Saint Joseph: A Man of Faith, Hope, and Love
Friday March 19, 2004 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Feast of Saint Joseph
Reading (2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16)
Reading II (Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22)
Gospel (St. Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a)
Today the Church celebrates the solemnity of the man whom God Himself chose to entrust Our Lord and Our Blessed Lady. It is to Saint Joseph’s care that we owe so much because we see the faith of Saint Joseph, the faith which Saint Paul tells us is similar to that of the great patriarch Abraham: because of his faith, we are told, God credited it to him as righteousness. He believed and he hoped. Saint Joseph had the hope of the people of Israel; he had the hope that God was going to fulfill all of the promises that He had made. He did not see how it could possibly happen; after all, we heard in the first reading that the throne of David and his house would stand before the Lord and stand firm forever, and we know that by the time Saint Joseph came there had not been a king on the throne of Israel for several hundred years and the house of David was in shambles. It was a laughingstock and there was nothing left. And so it seems that God did not fulfill His promise, at least on the natural level. But God’s promises are fulfilled in ways that we would never imagine, and Saint Joseph continued to believe. Even though there was no king on the throne, even though the ancestry of David had gone vastly astray, he continued to believe and it was credited to him as righteousness.
His faith was so strong and his love for God was so profound that Saint Joseph is called a just man or a righteous man, one who does not sin, one who does the Will of God in all things. Saint Joseph was just like us; he was a sinner. He was born with Original Sin. He had to struggle with all of the things of the flesh and of the world and of the devil, and he overcame them all so that he would be able to be the guardian of Jesus and Mary. The holiness of Saint Joseph had to have been immense for him to be able to do what he was called to do, to be able, first of all, to accept what the angel told him; to be able to accept Our Lady and a Child Who was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, something that he certainly would not have understood, but something that he accepted; and for him to say “yes” and be obedient to God in all things.
Even though he saw himself as being completely unworthy to be part of this mystery, he was the second person on the face of the earth to whom the mystery was revealed; Our Lady, of course, being the first. So between the two of them, God had shown them the salvation of humanity. And Saint Joseph, again, recognizing his own sinfulness, recognizing the holiness of Our Blessed Lady and of what was happening within her, saw that he was not worthy. In his humility, in his righteousness, he was willing to get out of God’s way, he was willing to allow God to do whatever it is that He wanted, and he was not going to impose his own will on anything. It is precisely that humility that led to his obedience to do whatever God was going to ask him to do – even though it did not make any sense at all – but he was willing to be obedient and do exactly what the angel told him.
So too for us, when we hear the promises of Christ, sometimes we do not understand them, they do not seem to make sense, and they are not fulfilled the way that we think they ought to be; it matters not. God has made the promises and He is faithful. So we need to put into practice the theological virtues which so characterized Saint Joseph: faith, hope, and charity. He believed in everything that God promised. He had complete hope that God was going to fulfill them in a way that he could not understand. And his love for God, for Our Blessed Lady, and for Our Lord was second only to Our Lady’s love for God and for Our Lord Himself.
He is the righteous and holy man to whom each one of us owes a great debt of gratitude for his love, for his fidelity, for his example to each one of us, because what he has done we also are able to do. We need to pray to him and trust him. Saint Joseph is completely faithful. He will almost always answer your prayer at the very last second – because he wants you to have faith and hope as well, and the only way that grows is to have it tested. But trust. Pray to him. Ask him to help so that our faith will be credited to us as righteousness, that we will overcome sin in our lives, that we will be humble, that we will be holy, that we will be obedient, and that we will love Jesus and Mary as Saint Joseph did.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.