Fourth Sunday: Ite Ad Joseph

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home (Mt. 1:24).

On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Sacred Liturgy invites us to be one with the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, that we might learn from them how to approach and how to serve the Mystery of God made Man, the Word Made Flesh. Our Advent liturgy has recalled the ancient prophecies, specifically those of the Prophet Isaiah. We might say of these that they were a remote preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God. For two Sundays we contemplated the figure and message of John the Baptist, who, as the last of the prophets provides us with a more proximate preparation for the revelation of this Mystery. Today, with Our Lady and St. Joseph as models guides, our contemplation of this Mystery is intimate.

From them, more than anyone, we learn how to receive the Mystery of Christ Our Lord and how to serve this Mystery in the intimacy of our own interior life. ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord’ (Lk. 1:38). We are very familiar with these words of Our Lady because they comprise part of the Angelus prayer that we recite several times daily. St. Joseph is no less prompt in his obedience; for our Gospel text tells us very simply that St. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. This is the obedience of faith spoken of by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans and which we are called to bring about, called as we are to belong to Jesus Christ (Rom 1:5). Our own prompt obedience and willingness to serve the Mystery of Christ expresses our gratitude for the gift of salvation; and it is no less a means to evangelize, a way to share with others the Gospel of salvation. ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord’: these are beautiful and profound words worth repeating as we begin each day.

The saints assure us that devotion to Our Lady is a sure sign of salvation because the grace that she wants to obtain most for us is the grace of saving our souls. As we contemplate her with the Christ Child we see Our Saviour and Lord whom she served with love beyond all telling. St. Joseph is the Chaste Guardian of both the Virgin and of the Redeemer. Like Our Lady, St. Joseph receives a unique task in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. His vocation is to be the visible fatherhood of God on earth, to serve the Son of God and His Mother selflessly; and such service is reward enough in itself (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word, p. 72). Imitating the prompt obedience and generosity of both Our Lady and of St. Joseph enables us to participate in the unfolding mystery of salvation making us agents of the Divine Will.

Our Catholic Faith has always venerated the Blessed Virgin Mary; and in the development of doctrine that defines a deeper understanding of the Mysteries of God revealed to humanity so long ago, we have also come appreciate and venerate the place of St. Joseph in the Mystery of Salvation. The Church honours St. Joseph with what is known as protodulia. The veneration that we give him is higher than any given to angels and saints, except for our Lady who receives the special veneration called hyperdulia.

In Canada we venerate him as Patron of our Nation and with the Church throughout the world we also regard him as the Church’s Universal Patron. St. Joseph, stands as an exemplary model of the kindness and humility that the Christian faith raises to a great destiny, and demonstrates the ordinary and simple virtues necessary for men to be good and genuine followers of Christ. Through these virtues, this Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures (Paternas vices, May 1, 2013, Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments). We should therefore foster in ourselves and in others a devotion to St. Joseph; so that we might come to a deeper appreciation of his role not only in the Mystery of Salvation but also his place in the intimacy of our own interior life as this Mystery grows and bears fruit in the holiness and intimacy of our own relationship with God. St. Joseph is a sublime icon of manliness, especially needed in an age like ours that is so confused about the nature and purpose of masculinity, and by extension, no less confused about the nature and purpose of femininity. His courage and willingness to build his life according to the designs of God now revealed to him should be a source of strength for all of us as we endeavour to serve the Mystery of Christ, and endeavour to respond to the promptings and guidance of Divine Providence.

Let us entrust our own relationship with Our Lord to his fatherly protection and ask good St. Joseph for the grace to love Our Lord and Our Lady just as he did. May Our Lady and St. Joseph who received and served the Mystery of Salvation with love beyond all telling, obtain for us the wisdom of faith, perseverance in our good deeds and the grace of final perseverance (Supplications in Honour of St. Joseph’s Hidden Life with Jesus and Mary, The Holy Cloak of St. Joseph).