Solemnity of St. Joseph, Thursday – 19th March 2020 – Matthew 1, 16.18-21
In the Gospel of Matthew, the “righteous” are those who behave in ways that reflect the nature and will of God (ex. 5,45; 9,13; 13,49; 25,37). Matthew narrates Joseph as the first person who responds with this character: as a righteous man he chooses not to disgrace Mary, but to separate from her quietly. The first reason for choosing Joseph as foster father of Jesus was that he was righteous in mind, righteous in deed, and was leading a righteous life. It is important to note that this first decision by Joseph arises before an angel appears to him in a dream. What he learns from the angel causes him to change direction. Immediately he surrenders to God’s will and faithfully fulfills his call to take care of Mary and Child Jesus. In perfect obedience Joseph says his “Fiat” as Mary did by doing what the angel told him to do in his dream. Yet it is Joseph’s first decision to set Mary aside that is attributed to his righteousness. The second decision is simply a response to new information. It is the stability of Joseph’s character in the face of an unstable situation that makes it possible for the story to move through to its end. Next, the angel tells Joseph that his role in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah, is to give the child its name. He responds once again to the words of the angel and names the child Jesus, who belongs not just to Joseph and Mary, but to “his people” whom he will save from their sins. Joseph, being the righteous man, blends his manly readiness for action with gentle and sensitive concern for Mary and solicitous care of Jesus.