The legacy of Saint Joseph is a mysterious one. He is truly the father of Jesus, our Lord, but not according to the flesh. He is the man who named the boy Jesus, but also a man of silence. He is a man of dreams and a man of action.
A pattern arises in Saint Matthew’s Gospel—we know it well—where Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream and given instructions. Within this pattern, we notice a key word: “rise.” Three times (read them here), we hear the words of the angel in Joseph’s dream, and three times the dream is followed by “And Joseph, rising” or “And rising, he took.” As if to stress this pattern for us, the first word in both the second and third angelic message is “rise!”
Joseph is the man who rises and does what is asked of him. First, he takes Mary as his wife, and then he takes the child and his mother into Egypt, and finally he brings them back again. (Then there’s a last little dream we don’t get to listen to, which tells him to settle in Nazareth.)
To rise and do the will of the Lord—this is the vocation of the prophet. It is exactly what Jonah doesn’t do, for instance (he rises and flees). It is the preacher’s call to the redeemed people of God. And perhaps most significantly, it is exactly what Abraham does when he goes to offer up his beloved son to the Lord (Gen 22:1-3).
Joseph is the man who rises to serve the Lord, and we are his children. His example is especially important for his many sons who imitate him in fatherhood, but it also appeals to all who walk in the ways of God. For now, we’ll take just one lesson from the story of St. Joseph.
We must always be ready to rise.
Throughout the scriptures, as in the life of St. Joseph, “arising” indicates a readiness to give oneself to the good works God has laid before us (Eph 2:10). On the most basic level, this means we should not be sleepy-heads, but rise up in the morning and like St. Joseph, set our hands to the tasks God gives us. In a more general sense, we must never let our recreation and repose stop us from being generous. In an age of binge-watching and social media, when we are surrounded by ways to self-medicate, let us not succumb to the noise and become deaf to the needs of those around us! Whenever we stand in readiness to serve, we join St. Joseph in love for Jesus and his mother.
Let us who are Baptized live according to what we truly are: “sons of light and sons of the day” (1 Thess 5:5). So, in all our rest, even in the sleep of death, we will be ready to rise.
By Br. Isaiah Beiter, O.P. on January 20, 2020