Happy Feast Day dear sisters and brothers, especially to Sr. Miriam Joseph on her first feast day in heaven! What can we say about this Patron of the Universal Church? We have a conundrum today because how did a carpenter from Nazareth rise to such an auspicious status? Especially one who could be described as the quietest of men mentioned in the New Testament. We do not have any recorded words that he uttered during his lifetime in the Gospels. Why did God choose an ordinary laborer to help raise his only begotten son and act as the guardian and protector of the Blessed Mother—two of his most precious creatures?
May I suggest that this ordinary man lived a simple life in an extraordinary way? He taught us some significant lessons in the way he dealt with the unexpected. He had a deep trust in God when facing the difficulties of life and a regard for the daily routines of life while acting humbly in the service of others.
We first hear of Joseph when he is betrothed to Mary. Having gone through all of the rituals that the Jewish taw prescribed for the completion of the marriage contract; he discovers the pregnancy of his Beloved. Talk about the unexpected!
However, being a just man he decides to put her away quietly and not to expose her to the punishments called for in such a case. Meanwhile, he is faced with another test of trust when the angel assures him that this is a special child and that both he and Mary will be his earthly family. Surely this is a lesson for all of us when we too are asked to accept the unexpected in life such as sickness, infirmity, or the death of a loved one. What is the degree of trust that we manifest in such times?
We are told that Pope Francis has a very unusual statue of St. Joseph in his room which depicts Joseph in a state of repose or sleep. This sculpture, no doubt, inspires our Holy father to leave the difficulties of his office in the arms of God and to trust that all will be well.
St. Joseph is also a model of living an ordinary life in an exceptional way. According to the Scriptures, he and his family lived and worked in the backwater town of Nazareth, hardly known as a special place in those days. We recall the words of the Gospel, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)
Jesus not only lived there for thirty years but he likely spent much of this time in the presence of Joseph learning the rudiments of the carpentry trade.1t is said that to be a good carpenter requires great patience, attention to detail, physical dexterity in the use of one's hands in order to transform simple wood and stone into beautiful useful pieces. Certainly, Jesus brought all of these skills into his ministry of transforming lives.
There is a beautiful story, although most likely a legend, that Joseph taught Jesus the importance of making excellent animal yokes. In those days, oxen were used to plow the fields and yokes had to be made to fit exactly so as not to chaff their necks while performing their work. William Barclay (d. 1978), a Scottish scripture scholar and minister, proposes that Jesus became an excellent designer of yokes. Perhaps the sign over his workshop in Nazareth read: ''My Yokes Fit Well.” Later, we can imagine Jesus referring back to those days and using this very memory when he preached about the necessity of carrying the burdens of life in such a manner that they are light because they were destined to fit each of us so well.
Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light. (Matthew 11: 28-30)
Today let us ask St. Joseph to help us each live ordinary days in the presence of God, trusting that whatever we face in life is meant to transform us into the beautiful images of God that Genesis said we were meant to be.
– Sister Helen R. Boyd, OP
Sister Helen resides in Dominican Convent where she serves
on the Life Enrichment Committee and co-chairs the
Mission Outreach Committee .