Monday March 19, 2001 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Third Week in Lent
Reading I (2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16)
Reading II (Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22)
Gospel (St. Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a)
What a glorious feast we celebrate today in the middle of Lent. We take this time to celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, a man whose holiness is so exceeding that God chose him to be the guardian of Our Lady and of His own Son. Think about the holiness and manliness of the one man in human history that Jesus Christ learned to be a man from. Joseph gave Him the example; not only of the gentleness that Jesus learned, but the firmness of what it means to be a man. But we also see the justice of Saint Joseph. The Church gives us this reading from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans telling us about the faith of Abraham and that God credited it to him as righteousness. Remember, righteousness is the Greek word, justice is the Latin word, but it means the exact same thing. We hear in the Gospel reading that Joseph is a just man. It called him an upright man but it means that he is a just man, a righteous man. It means that he is one who followed the Law perfectly. That is what it implies. It doesn’t just mean he was a nice guy, he was a good man. It means he was perfect; he had achieved perfection. And not merely an external perfection in following the Law. Saint Paul says there is justice with regard to the Law, but particularly with regard to faith.
So it was his faith that made him truly perfect. His faith in God. It is that faith we see when the angel appears to Joseph and says, "Do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife." We see the faith preceding that: Joseph did not doubt Our Lady for one single second. Anybody who thinks that Saint Joseph thought Our Lady had been unfaithful and was with child through some man is totally wrong. That thought never would have crossed his mind because he knew Our Lady’s holiness. He knew the vow of virginity that she had made. There was no such thought. Joseph recognized what was going on within Our Lady, the mystery of the Incarnation that was happening. He recognized that even though he had achieved perfection, he was a man who was born with sin. He was like us, a sinner. More than likely he never committed a mortal sin in his entire life, but nevertheless he had Original Sin and would have had some venial sins. And he saw this mystery happening before his own eyes in his own betrothed spouse and he backed away out of reverence, out of awe, and out of fear. Not servile fear, but fear of the Lord. And he backed away from that. When the angel of the Lord said, "Do not fear to take Mary as your wife," Joseph, in his faith and righteousness, immediately obeyed what God had told him.
So again we see the faith of Saint Joseph. It is that faith, the faith that made Abraham the father of many nations. It is that same faith that makes Saint Joseph the father of many nations, the father of us all. We have to understand that in Jewish Law the moment Mary crossed the threshold of Saint Joseph’s home to become his wife, the child within her womb automatically, legally, became his son. So Jesus truly is, in a legal sense, the son of Saint Joseph. He is the son of the carpenter as He is called in Scripture. So if Mary is our mother and Jesus is our brother (we are united to Jesus, we are members of Jesus), we can call Saint Joseph our foster father. That is why the Church calls him the patron of the Universal Church - because he is our father by faith. His faith is credited to him as justice and righteousness.
He became the father of many nations and it is through him that the promise God made to David is fulfilled. It would seem in the historical context that when Nathan says to David, "After you die, your son will take over your throne and he will build a house for My Name," it happened with Solomon, physically, when Solomon built the temple. But it is Jesus, the true son of David, who is enthroned forever and who has built this house of which each one of us is a living stone. Each one of us is a member. Jesus has built this house and Saint Joseph is the one through whom that comes, he is the son of David. So we see these promises fulfilled most perfectly in Joseph: the just man, the righteous one, the holy one.
There is so much that we could say about this great saint, but time does not allow, unfortunately, so that will have to suffice for now. But ponder Saint Joseph throughout the day, and think of the gratitude we should have for this man whom God chose to be the spouse of Our Lady and to be the father of the Son of God. What an incredible gift God has given to each of us in Saint Joseph. And what trust God has in this wonderful man. He has entrusted the two greatest gifts that He has ever given humanity to the care, guardianship, and love of the great Saint Joseph.
Note: Father Altier does not prepare his homilies in advance, but relies solely upon the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.