Monday, March 19, 2012

St. Joseph's Day: The Sacredness of Work and Hope

Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
2 Samuel 7:16

Today we commemorate Our Lord’s foster father, St. Joseph. It is common in our time to think of Joseph primarily in terms of the Christmas story, and this is natural because of his significance to that story and because we hear so little about him in the Gospels afterwards. But there is so much more to Joseph than this.

His vocation as a skilled laborer is one matter: Christ Jesus grew up in a home where work was valued as well as practiced. In our day, when so much emphasis is put on leisure, it can be hard to hear of work itself being seen as honorable and sacred. By understanding our labors as holy offerings to God, work becomes much more clearly part of our spiritual life, easily connected to the Eucharist. If we find this difficult to do today, perhaps it is yet another sign that secularism’s dismissal of the holy in life is gradually eroding what it means to live in the fullest sense.

But, there is more to consider about St. Joseph. Scripture records that he is of the lineage of David. He carries with him the promise made by God so long before to David and his successors: “Your throne shall be established forever.” That promise had been through so much over the generations…triumph, failure, collapse, and finally outright abandonment—apparently, it seemed, by God and openly by humans. The throne of David had been destroyed and almost no one thought of its return.

Yet here is Joseph, a man whose significance could not have been understood by purely earthly standards but who would become the care-taker and mentor of David’s greatest successor: Jesus, the Priest-King and Son of God, the Messiah. The earthly lineage of David failed, but God did not. The Divine Promise was never forgotten by the One who made it. What good news this is.

This day is a good day to remember that God does not make idle promises, nor does our Creator trifle with human affection. He may call us to undergo real trials, and we may be the ones asked to witness to the message of salvation in risky ways: but we are never forgotten. We must believe this. The witness of St. Joseph is there to encourage us in this. Throughout the ages, God recalls promises made and brings life out of death, victory out of defeat, joy out of sorrow.

Whenever we are dispirited, whenever we think hope is gone, we need to recall St. Joseph. The flickering candle of David’s line was almost snuffed out and rendered irrelevant. While it was God who brought to fruition what human will could not, in Joseph we see what humility and faithfulness can do to cherish and nurture God’s unfolding work of love—magnifying God’s grace in the world and making us co-heirs of the Kingdom with St. Joseph and all the saints.

Collect for St. Joseph
O God, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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