Today we celebrate the Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary and Foster-Father of Jesus Christ. The role that Joseph played in salvation history is an extremely important one and should not be diminished in any way for lack of notice.
The very last piece to be put into place before the birth of Christ could be accomplished was to form a very specific family for him to be born into. This family needed to be sprung from two sources: a spiritual source: the faith of the descendants of Abraham; a physical source: a member of the royal house of David, whose kingship and dominion would last forever.
But this would be no ordinary family – because the true Father of the Messiah would be God himself. And yet, it was to a real family that he was to be born. So, to a man named Joseph - of the house of David - and Mary – who were joined together in a very unique sort of marriage – Jesus was born.
Their marriage was unique so that Mary could fulfill all of the prophecies concerning her – she was to remain a virgin before, during and after the birth of her son Jesus, but she was also to be his loving and nurturing mother in a real family setting: Mary and Joseph maintained a voluntary, joyful celibate, virginal self-giving relationship all the days of their married life.
The purpose of marriage is for one spouse to make a permanent and lasting promise of self-donation: for the spiritual and physical well-being of the other. To know that the other would always be there to be the recipient of one's gift of self is a dynamic that goes back "to the beginning" when God gave Eve to Adam and Adam and Eve gave themselves to each other.
The marriage relationship of Mary and Joseph, however, demonstrates both the extreme value and importance of marriage and celibacy at the same time: marriage being God's sign of things to come one day at the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in Heaven; celibacy being the actual reality of such a feast already present in the here and now.
Joseph did not just "have to go along with this plan" – because of the special requirements of Mary. Joseph of his own free will wanted just as much as she to know what God's will was, and to do it and so he obeyed God always immediately once it was clear to him what his will was.
God used angels to communicate his will to Joseph – and whereas Mary spoke her responses to her angelic visitors (Be it done to me according to your will!) (My soul magnifies the Lord): Joseph on the other hand simply acted: he took Mary to be his wife; he went to Bethlehem for the census; he took Mary and the child and fled into Egypt; he returned to Nazareth when it was safe; he provided for the child and his mother.
And in acting thus for them, he also promises to act the same way for us who are spiritually related to be the Son and his mother.
He is now our Protector and our Patron, our Guide in family matters; our Model in regards to celibacy and living a pure life: a life centered in God, and God's work.
Thank you, Joseph for being a man of faith, a man of prayer, a man of action! Help us to imitate you this day and every day! And we ask you to provide a happy death for us when our time will come to join you and all the angels and saints in heaven!
St. Joseph pray for us!