Feast of the Holy Family, of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
A time of joy turns into a time of terror: Herod is out to kill the Infant Lord. An angel warns Joseph in a dream and without a second thought the Holy Family flees to Egypt and out of the mad king’s reach, lest the ages-long desire of mankind perish.
This is not, if we recall, the first story we hear of a Joseph, son of Jacob, in Egypt, nor is it the first time we come to know a Joseph whose life is influenced by dreams. The Joseph of the Old Testament can, if we permit him, teach us a great deal about this silent Joseph of the New Testament.
In olden days when Joseph, interpreter of dreams, was held captive in Egypt and eventually, having won Pharaoh’s favor, was put in charge of the whole land, his brothers came to him seeking grain in a time of famine. It was Joseph to whom the nations of the world came for food, for that which would preserve them from death until the famine lifted. Though it was Pharaoh’s grain and his generosity that saved thousands from starvation, it was to Joseph that he entrusted the careful stewardship of all his riches, including the food given to the hungry.
In the fullness of time it is to another Joseph that God—a far greater king than Pharaoh—entrusts the management of His household: His spouse and His Son. The first Joseph was put in charge of vast wealth, territory and men, Pharaoh saying to him, “Only in respect to the throne shall I outrank you. Herewith I place you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.” (Gen. 41:40-41) The new Joseph was placed in charge of far less, yet infinitely more, for to his care had been given the Blessed Virgin and, more importantly, the Son of God.
The world has long been starving for Manna from Heaven that it might eat of “the food that endures for eternal life.” (John 6:27) It is again to Egypt that the nations of the earth turn, and we must go to Joseph to receive that which will satisfy our longing. The virginal father of Jesus leaves Israel to safeguard the Bread of Life so that all might receive their portion in time, when the heavenly grain of this little infant dies and becomes the full stalk upon the Cross, bread enough for all mankind. Once again this Christmas, deep in the cold hunger of our longing souls, “all the world [comes] to Joseph to obtain rations of grain, for famine [has] gripped the whole world.” (Gen. 41:57) Once again we, the starving masses hungering for God, come to the good steward of the King’s household, and we do not leave disappointed.