Friday, March 19, 2010

Joseph, Son of David


Today we celebrate the feast of one of the Church's great saints and one of my personal favorites (as readers of this blog may recall): St. Joseph. Significant though he be, St. Joseph is one of the most enigmatic characters in Scripture. He is mentioned only a handful of times and speaks no lines. He was probably a humble man, a simple carpenter. He may have been one of the leading businessmen of the village of Nazareth, but Scripture gives no indication of this; more likely, he worked construction at the Roman resort complex at Decapolis, a short distance from Nazareth, which, we know from historical and archaeological sources, was a massive building project at the time. He probably carried his lunch pail to the building site each day, working alongside other Jewish laborers, piecing together instructions from his Roman superiors in broken Greek. But this is all speculation, and not based on biblical data.

But today's Gospel reading does provide us with one fascinating bit of information: the angel of the Lord addresses him as "Joseph, son of David." Here is this lowly man, about whom we know almost nothing, who speaks not a word in Scripture, but the Lord's messenger addresses him as one in the line of kings. If at first this seems incongruous, on closer examination we see just how fitting it is. In each generation a king teaches his son, the prince, what it means to be king; when he dies, the prince ascends the throne and in turn teaches his son to be king. But in the case of Joseph and his boy, the child is no mere prince, no merely human heir. Rather, this boy is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Who, then, is worthy to raise Him to manhood? Who can teach Him to be a king? Is Joseph, the carpenter, the one? Surely not, man would say. Indeed, he is, God answers. He is a son of David, not simply by blood, but in the fullest sense.

David was many things: a warrior, a poet, a king. Also an adulterer and murderer, a man with too much blood on his hands to build the temple. But apart from his successes and in spite of his failings, David was most importantly a man after God's own heart. So when the angel addresses today's saint as "Joseph, son of David," we should hear, "Joseph, after the Lord's own heart." Is it any wonder the Lord should choose such a man to be the foster father of His Son?

St. Joseph, patron of husbands, patron of fathers, carpenter of Nazareth, son of David, man after God's own heart: Pray for Us!
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