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Joseph’s “Hiddenness” in the Annunciation of the Birth of Jesus (Part II)

Calbayog City: The Gospel of Matthew 1:18-24 reports that Mary, a young woman of Nazareth, was already betrothed to Joseph of the house of David. In the Jewish marriage custom,[1] betrothal is already a binding commitment, so that the term “wife” is already to be attributed to Mary (cf. Deut 22:24; Mt1:20).[2] But, before they lived together, Joseph found Mary with a child (cf. Mt 1:18). Since he is a righteous man, Joseph did not want to expose Mary to public shame and just decided to divorce her quietly (cf. Mt 1:19). Then, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, asking him to take Mary into his home as his wife (cf. Mt 1:20-23) and so Joseph did what the angel told him (cf. Mt 1:24-25).



In his Faith Exposed: Learning from St. Joseph, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle pointed out that there are three virtues that we can peruse from the hidden life of St. Joseph as shown in the Annunciation: humility, faith and trust in God, and silence.[3]

First, Joseph showed his humility by recognizing his rightful place before God. He could have placed the law in his hands to exact punishment to Mary for transgressing the Jewish customary marriage. But, instead, he planned to divorce her quietly because he does not want to accuse Mary publicly of adultery and so not to subject her to trial.[4] Later on, this plan changed when he obeyed the will of God as revealed to him through the angel. This, according to Pope Francis, shows how humble St. Joseph is, for having “accepted Mary unconditionally” and for having “never made himself the center of things… but focused instead on the lives of Mary and Jesus.”[5] Secondly, faith and trust in the Lord is at the root of his humility. “What feeds his humility,” says Cardinal Tagle, “is his faith and trust in God.”[6] St. Joseph could have wallowed in his misery and pain upon knowing that Mary is already bearing a child but instead he trusts in the Lord. For Pope Francis, Joseph “turns a problem into a possibility by trusting in divine providence.”[7] This teaches us that what seems to be an apparent negative experience, say for instance the COVID pandemic, can be an occasion for faith and trust in the Lord. Lastly, Joseph is also a man of silence. Unlike Mary, Joseph did not speak any word in the Scriptures.[8] His silence is not a form of passivity, indifference and disinterest but, in the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, a “silence woven of constant prayer, a prayer of blessing of the Lord, of the adoration of his holy will and of unreserved entrustment to his providence.”[9] Pope Francis adds that St. Joseph is a “father in the shadows” and “his patient silence was the prelude to concrete expressions of trust.”[10] As shown in the hidden life of St. Joseph, only a man of humility, of faith and trust in the Lord can enter into that silence.

[1] According to the Jewish customs, there are three stages of marriage: engagement, betrothal and marriage proper. Engagement is often done when the couple is still children and it is made through the parents, or through a professional match-maker. Betrothal is the ratification of the engagement that the couple had previously entered into. It usually lasts a year. Marriage proper occurs at the end of the year of the betrothal. See William Barclay, “Matthew 1:18-25,” Commentary on the New Testament (Westminster: Saint Andrew Press, 2001–2004), 18. [2] See Luke Timothy Johnson, “The Gospel of Luke,” Sacra Pagina, edited by Daniel J. Harrington, SJ (Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1991), 37. [3] See Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, “Faith Exposed: Learning from St Joseph,” (17 December 2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r_7FNrOX5BE (accessed: 21 April 2021). [4] See Raymond Brown, The Birth of the Messiah: A Commentary on the Infancy Narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke (New York: Double Day, 1993), 128. [5] Pope Francis, Patris Corde. [6] Tagle, “Faith Exposed.” [7] Pope Francis, Patris Corde. [8] See North, The Life and Prayers of Saint Joseph, 10. [9] Pope Benedict XVI, “His Message at the Angelus in the Fourth Sunday of Advent” (18 December 2005), http://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/angelus/2005/documents/hf_ben-xvi_ang_20051218.html (accessed: 23 April 2021). [10] Pope Francis, Patris Corde.

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