BIA Benedict XVI Institute for Africa
Rev. Joseph

Rev. Joseph Briody

For the Feast of Saint Joseph

In the Gospels, St. Joseph doesn’t say much, if anything. He is the Quiet
Man, there in the background but leading, protecting, and guiding the Holy Family.
There is only one word we are told he uttered and that is the name of Jesus, for he
was specifically entrusted with the task of naming the Divine Child and so of
adopting Jesus as his legal son. In naming Jesus legally as his son, St. Joseph
agrees to be the earthly father of the Son of God, the Guardian of the Redeemer,
making Jesus the “Son of David,” heir to the Old Testament promises.

The name “Jesus” is the only word we are told Joseph spoke, according to
the Gospel. There’s a lesson here for us. To be like St. Joseph is to love silence and
to speak of Jesus in our words and with our lives.

In today’s Gospel we expect Joseph to speak. But unexpectedly, it is Mary
who does the talking when Jesus is found in the Temple. Joseph rightly gives her
the preeminence and so she speaks for Joseph too when she says to Jesus “Son,
why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with
great anxiety.”

Jesus’ response on being found in the temple may not have been easy for
Joseph to hear: “why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be
about my Father’s business?” This is another epiphany of who Jesus is: he is the
Son of God before he is the legal son of Joseph. Just then, Mary and Joseph may
not have understood fully. It would be clear later. Mary pondered all these things in
her heart, appreciating them more deeply, penetrating the mysteries of things she
would share later with the infant Church.

Mary and Joseph “lost” Jesus in the Temple. When they found him again, he
revealed more of who he was. When we seem to lose Jesus, when he seems out of
sight or absent, he wants us to seek him, to long for him, and to find him
again—but to find him as he is, not as we imagine him to be.

Often this hiddenness and searching result in a deeper knowledge of Jesus
as he reveals himself ever more to us. The spiritual life is an ongoing search. Idols
must be toppled. Space must be made for the true God. There must be an emptiness
or space in us if he is to fill it—and “we have to become aware of that emptiness
so that we may want Him to fill it” (Caryll Houselander, Reed of God, 121).

In those moments when he seems absent, we feel the emptiness, we want
him to fill it, and so we cling more tenaciously to him and search for him who will
let himself be found in his time, in his way, often unexpectedly. This is not
something we control or dictate, but we can, like Mary and Joseph, seek and find,
honor and ponder in our hearts.

St. Joseph, the Guardian of the Redeemer, shows in his own life how we are
to be drawn into the obedient love of Jesus for the Father. That’s the very
atmosphere pervading Joseph’s life, the air he breathes. Real love is about the
Father’s business. What matters for the twelve-year-old Jesus is the Father’s will.
His food was to do the will of the Father. He came not to do his own will but the
will of the Father who sent him. Jesus underscores the primacy of the Father’s will
in all things, even when it leads to the Cross.

Recently when the bishop of my home diocese, Bishop Alan Mc Guckian
S.J., was moved to another diocese, he wrote a letter to the priests explaining the
move. One line really stood out for me. He wrote: “we are all men under
obedience.” We have to go where we are sent and do what is asked of us. St.
Joseph teaches us how to be men under obedience—how to let Jesus live out in us
his own obedience to the Father. This obedience raises us beyond the limits of our
littleness and puts us in harmony with God’s will (St. Maximilian Kolbe).

At ordination we place our hands in the hands of the Bishop and promise
obedience. Our obedience is the placing of our hands, our life, in the hand of God,
willing to be lead, and trusting in his Fatherly goodness. That lively obedience
directs and shapes our love and our life.

St. Joseph guided the tiny footsteps of God the Son made man. He who
guided Wisdom’s footsteps will guide us who seek his patronage. He has particular
care for the Church of God as its patron. He surely guides us in our life and
vocation. And so, we make St. Bernardine’s prayer our own: Be mindful of us, O
blessed Joseph, and intercede for us with Him whom men thought to be your son.
Win for us the favour of the most Blessed Virgin, your spouse, the mother of Him
who lives and reigns … forever and ever. Amen.