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Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A

18 December 2010

Reflecting on Matthew 1:18-24

Do you know this old joke?

Johnny:  Mom, I get to play St. Joseph in the Christmas program!

Mom:    Go back and tell Sister you want a speaking part.

It’s true.  Joseph doesn’t utter a single word in any of the Gospels, and if it weren’t for Matthew, with his unique memory of St. Joseph’s saving role in the protection of Mary throughout her pregnancy―and  of the Mother and Child after the birth, with the dangerous flight into Egypt and eventual return― we wouldn’t know much about St. Joseph at all.

As early as the second century, writers began adding their own imaginative additions to the scant information given in the Gospels about both Mary and Joseph.

In those books we learn that Joseph was a widower with several children; hence the several occurrences of the New Testament phrase “the brothers and sisters of the Lord”.  (That’s one reason he is often drawn as an old man in Nativity scenes.)  In these stories, Mary lived in the Temple.  When she was fourteen all the unmarried men from the royal lineage of David were summoned so that her spouse could be chosen.   Calling on the prophecy from Isaiah that we heard last week―a branch shall come forth from the family of Jesse, a blossom shall bud from that tree―they all brought branches and extended them.  And sure enough!  The Holy Spirit descended on Joseph’s branch.

That’s why St. Joseph is often depicted in art as holding a branch with a blossom on the top.

Never mind that St. Jerome later said “phooey” to the stories by simply translating “brothers” as “cousins” and ending the need to create stories to line up with theology.  There’s something charming about it anyway.

Sharing God’s Word at Home:

What customs do you share about St. Joseph?

This column was written in my head while having a fascinating conversation with my friend and greatest teacher, Sr. Macrina Scott, OSF, who once again opened me up to the wideness and depth of our Catholic traditions, some of which made it into Scripture!

What would YOU like to say about this question, or today’s readings, or any of the columns from the past year? The sacred conversations are setting a Pentecost fire! Register here today and join the conversation.

I have come to light a fire on the earth; how I wish it were already burning (Lk.12:49).

Kathy McGovern © 2014-2015

Advent - Cycle A

12 Comments to “Fourth Sunday of Advent – Cycle A”

  1. As always…interesting. I didn’t know some of this…

    Have a wonderful, blessed Christmas.

    Steve

  2. Since only two of the Gospels have infancy narratives, it’s no wonder that we have so little information about St. Joseph. One of the customs to which I don’t subscribe is the “house seller” St. Joseph. I tried it once, and was severely admonished by my late pastor and good friend Father John D. McCormick (Father Mac), “get out there, dig up poor ol’ St. Joseph, clean him up and give him a place of honor in your home!” That was the end of that custom for me.

  3. LOL! brebis, that’s a great story. Made me laugh out loud! I can remember my mother telling me that custom. Had forgotten about it till you brought it back up. Thanks for the memory.

    Merry Christmas everyone!

  4. I really don’t know any thing other then the one Drebis shared. I was raised with a deep respect for Saint Joseph, my mom just loved him.It was from her I saw what great and heroic acts he did for us. I never thought of how by his taking Mary as his wife and by changing the course of his life and by saving their life, he let God work through him and the faith he had in God shows us that in the course of unbelievable or unlikely situations amazing things come to light. Merry Christmas!!!

  5. My wife and I buried the statue of St Joseph in trying to sell the house in Littleton to move to Dallas. When we finally sold the house, we accidentally decapitated the statue through mishandling. To this day, we stil laugh about this and ‘am sure, St Joseph is still giggling about this funny incident. – – Cris
    PS: Oh and the sequel is this: Guia tried to glue back the head and loaned the statue to another friend selling their house.

    Have a blessed Christmas, everyone!

  6. Kathy,

    Please accept my apologies for turning this into a comic conversation. I wasn’t thinking about that when I wrote my initial comment. As a convert, I just didn’t have any other customs about St. Joseph about which to write.

