Monday, March 20, 2017

Monday of the Third Week
Feast of Saint Joseph

“Joseph was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame...”  Matthew 1:19.

Saint Joseph’s Day is ordinarily March 19, but the Third Sunday of Lent claimed that date this year, and Joseph, dutifully, obeys.  That’s almost lesson enough.  Joseph is “just,” “righteous,” as the Gospel of Matthew describes him, with the meaning that Joseph devotedly observed the Law of Moses,  the Law which defined Jewish identity and marked a true descendent of Abraham.

The Law which caused Joseph’s terrible dilemma: his betrothed wife was pregnant, and not by him.  The Law was clear:  Joseph “the just” should repudiate her.  But, no: that would expose her to public shame and perhaps even to the harsh punishment of an adulteress.  So, Joseph, led by mercy and the revelation which that mercy rewarded, chose beyond the requirements of the Law.

There is something almost subversive about this feast day, about a justice defined by mercy.  Isn’t that the way, though, that God fulfills his promises?  Always in surprising ways exceeding human expectation and boundaries?  Who could have guessed the Messiah would be conceived by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary?  that he would be brought into the line of David not by Joseph’s begetting but by Joseph’s faith?  and that there would be a Cross in store for him?  and a Resurrection?

Today we are celebrating a feast which honors and invokes a carpenter from a backwater village in an insignificant corner of the Roman Empire, as the guardian of God’s Son, and as Patron of the Universal Church, our guardian, too.  How surprising (and subversive) is that!

Saint Joseph, pray for us.

Fr. Richard Berube, S.S.E. ’66, Emeritus Professor, Religious Studies

First Reading: 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Psalm 89:2-5, 27, 29
Second Reading: Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
Gospel: Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Luke 2:41-51a

Daily Scripture readings can be found online at the USCCB website

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