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Let us imitate St Joseph

– Friday of the 4th Week of Lent, Solemnity of St Joseph –

[A]n angel of the Lord appeared to [Joseph] in a dream and said, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.’ … When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife … [Mt 1:20-21, 24]

In what way are the myths about the conception of Jesus and the role of St Joseph in that, relevant to us? We ponder this today as we celebrate the feast of St Joseph.

The word ‘myth’ has been used very deliberately here. In the Christian context, ‘myth’ carries a particular meaning. When we use this word, we mean either a story or an account of an actual event, the meaning of which holds an enduring and ultimately mysterious significance. A myth is an account, rich in symbolism, in which both God and we stand revealed. It may be substantially based in historical fact, or only tenuously so. It does not matter either way.

So, what does the account of this event in the life of St Joseph tell us about God and us?

It is the story of a man in crisis. Confronted with an unexpected turn of events, Joseph has to make a choice. The rules of his faith community require a particular response from him. As a righteous man, he should denounce his betrothed and expose her to the harsh glare of public scrutiny. Mary’s young life was on the line. Yet God invites Joseph into a life beyond those rules, freed up to follow the promptings of the Spirit.

On this feast of St Joseph, we recall that we only remember him today because, when it counted, he saw beyond the rules and embraced compassion and the Spirit-filled life God was offering him. We are to do likewise. 

By Shane Dwyer

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