In his apostolic exhortation “Guardian of the Redeemer” the Holy Father JPII says of St Joseph, “I wish to offer for your consideration, dear brothers and sisters, some reflections concerning him into whose custody God entrusted his most precious treasures. I gladly fulfil this pastoral duty so that all may grow in devotion to the patron of the Universal Church and in love for the Saviour whom he served in such an exemplary way.”
I think the most beautiful words in the above quote are “into whose custody God entrusted His most precious of treasures” For indeed God must have honoured and prepared St Joseph from all eternity for the task of being “Guardian of the Redeemer:”
The most interesting aspect of the Joseph story is his silence. Not a word is uttered by him in any of the Gospels. However, whilst silence dominates his person from the description of the Gospel writers, his life and guardianship roles are illuminated by vigilance, compassion, love, and action. Indeed all the characteristics of God the Eternal Father.
St Joseph whilst venerated by the church remains an enigma. He remains courteously waiting to be called to action just as surely as he did when he was involved in the life story of Jesus and Mary.
The present slow and insidious disintegration of the family and society is made more grotesquely disfigured by the decline, disdain, loss of respect and attack on God the Father and fatherhood in general. In this atmosphere of confusion and suffering we need a strong focus. We need a strong human male to silently but courageously show the way out of the quagmire of decline and death. That man is St Joseph, husband, father and saint.
Just as St Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly “through the exercise of his fatherhood” (Guardian of the Redeemer) so too his co-operation and help will be necessary if we are to defeat the demons of this day.
Whenever God wishes to do something new with humanity, He usually prefigures the event in a most astonishing way. Jesus was prefigured by Isaac, Moses, David, et. al. Mary was prefigured by Esther, Hannah, and the mother of the reigning king, so too St Joseph was prefigured by his own namesake Joseph, son of Jacob (Gn. 39-50) in the Old Testament.
Joseph the favourite son of Jacob was betrayed by his own and finally ascended to the highest position in the land of Egypt. His guardianship of the granaries ensured the wellbeing of the people of the land and especially the wellbeing of his own family most especially those who had forsaken him.
“Go to Joseph and do what he tells you” (Gen 42:55) says the Pharaoh to the Egyptians. Joseph is in charge of the grain for the bread. Joseph is in control of life sustaining elements. New Testament Joseph is also placed in charge but not of earthly grain but the most sublime living bread, the “bread that comes down from heaven” (Jn 6:32-40) “the bread of life” (Jn 6:35).
The ancient patriarch Joseph was saved and then hidden from his kinsmen to fulfil a future need. God disguised him for the purpose of saving His people who were covenanted to Himself. The Joseph of Nazareth was also a screen but this time he hid the reality of the Virgin birth and the Virgin mother and her child. In this role as husband of Mary, her miraculous pregnancy and the birth of the child. Jesus remained hidden from the adversary and society until the appointed time.
Perhaps today as we struggle under the weight of personal and societal sin, it is again the “opportune time” to call again on St Joseph to help us regain the meaning of family, fatherhood and service in love. Indeed the role of St Joseph was to serve the Redeemer as “father” and the Redeemer’s mother as “spouse” and together completely fulfil the will and plan of God.
Meditating on the infancy narratives it’s very clear that St Joseph held the authority over the household in Nazareth. It was Joseph who officially name the child Jesus (Mt 1:24) It was Joseph who was asked by the angel to “arise and take the child and His mother and flee to Egypt” (Mt 2:13). It was Joseph who was told to take the child and His mother and go to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:30) And Joseph also who shared with Mary the great anxiety at the loss of the child (Lk 2:48) and finally we are clearly told that Jesus “went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them” (Lk2:51. The role of Joseph as guardian of the Redeemer and spouse of the Redeemer’s mother, surely entitles him to be venerated and called upon to be protector of the family and patron of fatherhood.
“Our prayers and the very person of Joseph have renewed significance for the church in our day in the light of the third millennium. This just man, who bore within himself the entire heritage of the Old Covenant, was also brought into the beginning of the new and eternal covenant in Jesus Christ. May he show us the paths of his saving covenant as we stand at the threshold of the next millennium, in which there must be a continuation and further redevelopment of the “fullness of time” that belongs to the ineffable mystery of the Incarnation of the Word. May St Joseph obtain for the Church and for the world as well as for each of us the blessing of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit” (Guardian of the Redeemer p36.).
Further, as we enter into this new 21st millennium, may we meditate not only the fatherhood of God, the Sonship of Jesus Christ, and the Virginal Motherhood of Mary of Nazareth, but also on the earthly fatherhood of St Joseph. Both the Eternal Father and earthly father of Jesus Fathered him well, and loved the child they individually and completely fathered (Jesus) and both of these fathers love the siblings of Jesus, humanity. In fact so much so that the Universal church has appointed St Joseph as Guardian of the Household of God. Guardian and protector of the “Bride” of Christ the church. The Protection of his son’s bride has been given to Joseph just as surely as the care and protection of the young child was given to him, until the fullness of time.