  7. YOU KNOW WHILE WE SHOW RESPECT FOR OUR RELIGIOUS ITEMS, WE NEED TO KEEP IN MIND THEY ARE MAN MADE AND MISHAPS DO HAPPEN. IN MY FAMILY WE HAVE BROKEN, CHIPPED AND LOST MANY TREASURED STATUES, ROSARIES AND SO ON.IT IS THIS THING WE CALL THE HUMAN CONDITION. MY GRANDMOTHER USE TO PUT A STATUE OF MARY IN THE WINDOW TO BRING GOOD WEATHER. I THINK WHAT WE ALWAYS QUESTION IS THAT FINE LINE BETWEEN FAITH AND SUPERSTITION. AND IT REALLY OKAY TO NERVOUSLY LAUGH AT THINGS WE EMBARRASSED ABOUT, IT’S A GREAT STRESS RELIEVER. SO BREBIS DON’T TAKE ON THE FEELING THAT WE AREN’T BEING UPRIGHT THIS WEEK, MAYBE WE ARE JUST CLEANSING OURSELVES OF GUILTY AND UNSURE FEELINGS.

  8. Well, the “bury a statue of St. Joseph” tradition seems to have a place with a lot of realtors, too. I’ve actually seen kits with a statue and prayers.
    When we moved to Colorado, we still hadn’t sold our house in New Jersey. A real estate lawyer completed the process for us, so Joseph is still buried out in that back yard, ready for the next sale of the house. However, 17 years ago we put a statue of him in the kitchen so that he could be honored in our new house. He’s still stands on that ledge.
    I know of a bursar (treasurer) of a religious community who always put money or fruit in front of Joseph’s statue. It was her way of reminding the saint that the sisters needed money. She was asking his help in providing the finances.
    Since Joseph is the patron of workers, I should have prayed to him for a job. It seems I could still do so in order to get a position that uses my gifts and talents, one that helps me make a decent living.
    Another tradition holds that Mary and Jesus were both at his bedside when Joseph was dying. He is the patron of a happy death. I hope to remember that in my final hours and ask him to bring his family to make that journey to heaven with me.

  9. I enjoy the image of Christ in the movie “The Passion of the Christ”, where Joseph is teaching him how to be a carpenter. That is one of two scenes that make me remember how human Christ was, that his father taught him an earthly skill and occupation!

  10. Great conversations about St. Joseph!
    I find myself praying to St. Joseph for all the foster fathers in our world who are trying to raise children with love and I ask St. Joseph to bless all men and fathers in our world. How we need models of holy men for our families today!
    Blessed Christmas to all!
    Donna

  11. As I have meditated on this week’s reflection by Kathy, I am aware of the many ways in which scripture teaches us compassion, acceptance, forgiveness and love. Joseph might not have been expected to protect Mary and Jesus considering the laws of his time. But, the Holy Spirit gave him the support he needed to do the loving thing. Jerome and others may have changed a word here and there to support their position, but the basic message always seems to come through.
    My sister and brother-in-law have been trying to sell their house in Minnesota so they could move back to Denver for five years. Poor Joseph remains on his head in the frozen tundra and the house is now off the market!
    (Being technologically challenged, this comment was accidently posted to the patience reflection this AM, and then copied and pasted to the appropriate page. Forgive the duplication!)
    Merry Christmas.

  12. I love St. Joseph! Perhaps because he is everything I’m not–silent, strong, un-judging. I remember a really powerful conversation a few years ago (I was reminded of it by clm1127’s comment about Joseph in the “Passion of the Christ”). My friend was talking about Joseph and said, “Who was it that first taught Jesus to say the Passover prayers? Where do you think he learned how to forgive the woman caught in adultery? Could it be that Joseph told the story of how he had had the option to expose Mary’s unexplainable pregnancy?” I love the idea that Jesus learned the words of Consecration at the Last Supper from Joseph and was able to send wagging tongues and hands filled with stones away because of the forgiveness and tolerance he learned from Joseph.

    On a more personal note–St. Joseph was one of the saints I asked to intercede for me to find my husband. Paul and I were married this past May 1st–the feast day of St. Joseph! He is a gift–Paul and St. Joseph! :O)

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