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March 20, Andrew, SJ - Jesuits of North-West Africa Province | Society of Jesus

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary

March 20, 2017

2 Sm 7: 4-5a. 12-14a. 16/ Ps 89: 2-3. 4-5. 27 and 29/ Rom 4: 13. 16-18. 22/ Mt 1: 16. 18-21. 24a 

by *Fr. Andrew Setsoafia, SJ

About week before the feast of the Annunciation, which is nine months before Christmas, we celebrate Saint Joseph in his role as the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus. Pius IX established today's feast in 1847 and in 1870 he declared Joseph patron of the universal Church. In 1955, Pope Pius XII established the feast of St. Joseph the Worker on May 1, apparently in response to Communist "May Day" celebrations.
Joseph was named after Jacob's eleventh son in the Old Testament, who was sold into slavery, descended into a dungeon and then ascended to the Pharaoh's right hand. Joseph had similar gifts of political astuteness and dreams. He first saw what was happening around him; then he prayed and waited and "slept on it" and then acted upon the instructions of Angel from his dreams.

In Christian tradition, Joseph has been given a lesser profile than Mary. There are two reasons for this; the first is, whereas we give the title "Mother of Jesus" to Mary, the title "Father of Jesus" is reserved for the heavenly Father, to highlight Jesus' divinity. Secondly, we are reluctant to call Joseph "husband" of Mary, just to highlight Mary's virginity. Vatican II tried to correct this by presenting Joseph for what he really was: husband of Mary and father of Jesus even if not in a biological sense.

The word "husband" as generally understood today, refers to a man who is bonded to a wife. Originally, however, the word simply meant "master or owner or caretaker of a house," without a direct reference to a wife. Husband was therefore more of a function which Joseph exercised in a heroic manner. In obedience to the divine plan, Joseph makes a U-turn in taking Mary, his wife, into his home. And just like God had a plan for Joseph, God has a plan for each one of us. God simply wants us to be upright and righteous.

Are we ready to relinquish our plans in favour of God's plans? Are we ready to change and go east with faith and trust in God when our original plan is to west? Are we ready to or do we try to exercise our spousal and fatherly responsibilities in the family with diligence as Joseph did? God wants us to be loving parents, loving husbands and wives. For those who have been called in any capacity to be spiritual fathers of the people of God, do we care for and nourish the family that God has entrusted into our care?

As we journey through Lent, may St. Joseph inspire us to open our hearts to God's plan to love unconditionally and to be good and faithful servants. God's plans are for his greater glory and the good of all humanity. God has a plan for everyone. Even for a simple carpenter.

*Fr. Andrew Setsoafia, SJ, is an assistant priest at St. Anthony's Catholic Church in Nungua, Accra, Ghana. 


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