In our study of the Gospels there are always certain characters, outside of Jesus, that grab our attention. There is of course Jesus’ mother, Mary, the disciples, John the Baptist, and even some of the antagonist – Pilate, Herod, the religious leaders. But is seems to me there is always one that fades into the background – Joseph, Jesus’ earthly “step-father.” Perhaps that is where he prefers to be, in the background, but as the head of the Holy Family, he should be looked to as one of the primary figures in the life of our Savior.
What do we know about him? He was a carpenter, which was honest work and a good trade. He was older than Mary and likely very respected in the community. I don’t think he was wealthy, but given his work he was likely comfortable. It would seem that his life was probably rather uncomplicated, right up until the time that he discovers Mary is pregnant. Because they were not yet married, everyone – including Joseph – assumed that Mary had committed adultery; therefore, Joseph could have accused her and she would have been stoned to death, but instead he decides he will quietly walk away. Yet, the angel of the Lord appears to him in a dream, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” So instead of walking away, Joseph did as the angel had instructed him.
It took a great deal of faith, but what Joseph did was sacrificial. He would have been justified in accusing her, but he didn’t. He would have had to swallow a bit of pride, but it would have been even more convenient to just walk away; however, he looked upon Mary and took her as his wife. He looked upon her and he loved her. How much did he love? He loved her enough to say that I will give up everything. I will sacrifice all that I have and all that I am in order to see Christ – to see God given to the world through you.
The love that Joseph demonstrates is a sacrificial love. It is a love that is completely about and for another, regardless as to whether or not there is any benefit for you, in fact it may cost you a great deal. The purpose of such sacrificial love: to see Christ born in another. It is this sacrificial love that Joseph demonstrated to Mary and it is this sacrificial love of Joseph for Mary that is set as an example for you and I. We seek to emulate Joseph so that we too can see Christ born in another.
It’s not an easy question to answer, but what part of yourself would you not be willing to give up in order to see God born in another? What is so important in you that you could not sacrifice it? If that’s not enough, who would you sacrifice it for? Who would you not?
St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “This is the truth of a Christian’s life: self giving and love – love of God and, for God’s sake, love of one’s neighbor – founded on sacrifice.” The life of St. Joseph exemplified them both, which were exhibited in his life of sacrifice. He may prefer to remain in the background, but in our Christian walk, we can look to him as an example of how we are to live. How we too are to love, so that Christ may be born in another.