Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary
Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) when the angel announced she would conceive of the Messiah; Joseph was in contrast overshadowed with doubt. He could not conceive in his righteous heart what Mary had, by the overflowing grace of God, conceived first in her own heart and then in her womb: the mystery of the Incarnation was veiled in her flesh.
How very subtle is the difference between a “secret” and a “mystery”: neither can be articulated or fully understood and both resist revelation. The difference, however is that a secret is obscured by choice where as a mystery is, by its very nature, obscured. What words could Mary possibly utter that would help Joseph to understand the mystery unfolding, cell-by-cell, within her womb? Joseph saw Mary’s pregnancy as an awful secret, yet because he was righteous and also because he loved her, he was “unwilling to expose her to shame”, to publicly reveal what he thought to be her adulterous crime.
It was this act of love that was the dawning of light in his darkness, for it was at that moment when he, similar to Mary, conceived the Son of God in his heart, He Who Is Mercy. We might be reminded, for example, of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous woman when He, too, showed mercy where the Law demanded punishment. In showing the Mother of God such mercy, Joseph allowed the Light that had come into the world (John 1:9) to come into his heart, for where Mary was there, too, was the Son of the Most High God (Luke 1:43).
That night an angel slipped in through the cracks of Joseph’s broken heart and announced in a dream the same message that had been given to Mary: this Child and His mother belonged to God. Yet because of the unselfish love he showed to them both Joseph was being given the highest honor of any man ever to live: he would be a husband to the spouse of God, and a father to God’s Son. Here the angel says, “…you are to name Him Jesus…” In the beginning, it was God that named man and now, in a supreme act of humility it was a man, Joseph, who would name God.
Let us take some time today to consider this holy man and ask for his help and prayers. Though Joseph’s heart was broken again when, finding his Son in the temple, he was reminded that he was not the Boy’s true father, nevertheless we can trust that the foster father of Jesus, who conceived the Son of God in his own heart, has a dear place in the Sacred Heart as well.