This blog follows the daily bible readings of the Catholic Church
Gospel, Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary; of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.
18 This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19 Her husband Joseph, being an upright man and wanting to spare her disgrace, decided to divorce her informally.
20 He had made up his mind to do this when suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit.
21 She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’
24 When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
Reading 2, Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22
13 For the promise to Abraham and his descendants that he should inherit the world was not through the Law, but through the uprightness of faith.
16 That is why the promise is to faith, so that it comes as a free gift and is secure for all the descendants, not only those who rely on the Law but all those others who rely on the faith of Abraham, the ancestor of us all
17 (as scripture says: I have made you the father of many nations). Abraham is our father in the eyes of God, in whom he put his faith, and who brings the dead to life and calls into existence what does not yet exist.
18 Though there seemed no hope, he hoped and believed that he was to become father of many nations in fulfilment of the promise: Just so will your descendants be.
22 This is the faith that was reckoned to him as uprightness.
Today is the feast of St.Joseph, who according to Catholic doctrine, never had sex with his wife Mary, in spite of the witness of the Bible, that they had at least four children other than Jesus. (Mark 3:31 forward) The genealogy of Jesus goes back through Joseph to King David, in spite of the virgin birth, because Joseph accepted Jesus as his legal offspring. Most Christians today accept the beautiful stories of Jesus’ conception and birth for what they are: ways of making the theological point that Jesus’ life is a new beginning for humanity, through the creative love of God. The elaborate sexophobia of Catholic teaching about Mary, deserves criticism as part of the mindset which has permitted the sexual abuse of children, by clergy.
We can therefore rescue Joseph from the terrible fate of being cuckolded by the Holy Spirit, and allow him to be the father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is a reasonable deduction from the character of Jesus that he had good and loving parents. Joseph would have schooled Jesus in his trade from childhood, giving him experience of the huge variety of tasks which fell to the local builder, ranging from the construction of houses, to the repair of farm and fishing equipment. It’s entirely likely that Jesus had built or repaired the houses and boats of some of his disciples. The experience of Jesus as a skilled tradesman and small business man cannot have been irrelevant to his character; all who have benefited from Jesus should be grateful to Joseph for his education of Jesus, not just in building skills, but also in the traditions of his people, including the promises made to Abraham and David. There is a Jewish saying that the mother is the child’s teacher until weaned, the father until puberty, after which the Torah is the teacher. We may suppose that, guided by his parents, Jesus became a “son of the commandment” at the age of thirteen. Because Joseph is not mentioned as “seeking Jesus” with the rest of his family (Mark 3:31) legend tells us that he was an older man and died when Jesus was young.
Paul tells the Roman believers, who were both Jews and gentiles, that Abraham is the father not only of those who are physically descended from him but also of those who share his faith. Abraham’s trust in the God who creates life out of nothing, that he would grant him a son, is the same trust that Christians have in God through Jesus. There is an uprightness that consists in the practice of the ancestral religion, but a more important uprightness that comes from trusting God. Joseph, who was a descendant of Abraham and David, had also the uprightness of those who trust in the God of new beginnings.
I must record my gratitude to the Catholic list of bible readings, for forcing me to think about Joseph, and his place in the life of Jesus.