18 March 2011

In the House of St. Joseph, the Son of David

In St. Joseph we find a man like his father David at his best. He is a faithful man, righteous by faith in the Word and promises of God, who quietly does what the Lord commands, steadfast in that faith and steady in his love for others.

We may affirm that Joseph was a sinner, a finite mortal man of flesh and blood, with flaws and weaknesses of his own. He was not perfect, nor is he the Christ, your Savior. Yet, this son of David is a man after his father’s heart. Though not a king of Israel, he is a son who walks in the ways of his father, King David. And as for the record of the Holy Scriptures, the Lord has set this man before you, this St. Joseph, son of David, as an example of faith and love, faithfulness and righteousness. What the Lord has given you to know about him are not his flaws and weaknesses, whatever those may have been, but the strength of his obedience and service.

In St. Joseph you men are shown an exemplary husband and father, no matter how unique his particular household and family circumstances were. In the immediate cut and thrust of his life on earth, he was called upon to do nothing so remarkably different than you have been (or will be) called to do: to love and care for his wife, to provide for his family, to guard and keep, protect and teach his children. What else did he have to go on but the Word of God? But what is remarkable is the way he received and trusted, followed and obeyed that Word without question, without hesitation, without complaint, and without fail.

You, now, do the same in your own vocations, in your own place in life, in whatever your circumstances may be. Hear what God speaks to you. Believe and trust His promises. Do what He commands. Honor your father and your mother. Love and cherish your spouse. Care for your children; feed them and clothe them, guard and protect them, pray for them and teach them to pray, as you confess the Word of God for them by your words and actions. Forgive their sins, and love them, as you are to forgive and love all your neighbors.

Do not doubt that God is with you in such works of faith and love, within the vocations to which He has called you. And do not suppose that it is all an empty exercise, as though it meant nothing and made no difference. Your confidence in Him is not misplaced, and your labors are not in vain.

Consider what the Lord your God did and accomplished through St. Joseph, the son of David. Of course God could have done whatever in some other way, in any way He wanted, but here is the way He willed and chose to act: to protect and care for the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, and to guard and keep her Son, the dear Lord Jesus Christ. It is St. Joseph who gives the holy and precious name, “Jesus,” to the Child born of Mary. It is Joseph who takes them out of danger into safety, who flees with them to Egypt, provides for them there, and then brings them home again to Nazareth. It is Joseph who establishes the house and home in which the little Lord Jesus lives and grows up on earth.

In this, the humble carpenter is given to do such things as his great and royal ancestor was not.

But to each his own. And so also to you.

There is a mighty greatness to St. Joseph — who exceeds not only his father, King David, but also his ancient namesake, the son of Israel — because he receives and provides for the Lord Himself and His holy Mother. His real greatness in performing these truly good works, according to the Word and promises of God, is the greatness of faith in the very Christ Jesus he is given to foster and feed as a father on earth, and the greatness of self-sacrificing love for this Boy and His Mom.

By such faith, in such love, indeed, St. Joseph shares the greatness of that Son of David who was conceived and born without his help to his betrothed Bride, the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Already in that circumstance, you should remember and realize that the greatness of faith and love, here in this life on earth, is the greatness of the Cross of Christ. It is the greatness of faith in that which God has spoken to us by His Son, which is not yet seen or experienced but is hidden and hoped for. It is the greatness of faith in the forgiveness of His Cross, in the hope of His Resurrection from the dead, in the face of sins and suffering, sickness and sorrow — and, yes, in the face of death itself.

It is the greatness of love that bears with the neighbor in his or her frailty, flaws and frustrations. It is the greatness of love that forgives all things and continues to serve without reward, without thanks — and does not grow weary of doing good. It is the greatness of love that perseveres in patience, without bitterness or complaint, even under the weighty burden of the Cross.

You are called to live by such faith, to live in such love, while it is still night. There is darkness all around you — and within — and the constant threat of danger and death. You are called to move forward, to go where you have never been, to live in a foreign land as a stranger and sojourner. You are called to wait upon the Lord, and in the meantime simply to do what He has given you to do: as a husband and father, or wife and mother; as a son or daughter, sister or brother; as a member of the Body of Christ, and as a citizen of the state where you live on earth; as a carpenter or craftsman, a king, a prince or a peasant.

