Many things that been written about St. Joseph by the many saints and spiritual writers in the past. Yet, for such a dear and important saint in the life of the Church, we find little to nothing significant about the life of the foster-father of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in the Gospel accounts. Many titles have been given to him by the faithful throughout the years, but nothing was really known about him except that he was from the Davidic lineage and was a poor carpenter. Many honors and devotions of the saint have had a special place amongst the faithful, but his life was nothing more than a simple, common, and unknown one when he was alive. Nonetheless, this is where the paradoxical “secret” of his sanctity and power seems to lie! Even though St. Joseph seems to be a small instrumental part in the plan of salvation, he has made a big impact on the life of our Savior and Redeemer. Perhaps we will not know much about him from a historical and literary standpoint, but to the ones who knew and loved him, he was the genuine, life-giving, and humble expression of perfect spousal, fatherly, and neighborly love. In the life and silent example of a simple and poor carpenter, we learn the important lesson of nothingness.
First and foremost, the very life of St. Joseph and his nothingness is counter-cultural and contradictory to our post-modern struggle to make ourselves known at all costs, but his genuineness made a deep ingrain to the ones who loved him. He really offered nothing to this world according to our objective, effectiveness, and utilitarian standards, but for our Lord, he made an unimaginable impact that He was proud to be known as the son of the carpenter from Nazareth in Galilee. Why and how, you might ask? I believe the true lessons that he taught and gave to the Lord (and to us) are hidden behind his nothingness. He said nothing, but through his genuine life and deeds, loving words and actions, caring attentiveness and faithfulness have spoken and taught the Lord special lessons of what it meant to be loved and love one another as one’s self.
We often hear the phrase, “Like father, like son,” being said in our very own culture. I believe this can, too, be applied to St. Joseph because we can see the products and fruits of the saint’s love through the Lord’s own genuine, humble, and loving examples of true charity. Our Savior is both divine and human — in the fullest understanding and reality; so, His knowledge and understanding of reality is both perfect according to His divine nature, but also down-to-earth and personal because of His human nature. He had both an intimate and loving relationship with His Heavenly Father, which was expressed numerous times through the Gospel accounts; but let us remember, too, that when He understood what it meant to be loved by a father, it was through the caring words and actions of St. Joseph. The simple and poor carpenter was the real and personal expression of a father to the Lord Jesus Christ. He received love and protection from the saint just as any child would have from His own father.
Lest we forget this unspoken reality, that Jesus Christ lived like us in all things but sin… He experienced everything that we would have personally felt in our very own humanity! Just like each and every one of us, He had to grow up, mature, and learn life’s own experiences and lessons. And, as we so well know that life and the people who are around us are not always easy, loving, and perfect. Things are messy and we get hurt! The child and young Jesus had to be taught, comforted and cared for by both his foster-father and mother, too. Hence, for our Lord, St. Joseph was that personal, human, real, and genuine fatherly love that He first received, hence grew and strengthened by His own experience with the Heavenly Father‘s love. When the child and young Jesus looked at St. Joseph, he was that caring and loving father figure who silently tried his best to care for the One entrusted to him. In a symbolic (but very real) way, the saint was the human face of the Heavenly Father for the Lord. For all practical, human, legalistic, and common knowledge and understanding, especially for the people of Nazareth and the surrounding regions of Galilee, Jesus was known to be the son of Mary and Joseph of Nazareth.
Being a carpenter, they probably did not have much. They probably went without many comforts and conveniences, and there were probably numerous moments of financial hardships and struggles. This simple life must have impacted the Lord very much, because we can see that He sympathized with those who had little, including the poor, forgotten, ignored, abandoned, and those who were living on the fringes of society. Those who grew up and had little, but were given much loving care, are able to relate and understand with those who had nothing, pushed away, abandoned, ignored, or looked down by the elitists, upper classes, self-righteous, or general populace. The King of the universe taught us, through His very own life of simplicity and nothingness, that He desired nothing more than genuine love. The One who could have chosen to live and be anything or anyone that He would like, chose to be a simple son of a poor carpenter who had little to nothing, so that true treasures and riches are measured by the quality of faith and love, not just humanistic or secularistic quantities.
By growing up poor, Jesus had little on the materialistic and humanistic sides; nevertheless, He must have received much care from His mother and foster-father because we can see the fruits of their love in how He treated those who were typically looked down on and ignored by His very own contemporaneous society. We can see this from many family-oriented cultures and newcoming immigrants in our very own materialistic and humanistic society, too. Those who came to this new land of opportunities with little to nothing are very much grateful for the new-found freedom. They tend to care for one another, too, because they know they have to depend on each other since they have little. My paternal grandmother would always said, “Those who possess little of this world are rich in spirit. Those who hunger and want to fill themselves with the riches of this world are stingy with others and poor with never-ending wants.”
