Focus on St Joseph
The Gospel this week focuses on the forgotten person of the Nativity, St Joseph. Yet Joseph is important. The background of the reading might seem a little bewildering to us with all the talk of engagement, betrothal and divorce. It was a different cultural world from ours. Evidently, in those days people married in stages.
The first stage was the engagement. This happened when the boy and girl were very young and it was done by their families. In those days, marriage was too important to be left to the vagaries of the human heart. The parents made the engagement. The second stage was the betrothal. Here is where the couple accepted and ratified the engagement their parents had made. They could leave before the betrothal but to separate after the betrothal required a formal legal procedure to procure a divorce. A year after the betrothal came the third stage, the solemn marriage. Joseph and Mary were at the middle stage where Joseph is told in a dream not to fear taking Mary as his wife.
We see Joseph as a man of commitment. He truly loved Mary and he would not subject her to the demeaning public divorce process and was ready to separate quietly. He was reassured, however, by God’s word and never looked back. He was committed to Mary and Joseph. We are known by our commitments. It has been said that our character is revealed not by the number of options we leave open but by the commitments we embrace. Joseph could have walked away from his commitment to Mary and Joseph, even after the dream, but he didn’t . Christmas is a good time to renew our commitments to our families, our vocation, our work and our Church. Maturity is indeed defined by the commitments we keep even when it is not easy, just like Joseph.