Letters from a Pastor to His People- December 29, 2019
Saint Joseph is often in the background of Nativity Sets and we know little about him, so let's reflect a little on "the second greatest saint."
We can surmise Joseph was a man of moderate wealth. He and Mary could not afford a lamb for the presentation of their son in the temple—they sacrificed two pigeons instead. And yet, after Joseph's early death, there is no record of Mary working. Joseph had earned enough in his life so that Mary did not need to work. Also, they made the trek up to Jerusalem each year for Passover and other festivals. These trips were not cheap. But they rode in a caravan, since they could not afford their own protection from highway bandits.
So, Joseph was neither fabulously rich, nor dirt poor—kinda like most of us, I imagine.
Pictures, statues, and prayer cards depict Joseph as a gray-beard, balding old man. But he wouldn't have been. (One of the reasons I like the painting here by Mengs.) He was in his 30s when Mary conceived and was in good shape. He had to be, in order to help Mary on the journey to Bethlehem. I doubt an old man could have made the journey. Mary would've probably let him ride the donkey if that was the case!
Also, to be a carpenter was no easy work. The Bible uses the word tekton for carpenter, which can mean both a carpenter and a general mechanic. Joseph carried his tools and timber around the surrounding countryside looking for work. People would have been familiar with Joseph and his son because of their travels. Remember when Jesus goes to various towns during his ministry, the people respond, "isn't this the son of Joseph the carpenter?"
Though Nazareth was a serious backwater—only about 400 inhabitants—Joseph exposed his son to as much of the world and society as he could. They probably went to the nearby big city, Sepphoris, which was only four miles away and had plenty of job opportunities. Jesus was, therefore, "cultured." This is how he could function and even be comfortable in a variety of environments: a wedding party in Cana, a house of prostitutes and tax collectors, and so forth. Jesus knew fishermen, since he sought them out for his disciples, and he was familiar with agriculture, since most of his parables invoked this image. In fact, it's quite interesting that Jesus does not have any parables or sayings, really, about carpentry. He talks about building barns, I suppose, but nothing about the innate process of carpentry, the way he talks about a seed sprouting or a sower sowing. I guess Jesus would save carpentry for his greatest lesson of all: him being nailed to the wood of the cross.
Loving Jesus and loving Mary will make us joyful people. Joseph was a joyful man. If you want to love Jesus and Mary even better, and be an even more fulfilled person, then I suggest you pray with Saint Joseph. And, Saint Joseph, please pray for us!
A special thank-you to all who made the Christmas Liturgies possible and beautiful: Glenn and his musicians, the sacristans, the seminarians, the altar servers, the Eucharistic Ministers and Lectors, and the Ushers. Masses were packed...well done handling everything!
January 1st is a holy day of obligation: the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God. There will be a 5pm Mass in church on December 31st for the holy day vigil (there will be still be daily Masses in the chapel at 7am and 8:30am on 12/31), and the January 1st Masses will be at 7:30am and 9:30am in church. There will be no 11am or evening Mass that day.
Yours in Christ,