Holy Family [A] 2010

Fr. Charles Irvin

The Feast of the Holy Family [A] 2007
Sirach 3, 2-6; 12-14; Colossians 3, 12-21; Matthew 2, 13-15. 19-23

During this Christmas season we have heard words spoken from many important persons, words of God spoken through the great prophets of the Old Testament, particularly Isaiah, words spoken by the angels along with the words of John the Baptist, the Archangel Gabriel, and from the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Down through the ages of history we have heard the words of great saints such as St. Augustine and other great teachers of the Church. The teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas are still predominant in the formation programs of those who are studying for the priesthood along with the great early Fathers of the Church.

Today I want to give special attention to a man whose words we have never heard. In all of the bible and in all of Christian literature there is not one recorded word uttered by St. Joseph, and yet he is recognized as the patron saint of the Church. Shouldn’t we give him our attention, reflect on his role, and recognize the importance of his role in the history of our salvation? Shouldn’t we, wordless as we seem to be in the great scheme of things, reflect on Joseph’s importance and on ours in God’s plans for our human family?

I can’t help but note here that 80% of the inmate populations in our nation’s prisons are fatherless, fatherless in the sense that they grew up without any fathers in the homes in their childhood homes. If you read any of the literature about fatherless children you realize that they were raised and formed without a vital component in their psychological and spiritual formation, a necessary part in their lives the absence of which has contributed to a lot of misery in their lives¸ namely the guidance of their fathers.

In His infancy and throughout His formative years Jesus Christ was not fatherless. He grew up in what we now call a “traditional family,” one in which Joseph played a vital role. What about this wordless man? What can we say about his character traits and how should they influence us?  In these few brief moments I can only bring up a few points but they are points on this Feast of the Holy Family that should be considered.

The first thing that comes to mind is his protectiveness. It’s striking that when his fiancé, Mary, came up pregnant his first impulse was to protect her, certainly an unexpected and extraordinary reaction on his part. Cearly he would have wanted an explanation. In response to his love for Mary he received an immediate explanation, one coming from one of God’s angels. St. Matthew reports:

 

Now 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.”

 
To say the least this was a life changing event for him. It was, however, not the only one. Shortly after the birth of Jesus the angel spoke to him again. St. Matthew tells us:

 

When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

 
Subsequently, upon King Herod’s death, we have third words from God’s angel as reported by St. Matthew:

 

When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead. “He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.

 
We need to realize something of great importance in Joseph and then realize its importance to us. He was open to the voice of God and was obedient to the will of God. Amidst all Joseph’s worries and concerns, amidst all that he had to do to protect and nourish his family, Joseph, The Wordless One, could hear the words the angel that came from God. That should speak to us. That should speak to us in our own family life. That should prompt us to reflect on how open we are to hear words of love and words that challenge us when our natural inclinations lead us otherwise.

Another important point to consider is the fact that Jesus was not only the Son of God who became incarnate of the Blessed Virgin Mary, he was not only fully God, He was at the same time fully man. He took on our human nature and therefore grew from infancy through His teenage years and then into adulthood as we do. Joseph was His earthly father. Joseph’s character, faith, and manhood shaped Christ’s development into manhood. When you stop and think about that truth its implications are quite profound. Jesus’ character was largely formed by Joseph, his earthly father.

Joseph was a carpenter. He measured things carefully before he cut. Carpenters are that way. Which leads me to ask: “How do I measure things before I speak and before I act?” Are the voices I hear within me voices that speak God’s words or are they urges and inspirations that come from voices not of God? And when I do in fact pay attention to my inner voices, how measured and careful are my actions that flow from them?

So as you gather around your family table this Sunday you may want to share with each other what you as a family value. What are the values that shape and influence you? You may be a single parent but you and your children come from an extended family. If you are single you likewise come from an extended family. We all have families of one sort or another and those families shape and form your attitudes, your outlook on life, and your own values. What are they and how do they help you to be who you are? Perhaps the role that Joseph played in the life of Jesus can help you in the role you play in the lives of those around you. Joseph’s words are not recorded in the bible but your words can be written in the hearts of those who know you.

God made us to love and to care, to love and to care not only for our children, not only for the members of our family, but for all whom God has placed in our lives. A great part of caring is to protect what is valuable in life and to cherish those values that are essential  for preserving and fostering the human family. This is one reason among others why priests are addressed as “Father.” They, like Joseph, care for, protect, and nourish all of the members of our family of faith. Even so, if you are male or female, married or single, Joseph’s role is also your role as well as mine.

 

May Joseph’s example inspire us all, members as we are of our great human family.

 


About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”