Word For Today for the feast of St Joseph – 19 March 2021
Written by Radio Maria England on 17/03/2021
Welcome to this word for Today for the feast of St Joseph.
Have you heard the expression: “The New is in the Old concealed, the Old is in the New revealed”? It means that the New Testament, the Good News of Jesus Christ, is already present in the Old Testament and that the New Testament can help us understand better what is written there. I want to apply this principle to Joseph.
There are thirteen different people in the Scriptures called ‘Joseph’ and the name derives from the Hebrew Yosef and means ‘He will add’. The most famous Joseph in the Old Testament is the Patriarch Joseph, one of Jacob’s 12 sons who was loved more than any of his brothers. He is the Joseph of the coloured cloak who was sold by his brothers into slavery, but who rose to become the Pharaoh’s Vizier. Today I want to show the similarities that he shares with Joseph -– the husband of Mary and Jesus’ adopted father.
The fathers of both Josephs were called Jacob. In the Old Testament the Patriarch Jacob was the one who wrestled with an Angel and saw the Angels descending and ascending to God. The New Testament says that Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom Christ was born. We can be certain that both came from pious religious families. Their lineage is important for both are descendants of Abraham. This reminds us that God is at work in our lives before we were born (Jer. 1:5, Isa 43:1-2). In Psalm 139 we read these wonderful words: ‘Even the darkness is not dark to You, but the night shines like the day, for darkness is as light to You. For You formed my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Marvellous are Your works, and I know this very well.…’ (Psa. 139: 12-14).
It’s not only where we are from that matters – the Scriptures remind us that our journey through life is also significant. God does not just create us and then leave but is an abiding, guiding presence. Approximately twenty years after he had been sold into slavery by his brothers, Joseph has become powerful in Egypt and he tells them: ‘As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive’ (Gen. 50:20). Just as the Lord worked in the life of the Patriarch Joseph, the Lord was at work in the life of Saint Joseph, Jesus’ father who is described in the Gospel as a ‘just man’ (Matt 1:19).
This brings me to another important similarity between these two Josephs – they both knew suffering and anonymity before being exalted. Both Josephs go to Egypt, which in the Bible symbolises sin and slavery, and neither by choice. The Patriarch Joseph was betrayed by his brothers and sold into slavery and that was not the end of his troubles. He was falsely accused and ended up in jail, where he was forgotten before the Lord raised him up. Saint Joseph also had to go through many different sufferings. There was the controversy over Mary’s pregnancy, followed by the perilous 85-mile journey to Bethlehem because of the Roman census. The frustration of not being able to care and provide for his wife as he wished, Jesus’ birth in the stable, the threat of violence and the flight to escape King Herod’s murderous intentions. The important thing to remember is that the Lord was working through their sufferings and trials. Joseph comforts his fearful brothers with these words: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’ (Gen 50:20).
Suffering is a very common human experience but there is a further similarity that is more distinctive in the lives of both men – dreams! When Joseph the Patriarch was a teenager, he dreamt that he would rule his brothers (Gen 37: 1-11). Later Joseph interprets the dreams of the chief cupbearer, the baker and then of Pharoah. Jesus’ adopted father also had significant dreams. In the first dream he is told not to be afraid but to take Mary as his wife. In a second dream he is warned to leave Bethlehem and to flee to Egypt and then in a subsequent dream he is told to return home and later to go to Galilee. (Matt. 1-2). Both Josephs were attuned to deeper realities and both were open to the promptings of the Spirit.
There are also two important similarities that the two Joseph’s share, both of whom were given extraordinary responsibilities because of their faithfulness. At the time that the Patriarch Joseph was the Vizer in Egypt this country was the centre of the greatest Empire in the world and guided by Joseph, Egypt became the only source of food during a period of terrible famine. Egypt, under Joseph’s guidance, fed the all who came to them. Saint Joseph was entrusted with the most precious gift in the world – the Word made flesh. He was the head of the Holy family, a guide and example for Jesus. Saint Joseph protected, taught, and guided Jesus who is the Bread of Life (Jn. 6:48). There is another terrible famine in our world, and it is for Christ, the only food that truly sustains a desperately hungry world.
Finally, just as people went to the Patriarch Joseph for sustenance and support during a period of famine we too can go to Saint Joseph for our needs. The Vizier Joseph interceded with the Pharaoh of Egypt for all the people who came to them for help and similarly Saint Joseph intercedes for us. Saint Teresa of Avila said that Saint Joseph always assists with his prayers. Whatever difficulties and challenges we are facing we can go to Joseph because he has great influence with his Son, our Lord Jesus. Let us pray:
To you, O blessed Joseph, do we come in our afflictions, and having implored the help of your most holy Spouse, we also confidently invoke your patronage and prayers.
O guardian of the Holy Family, through the charity which bound you to the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God and through the paternal love with which you embraced the Child Jesus, we invoke your protection and humbly ask you to regard the inheritance which Jesus Christ has purchased by his Blood, and to aid us with your prayers. Saint Joseph protector of children, spouses, and of the family, pray for us that encouraged by your example and with your assistance, we may live piously, die in holiness, and obtain eternal happiness in heaven. Amen.
Fr. Sam Randall
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