Spiritual Reading for Wednesday – Twenty-third Week After Pentecost

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Spiritual Reading


As long as St. Joseph lived Jesus Christ respected him as a father, and until his death always obeyed him as such: He was subject to them. So that during all those years the constant occupation of the Saviour was to obey St. Joseph. During the whole of that time it was Joseph’s office to command, as the head of the family; and the office of Jesus was, as a subject, to obey St. Joseph, who had been given to Him by God in place of a father. Hence, on the one hand, Jesus performed no action, did not even take a step, tasted no food, took no repose, but by the will of St. Joseph; and on the other, was all attention in listening to and executing all St. Joseph imposed upon Him. Our Blessed Lady said to St. Bridget: “My Son was so obedient, that when Joseph said, ‘Do this or that,’ He immediately did it.” Hence John Gerson writes: “He often prepared the food and drink, washed the vessels, brought water from the fountain, and swept the house.”

St. Bernard, speaking of St. Joseph, says: “He was a faithful and prudent servant, whom our Lord made the solace of His Mother, the nourisher of His humanity, and, in fine, the one most faithful cooperator in the great Council on earth.” Therefore St. Joseph was not only destined as a helper and comforter to the Mother of God, who had so many tribulations on earth; not only was he the supporter of Jesus Christ, but he was also destined to cooperate, in a way, in the Redemption of the world, for this was the work of the great Council of the Three Divine Persons. God having also given him to His Son in the place of a father, He at the same time charged him to feed and defend this Son from the snares of His enemies: Take the child (Matt. ii. 13), as if he had addressed him in the words of the Psalmist: To thee is the poor man left (Ps. x. 14). Joseph, I have sent My Son on earth; and I have sent Him poor and humble, without the splendour of riches or apparent nobility; hence, in the world He will be despised and called the Son of a carpenter: Is not this the carpenter’s Son (Matt. xiii. 55), according to thy humble trade; for I have willed that thou shouldst be poor, because I have destined thee to hold the place of a father over My Son Who is poor. He has not come to reign in the world, but to suffer and die for the salvation of men. On earth, then thou wilt hold My place of father over Him, and be His guardian: To thee is the poor man left. I abandon Him into thy hands. He will be persecuted, and thou wilt share in His sufferings; guard Him with care, and be thou faithful to Me. “Therefore,” says St. John Damascene, “God gave St. Joseph the love, the care and the authority of a father over Jesus: He gave him the affection of a father, that he might guard Him with great love; the solicitude of a father, that he might watch over Him with care; and the authority of a father, that he might feel sure that he would be obeyed in all that he arranged as to the Person of this Son.”

Having, then, made Joseph, as St. Bernard says, a cooperator in the work of Redemption, God willed that he should be present at the birth of Jesus, that he might be a faithful witness of the glory the Angels gave to God on this occasion; and also of what had been revealed to the shepherds, who, when they came to visit the Saviour, related all to Mary and Joseph. Again, that he might be a witness of the coming of the kings, who, guided by a star, had come from afar to adore the Holy Child, as they themselves said: for we have seen his star in the East, and are come to adore him (Matt. ii. 2). God also willed that Joseph together with Mary, should offer Him the newborn Babe, as they did: they carried him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (Luke ii. 22), and there offered Him to death for the salvation of the world, according to those Scriptures in which the Passion of Jesus Christ had already been foretold, and which were well known to Mary and Joseph.

God, then, seeing that through jealousy and fear of losing his kingdom, Herod wished to gain possession of the Divine Child to take His life, sent an Angel to St. Joseph, to direct him, in His Name, to take the Child and His Mother and fly into Egypt: Arise, and take the Child and his Mother, and fly into Egypt; and be there until I shall tell thee: for it will come to pass that Herod will seek the Child to destroy him (Matt. ii. 13). Behold, Joseph, faithful and obedient to the voice of God, arose in the night (the very same night on which he received notice from the Angel, as interpreters explain it), took the Child and His Mother, and journeyed towards Egypt. Joseph, without loss of time, gathered together as many instruments of his trade as he could carry, which were required for the support of the Holy Family in Egypt. Mary, on the other hand, took the Child in her arms, and the poor linen for the use of her Son; and they set out alone, without a servant, as poor pilgrims on a journey which was so long and full of dangers, having to pass through so many desert places before they could reach Egypt, a country in which they had no relatives or friends, and where they would only find rude and unknown people. When they arrived there, St. Joseph, as St. Bernard says, laboured night and day to support his Holy Spouse and the Divine Child. Having afterwards returned from Egypt, according to the new command of the Angel: Arise, and take the Child and his Mother, and go into the land of Israel (Ibid.) — Joseph at once left Egypt, and returned into Judea. But he was again told by the Angel not to remain in Judea, for fear of Archelaus, who reigned there in the place of Herod his father, who was dead. He went therefore to dwell in Nazareth in Galilee, and remained there in the company of his beloved Jesus, living in poverty on the small profits of his humble trade, until the time of his death.

During this time it was, that, having gone with Mary and Jesus, Who was then about twelve years of age, to visit the Temple, he came a day’s journey towards home and met Mary, with whom he believed Jesus to be travelling, but found that Jesus had not returned. During three days Joseph constantly wept, for he was separated from Jesus, the love of his heart; but that which caused him the greatest affliction was the fear that Jesus had left him on account of some displeasure he might have caused Him, and that, therefore, God no longer considered him worthy to have charge of so great a treasure. He was, however, afterwards consoled when he heard from Jesus Himself that He had remained in the Temple for affairs which concerned the glory of God. From that time he attended on Jesus until his death, when it was his happy lot to expire in the arms of Jesus and Mary, who attended upon him in that last moment: hence St. Francis de Sales says, that “it is certain that, like the Blessed Virgin his spouse, he died of love.”

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