Do your job. Love your family. Serve your neighbor. And wait upon the Lord in the hope of the Resurrection — hearing and heeding His Word, calling upon His Name, receiving His gifts, and resting in the place He has made for you, in the House that He has established for you, in the Peace of His Gospel (His forgiveness), which surpasses all earthly wisdom and human comprehension.

The example of St. Joseph demonstrates that you can believe and trust, and live and love in this way, by faith. You are not called to do the impossible, to do too much, to do more than your “fair share,” or more than you can bear.

Hush your excuses and complaints. Lay your hand upon your lips to silence your doubts and questions. Listen instead to what the Lord has spoken, and do as He has said.

It isn’t a matter of making a name for yourself, nor of building a great tower for yourself that reaches to the heavens.

Nor does the Lord wait upon you to build a house for Him, as though He needed your works and your gifts and your help.

It is rather to rest in the promises of God, to live and reside in the House that great David’s greatest Son has established and built. He has made and provided this place for you, with Him, that you may have peace: peace from all your enemies round about, peace within your heart and mind, and peace before God, both now and forever and ever.

He has already called you out of death into life, out of darkness into light, out of danger into safety — out of the cold, into His own house and home. He has done so in your Baptism, as He has already accomplished the same for you in Christ Jesus. For that which Abraham, David and Joseph waited upon and hoped for, God has fulfilled for you and for all in His Son.

Out of Egypt He has called His Son.

Out of death and the grave He has called Him.

And so has He called you. In your Baptism, yes, and in the middle of the night, in the midst of the wilderness, in the face of sin and death, even on the Cross or bent beneath it, He calls you to Himself in Christ Jesus. And just as surely as He has raised that same Lord Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand, so shall He raise you up from death to life, and bring you in and give you a place of peace and rest forever.

If your husband or wife is unpleasant or unfaithful, or if you are still waiting for the Lord to give you a spouse, or if your beloved has died and you are left alone — God will call you out of Egypt into the promised land.

If your children are disobedient, unruly and wild, or if the Lord has not granted you the gift and blessing of children, or if your dear child has died — in the womb or in your arms, in the flower of youth, by accident or illness — God will call you out of Egypt in and with His Son, and He will bring you in, His own dear child and heir.

If your parents are short-tempered, harsh and overbearing, or neglectful and distant — or if your parents have succumbed to the frailties of mortal flesh — if they are sick or dying — of if you have already been orphaned in this vale of tears — the God and Father of our dear Lord Jesus Christ will also call you out of Egypt, out of the shadow of death into His marvelous light.

That is your faith and hope and confidence and strength, as it was St. Joseph’s , and St. Mary’s, and Jesus’ too.

In the Lord Jesus, in particular, uniquely above all, your faith and hope have been perfected: in His flesh and blood, in His life and death and resurrection. He lived by faith in His God and Father, under the curse of sin, under the Cross, even unto death, and God raised Him from the dead. That is more than a good example for you; it is your resurrection from the dead, your life and salvation.

St. Joseph lived by faith and lived in love because He looked for that, and he trusted that the Lord God would bring it about — but the Lord Jesus Christ has actually done it: in His own perfect faith and love. He trusted His Father in heaven, and so He entrusted Himself in peace to His finite, frail mortal parents on earth. He suffered hardship and hurt, violence and death, confident in the One who had promised and sworn to establish His Kingdom and His Throne forever and ever.

He went willingly into Egypt, and He returned to His own place, to the right hand of His Father.

What is true for Him, is true for you by His grace. Those who sought your life to destroy you have all been defeated. Arise in peace, and take your rest in the household and family of your Father. Recline here at the Bosom of the Lord’s own Bride, who is your Holy Mother Church, and feast upon the Meat and Drink of your Good Shepherd-King, who reigns over you in love with His scepter of righteousness. For He has made His Covenant with you forever, and He who is faithful shall not permit you to be destroyed, not now, nor ever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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