To read the texts click on the texts: Gen 1:26-2:3 or Col 3:14-15,17,23-24; Mt 13:54-58
The celebration of the feast of St. Joseph, the worker on the first day of May each year – when Workers Day or Labour Day is celebrated in many countries of the world - is a celebration of the saint and his work ethic, but also a celebration of the participation of humans in God’s work of creation. In this Joseph becomes an inspiration and model to workers of the meaning of hard work and earning one’s living through the sweat of one’s brow. It is also a celebration of the fact that just as creation is an extension of who God is, work is an expression of who humans are and are called to be. There is dignity of labour.
There are four points made in the letter to the Colossians chosen for the feast of St. Joseph the worker, which neatly summarize who Joseph was and continues to be.
The first of these is clothing of the self “with love which binds everything in perfect harmony”. Even the scarce details that the Gospels provide about Joseph are enough to conclude that Joseph did exactly this. This is evident from his response when he found out about Mary’s pregnancy before he had begun to live with her. He would have been justified in divorcing her and would have acted righteously, but he did not do that. Instead, love overcame the law and though he could not understand what had happened and how, he gave precedence to God’s will and not his own. Because he dared to do this and because he acted out of love Jesus could be born and in turn save the world.
The second aspect is the peace which comes from God. The English word ‘peace’ which is from the Hebrew ‘Shalom’ infuses every aspect of a person’s life. It includes the material, psychological, emotional and spiritual aspects. Indeed, peace is better translated as wholeness. In this regard Joseph was a person whose whole being was infused with peace. There was not a single aspect of his life which was not touched by God’s gratuitous grace. That this is true is evident in his constant listening to God even when he was asleep. As a matter of fact it was when he was asleep and dreamt in his sleep that all the revelations of his role in salvation history were revealed. He listened, assimilated and let God work in him. This peace resulted in the family of Nazareth becoming a model for families all over the world.
Gratitude or being thankful is the third aspect mentioned by the letter. This was a constant attitude of Joseph as is evident in his humility and his willingness to take second and even third place in the scheme of things. He preferred to stay in the background and would not look for commendation or praise. He did what had to be done and then realized that he did only what was required of him and that was that.
The fourth aspect is speaking and acting only as God would want one to speak and act. Just as God loves and showers that love without expecting anything in return, so Joseph showered his love on Mary and Jesus and indeed with all whom he came in contact. This is evident in the fact that he held no animosity towards Herod who was looking for ways to destroy Jesus (Mt 2:13-14) or even to the innkeepers because there was no room for them at the inn (Lk 2:7). Joseph had learned the art of already seeing his reward in the privilege that God had given him to be the foster father of Jesus. That was enough for him. He needed nothing else.
The Gospel text from Matthew informs us both about the profession of Joseph (Carpenter) and the fact that he was the father of Jesus. However, it is also a poignant text as is indicated by the response of Jesus. One reading of the text is that because they considered Jesus as merely the son of a carpenter, he could not be capable of doing the deeds that he was in fact doing. The Gospel of Mark states explicitly that Jesus too was a carpenter (Mk 6:3) and thus we can conclude that Jesus followed Joseph in this trade. It is likely that Jesus would have learned this trade from Joseph. We can gauge the kind of teacher that Joseph would have been from the way in which Jesus turned out. It is very likely that besides teaching him the carpentry trade, Joseph would also have taught Jesus about life itself and how to respond to the challenges that life would throw up.
During the time of the pandemic when there are millions all over the world who have been declared surplus or redundant because trade and business is almost as a standstill, we need the intercession of Joseph more than ever.
We plead with him who knew how to handle all kinds of calamities and see his family safe to the shore to also come to our aid with his intercession and guidance.