Joseph is always referred to as a ‘just man’. Right from the moment, Mary was betrothed to him he was confronted with making several decisions. It was not easy. Every decision he had to make, would impact on Mary or Jesus or both of them in a profound way. But he did so with a great sense of responsibility.
By Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ
We live today in a world which is broken and fragmented; hate and violence have gripped people and nations as never before. Our world cries out today for exemplars: men and women who can transcend narrow- mindedness and bigotry; people who can make a positive difference in the lives and destinies of others.
One such person on whom we can truly model our lives is St Joseph and to show the significance of Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and the Patron of the universal Church, two of his feasts are celebrated: on March 19 and May 1. Joseph encompassed so much; among them:
Joseph is always referred to as a ‘just man’. Right from the moment, Mary was betrothed to him he was confronted with making several decisions. It was not easy. Every decision he had to make, would impact on Mary or Jesus or both of them in a profound way. But he did so with a great sense of responsibility; be it the moment he wanted to send Mary away quietly or when he finally found the child Jesus in the temple. The ‘righteousness’(justice) of the Bible, was his forte.
Joseph was transparent to the core. He knew it was his duty to register himself and Mary when the census was being taken. He did not avoid that! A grim reminder to each one us as ‘Election Day’ draws near. He wanted the best for Mary and her child. But no doors opened for him! Joseph was therefore open enough for the second best: a stable, to the warmth and the adulation of the animals. Above all, he was always open to do what the Lord wanted from him!
Lies and half-truths, myths and fake news (‘fekuisms’) dominate our lives today. We are plagued daily with a torrent of misinformation, coming from paid propaganda units who work for those who attempt to control our lives and destinies. In a world where insincerity, flattery, hypocrisy and ‘diplomacy’ are the new normal, a sincere person often has to pay the price. Joseph therefore being an upright man, beckons us to live lives of authenticity and sincerity.
Joseph did not hesitate to embrace others: he embraced the shepherds and the Magi; he embraced the ‘Gloria’ of the angels and the tortuous flight into Egypt. His embracing life meant that he was available for others, ready to accompany them. Today we exclude and even kill the ‘other’: those of a different religion or colour, the poor and the marginalized, the refugees and the migrants. Discriminating rather than embracing, has become our way of proceeding.
“Protect us” is the unceasing cry of the innocent and vulnerable! Sadly the trust that some of these “little ones” placed on priests (even on some bishops), on the powerful and wealthy, has been badly betrayed. Unfortunate stories continue to be revealed. Joseph, as the protector of Mary and Jesus and of the Church today, is more than a model to be imitated. He challenges us to become more like him in order to heal the festering wounds and the painful memories.
It was surely not easy for a man to be entrusted with a heavy responsibility in which oftentimes he did not have a decisive role. For Joseph that did not matter. He epitomised humility! Like Job he was patient and silent, waiting for God’s plan to unfold – even when perhaps, he found it difficult to comprehend. In a world in which arrogance and power rule, Joseph is a beacon of strength- motivating us to become ‘meek and humble of heart!’-like him and like his Son.
In March 2019, Pope Francis completes six years as Pope. It was not without reason that he chose March 19 the feast day of St. Joseph to begin his Pontificate. St Joseph has always been very special in his life. He shares a ‘personal secret’, “I would like to share with you something very personal. I like St Joseph very much. He is a man of strength and of silence. On my desk in my room, I have a statue of St Joseph sleeping. While sleeping he looks after the Church. Yes, he can do it! We know that. When I have a problem or a difficulty, I write on a piece of paper and I put it under his statue so he can dream about it. He now sleeps on a mattress of my notes. This means please pray to St Joseph for this problem. That is why I sleep well: it is the grace of God!”
This month we celebrate St. Joseph and Pope Francis! Both are powerful symbols of upholding human rights and human dignity. At the same we realise that we desperately need today a person who is Just, Open, Sincere, Embracing, Protective, Humble! Not one, but many everywhere! Let us pray to St Joseph for this grace and have the courage to place big posters everywhere with the words ‘WANTED: JOSEPH’ emblazoned on it! Hopefully someone may find us!
(Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ, is a human rights activist and thinker with years of experience in India and abroad.)
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