Christmas Vigil Mass, 2018
Gospel, MT 1:18-25
This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill
what the Lord had said through the prophet:
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,
and he named him Jesus.
Righteous man, unwilling to exposure her to shame, do not be afraid
St. Francis once said, “Preach the Gospel, and when necessary, use words.” About eleven hundreds years before he said that, St. Joseph was did just that. He has no recorded words in the Gospels, yet we know so much about him by what he did. (How many of us knew what our dads meant by their actions, or by the looks they gave us?)
We know St. Joseph by his recorded actions. He was a righteous man who followed the Hebrew Law, but he is compassionate. He suspects Mary has been unfaithful, but will not hand her over to harsh judgement. They will quietly go their separate ways, and then whatever happens, happens.
This is St. Joseph’s first example to us: Follow Church teaching, but do not be prudish. There is a legal judging, and then there is judgemental. He is not judgemental toward Mary, but he does intend to follow the law with care. No one ever came back to the Church after the door was slammed in their face.
An angel then tells St. Joseph that things are not what he fears; God is behind this situation, not Mary, and that he should not be afraid. This is the second example St. Joseph sets for us: Trust God, even if we think we know better. Sometimes things do not work out as we plan, but that may have been God’s plan all along.
St. Joseph goes on to take Mary into his home. In further readings, St. Joseph leads his family into Egypt for Jesus’ protection, then back to Nazareth, where he provides for them and makes them the center of his life. Here, we have the third example of St. Joseph: He is the provider for the first Christian family. The Christian family is the most basic building block of the Church.
St. Joseph teaches us so much without a single, quoted word in the Bible. This Christmas, and throughout the coming year, may we remember to trust God’s Hand in our lives, to practice the Church’s teachings with compassion, and that our family’s needs are our own needs.