Indeed, we become so poor and impoverished when we focus only on the materialistic riches and humanistic desires of “more” since we end up never having enough, except to be more bitter, resentful, and envious of others who seem to have more than us. Those who only worry about themselves and judge their self-worth based on what they have according to worldly standards will always remain enveloped, centered, and constantly worried about their own little, pitiful, and hellish selves. Yet, those who have received much loving care and able to give the genuine gift of themselves to others will always give the best, heartfelt, and valuable gifts that cannot simply be measured with earthly goods or materialistic means. The Lord was that way because He had little growing up but received much love from His own earthly parents! Our Savior and Redeemer always chose relationship and people before political, financial, or humanistic standards and measurements. He desired genuine trust, love, and faith because He learned and received that from of young. The Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, even though had little, cared and loved Him in the best and simplest way that they were able to, and that was why our Lord always desired genuine and invaluable gifts of self from people.
We hear much about the poor in Sacred Scriptures, but we often only equate them to being materialistic without anything. Even though that is the literal meaning of the term, “anawim,” the poor begin to take a deeper theological understanding throughout salvation history. They are understood as those who have nothing else to depend on but God Himself. In this way, we are invited to become the poor spiritually, living our lives with total dependency on the Almighty. Mother Mary and St. Joseph were the borderline anawim in many different senses, especially because they had little; nevertheless, at the same time, they always had the radical dependency and trust in God‘s providential goodness and loving care.
We have seen people who are materialistically poor but very full of themselves while there are people who have much but very humble and trusting in God. Our disposition, therefore, is very important in the faith journey. We have to desire to let go of our ego, especially its desire to be in control and its full load of pride, to truly be instruments of divine peace through the personal, self-giving service of our brethren. It is very easy to be dependent on wealth and its enticement or be stuck in resentment for the things we do not have and think that we deserve; however, when we know who we are and where our blessings come from, we are able to be at peace with being good stewards of God‘s gifts. When we are able to know that what we have is not to be used only for our own goods and benefits, but can be in turn used for the greater goods of all, we can bless others with what we have out of love.
Since St. Joseph was a nobody and had nothing really to offer in the eyes of the world and those who are materialistically focused or worldly obsessed, he was able to offer his genuine, personal, intimate, and loving whole to this very own family. The gift of himself to those who knew him was something personal, intimate, and heartfelt. The gift of St. Joseph was invaluable because it came from the heart, of his very self and sacrificial love for the Blessed Virgin Mary and the Lord Jesus Christ. As a matter of fact, the gift of himself was so personal, genuine, and loving that it was ingrained and impactful in the very own human identity and life of the Savior. He taught us how to have pure, chaste, and self-giving love without being held back by cheap, shallow, selfish, objectifying, and sexualized post-modern versions of intimacy.
The most chaste spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary was able to love her with his very own self by offering her his personal, intimate, and loving being without downplaying or depending on carnal lusts, objectivities, and desires. The relationship between St. Joseph and the Blessed Mother was one of true friendship and love, restoring and really living out what was experienced by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden but was lost after the Fall. This is something that is very hard for us to understand and comprehend in this overly-sexualized, sensational, and objectifying world, but true, intimate, and chaste friendship is possible!
When a spouse said that they married their best friend, they express in a small way to have that chaste intimacy without having to depend and turn to dependency on carnal and sexual satisfaction. We most feel loved when we are able to be genuine and loved by someone who understands, accepts, receives, responds, and gives his or herself to us totally and completely without asking for something back in return! In the presence of someone who truly loves us, we feel at home and at peace because we are able to be our very unpretentious, genuine, vulnerable, and transparent selves. That deep, personal, and genuine intimacy does not require sexual or carnal measurements because it comes deep within our very being and expresses the genuineness of our soul’s deepest desire to love and be loved. As a matter of fact, most people tend to forget that there is to be chastity practiced even within marriage!
Without chastity, people will end up using and objectifying others, even within marriage. Without chastity, there would be no real respect and vulnerability because each person would be too scared to be real, genuine, and transparent. Without chastity, we will end up judging one another with selfish and pitiful demands and expectations instead of truly loving and caring for each other with honesty, simplicity, and vulnerability. In our current day and age, we doubted and questioned the chaste spousal love between St. Joseph and Mother Mary because we have sexualized and carnalized almost everything, not really knowing and understanding true intimacy and love. Sadly, we have ended up shallowly judging love based on physical, objectifying, and humanistic measurements. Yet, their love for one another was the inspiration, model, and just the beginning of many other similar saintly, Christ-centered love between many saints through the history of the Church. Chastity for many is hard because our world has cheapened what it means to love! Nevertheless, love is only real, personal, transparent, genuine, and vulnerable when it is protected, grounded, and measured by true intimacy and chastity.
