Egypt ahead of Herod’s murderous soldiers—only to believe an angel a couple of years later when the “all clear” signal came to return (Matt. 2).

Otherwise, Joseph went about his business, making a home and raising a family with Mary, and passing from the scene before Jesus emerged onto the centre stage of his public ministry.

Today, then, is a festival of the ordinary person, a person whose virtue and faith, carved and pressed into shape by the Spirit of God over hours, days, and years is such that when something utterly extraordinary is extraordinarily asked of him, he responds with trustful obedience. This is a person who has attended to God and God’s Word so assiduously in the regularities of synagogue, workshop, and private life that when God’s Word comes to him so irregularly, he recognizes God’s voice and does exactly what he is told.

How many of us would respond to such extraordinary divine messages as Joseph did?

How many of us respond to the ordinary, daily Words of God that have already come to us, that keep coming to us, as Joseph did?

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