5th Monday of Lent
Solemnity of St. Joseph
In the Annunciation to Mary, in the Gospel of St Luke, the disobedience of Eve is cured as it were by the unstinting obedience of the Blessed Mother. I wonder if we have considered that the Gospel of St Matthew also has an annunciation in it and that it also documents a cure of the wound of disobedience by the obedience of a humble man – Joseph.
As I reflected on the Gospel, I took my cue from St Matthew’s insertion of the prophecy found in the 12th Chapter of Isaiah: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
It brought to mind another man, King Ahaz- troubled and anxious within, fearing the military strength of neighboring kings. He is told to ask for a sign from God and he refuses to ask for it taking refuge for his disobedience on pious grounds. So the Lord Himself gives him the sign he refused to ask for. The sign of the Virgin with child stands as an everlasting memorial of Ahaz’s disobedience.
It is interesting to note how Ahaz is addressed – listen now House of David. It is as if in the Lord’s mind, the house of David has fallen so low in contrast to the ready obedience of King David himself. So low, that the house of David tries the patience of God Himself.
Now in the Gospel of Matthew, like Ahaz, Joseph is troubled and fearful. Not about the might of neighboring kings but with the more intense and more difficult struggle of conscience. The angel comes to Joseph in a dream and addresses him in a unique manner. He is not called Joseph, son of Jacob (for Jacob was his real father according to the genealogy). He is called ‘Joseph, Son of David’ It seems that St Matthew is harkening back to other man of the House of David who disobeyed.
Now in the case of Ahaz, the sign of the Virgin with child is offered to counter his disobedience. In the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph is given the sign of the Virgin with child and he obeys readily. So the sign of the Virgin with child is an everlasting memorial of his obedience. Joseph by his obedience, has redeemed as it were, the fallen hut of David. This is what Amos prophesied about.
If there is one thing stands out in Jesus – it is his filial obedience to His Father. It is full of what the Greeks call parrhesia, of great freedom and free speech before His Father because it is an intensely loving obedience. The parrhesia or the babbling of a child before a Father it trust totally. There is not a trace of that cringing servility that fear brings. Jesus is not formally obedient in that he keeps the form of obedience. His whole body, his emotions are all passionately engaged in every act of obedience. He is alive in His obedience rather than being dragged along by its demands.
For many of us wounded by the father wound, obedience to the Father is a matter of formality. It is done in a cold fashion and we cannot be faulted for it. It is all we know. We have no experience of loving and totally trustful obedience on the human level to support us emotionally on the supernatural level.
It is here that we understand the significance of Joseph in the life of Jesus. Joseph was the icon of the Father for Jesus. And Joseph was the icon because Joseph himself, in turn, possessed a warm, filial obedience to the Father. Therefore the apple did not fall far from the tree.
Let us turn to Joseph today asking him for that warmth of love and obedience to the Father who loves us.
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