The Holy Spirit, the real and personalized love between the Father and Son, the true Spouse of the Blessed Virgin, chose St. Joseph to be His human expression of chaste spousal love for Mary. It was through the power and working of the Holy Spirit, the Lord Jesus Christ was conceived; but knowing that the Child Jesus would need an earthly fatherly figure and a protecting spouse for Mary, God the Father and Holy Spirit chose a just, loving, and faithful man to be the humble human expression and presence of their love. St. Joseph manifested in his very own life the silent fatherly and chaste spousal love for both Jesus and Mary. He cared and protected them, and in silent nothingness and faithful love, He gave them His purest, simplest, and most genuine expression of life-giving, sacrificial, and qualitative intimacy and love that speaks louder than mere, vocal, and noisy words and more valuable than any objectified, humanistic, and materialistic standards.
Last, but not least, St. Joseph is rarely known under the title, “Terror of Demons.” Nevertheless, this devotion has been invoked and popularly used in recent times among the faithful, especially with his other popular titles as Patron and Protector of the Church. Even though it sounds a bit terrifying and somewhat fear-centered, but it actually goes back to the very essence of who he is — simple and humble! Since the Devil and his minions are known for self-centered pride and arrogance, humility and simplicity of heart expressed through the great saint are something that they hated, despised, but powerless again. When one knows his or her nothingness, total dependency, transparency, genuineness, and humility are enlivened since there is no need to be pretentious or prove one’s self. Pride is the unfortunate downfall for those who think too much, occupied, or overly-worried about themselves. Hence, pride often leads to arrogance, pities, hatred, jealousy, and all down-spiraled evil desires, especially the willingness to do harm to others to get whatever one wants. Humility, on the other hand, seeks the truth and reflects genuineness because it has nothing to prove except total dependency on God and the simple acceptance of our nothingness. When we are humble and simple, the truth will reveal itself, for our words and actions will be proven and tested with time — not simply with manipulations, falsehoods, lies, deceptions, or empty noises.
The Devil and his minions hate the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph because they cannot stand their humility and genuineness! They cannot deceive, lie, or manipulate the great saints because they know who they are deep from within, with nothing to prove or worry about their own goods. In all of their simplicity and simplicity, they have nothing to fear or hold back anything, hence able to reflect and shine forth the self-giving gift of love and providential grace of God at work. Lies, deceptions, and manipulations can win people’s attention for short moments, but the truth will always come out. People can even hide behind sweet, pious, or religious words, but the truth will always be known with time. It does take a lot of patience, wisdom, and discernment to truly see things as they are by how they bear fruits and be tested with time.
Self-serving, condemnatory, egotistical, manipulative, or deceptive people will be known by their fruits and empty words, just like the Devil and his minions’ usual shadow of deception tactics. One stands strong when one is deeply grounded, firm, and strong in the Lord! Evil might seem strong and persuasive at first or for a short time, but it is all deceptive smoke and mirror manipulations because it has nothing real and everlasting to offer. At the end of the day, the Devil and his minions are nothing but pitiful creations who go out, seeking to ruin souls and lead people astray because they are miserable beings who hate themselves. They make life miserable for others because they themselves are miserable, locked up in their own arrogance and prideful pities. Nonetheless, St. Joseph, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the saints were able to withstand them because they knew who they were and they were able to be humble, simple, and dependent on God at all times.
When we recognize our nothingness or poverty in God, we are able to depend on Him as well as others. When we think of ourselves higher than others, we demand and expect everything to go our way. Yet, none of us were created to be alone or to be put on a higher pedestal than others. We are all instrumental to God‘s will for the greater good of society and the evangelical mission of the Church so that the Good News is being preached and all are being cared for with dignity, value, and love. If we really think about it, there can only be one true master of our hearts. If it is not God, it will end up being our ego, something, or someone else! Even though we have our fair share of struggles in loving Him, we should never give up! If we give up or lose focus too easily, lesser things will begin to creep in to fill our hearts. Therefore, it is important to do regular spiritual checkups and cleansings to identify the sources of distraction and reorganize our priorities in alignment with the greatest good, which God and His will for us. Only when we are able to seek and desire what is good from Him can we learn to rest in His everlasting peace. May we, then, able to learn, imitate, and put into practice the example of humility and simplicity of St. Joseph so our nothingness expresses our genuine love and able to radiate God‘s love in our very own lives.
St. Joseph, Foster-Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, Chaste Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patron and Protector of the Church, and Terror of Demons, pray for us.