Monday, March 19, 2007

Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of the BVM
The Blood that Binds

Readings: 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16; Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29; Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22; Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a or Lk 2:41-51a

Today we interrupt our season of purple to put on white in honour of St. Joseph. It’s a feast that we are all happy to celebrate, especially since so many of us delight in praying before the statue of St. Joseph. But what are we really celebrating? As with all the other saints, our attention is focused on something more than just the heroic virtues of Joseph. More than his hard work for the sake of his family, his protection of Mary and Jesus, and his obedience to God, we wish to consider why he does all these things. We wish especially to consider his connection with Jesus Christ our crucified and risen Lord.

We often hear people say, blood is thicker than water! and charity begins at home! Perhaps we have even used these lines ourselves. And there is some truth in them. We won’t be too happy, for example, with someone who spends all his/ her time in church or doing social work, but neglects his/ her spouse and children. Even so, it’s perhaps good to remember that these words are not found in the bible. And we must be careful to examine what we mean by them.

Indeed, there is no blood connection between Joseph and Jesus, at least not in the ordinary sense. They share no direct genetic link. If Joseph is a good guardian to Jesus it is for a reason other than blood relations. Our readings today highlight for us what this reason is. Two aspects stand out. The first has to do with the God who promises. The connection between Joseph and Jesus is rooted in the generosity of a God who wishes only to bless. And God’s promise to bless was made long before Jesus or even Joseph came to be born. The readings remind us that it was made to David and to Abraham. We may even go further back to Noah with whom God covenants after the Flood. And God keeps God’s promises. God is true to God’s word, even to the point of sending Jesus to be the Lamb in whose blood our sins are washed away.

Powerful as God’s promise is, however, at least one more thing is necessary for that power to become effective in the world. What is needed is a person of faith, a person who believes. Isn’t this why we celebrate Joseph today? Like his ancestors David and Abraham, Joseph believes in God’s promises. And he does this in very concrete and practical ways. As we heard in the gospel today, on the basis of a dream, an inexplicable inner conviction of what God wants of him, Joseph changes his original decision to divorce Mary. He accepts as his wife someone pregnant with a child that is not his own. And he fulfills the responsibilities that come with that acceptance. He protects his family even when it means having to move from one place to another. He continues to care for Mary and Jesus even through times when he doesn’t understand what is going on. Joseph does all this primarily because he is a person of faith, a person who believes that God’s promises always come to pass even when everything seems to indicate otherwise. And it is precisely through his faith that God actually builds an eternal household for his ancestor David.

So even if blood is indeed thicker than water, in the experience of Joseph we see that it is the blood of the Lamb that is thickest of all, so thick that it brings together all of creation into the household of God. This is the same blood that connects Joseph to Jesus. This is the same home that Joseph laboured to protect. And even as we celebrate the virtues of Joseph today, perhaps we too might consider what it is that connects us to Jesus.
In what or in whom do we place our trust? Into which household do we hope to enter and to remain?

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