Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"The Example of St. Joseph: Listener, Hearer, and Doer of God's Word"
Homily for the
4th Sunday of Advent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon

19 December 2010
Year A 

I suppose it depends on the generation, but Hollywood seems to always have a strong, silent role model for moviegoers. John Wayne: probably not the most silent, but nonetheless, he filled the role of one for whom words were second to action. Clint Eastwood is perhaps another of these types. I don’t go to movies all that often but one does not have to be a movie-goer to know that there are many more “stars” in Hollywood that are playing the part of role model for our younger generation – whether they realize it or not and whether we would like them to be or not. People look up to them because they seemingly can overcome all obstacles by means of strength, wit, and charm. Just take a minute to think of your favorite actor or actress or maybe your child’s favorite “hero” – maybe you have Bieber-fever? I don’t really know what that is but my nieces have it! Think of all these fictional heroes and today we can compare them all to another unlikely hero. A silent type hero whose strength is shown in his deep humility: namely, St. Joseph.

It is typical of the Advent Season, that as we draw closer to Jesus we find ourselves staying very close to Our Blessed Mother. But the Gospel today gives us an opportunity to reflect upon the man of St. Joseph. Who was he? Sacred Scripture does not tell us much about him except that he was a man from the House of David – meaning he was a true descendent of the royal family. This simple fact alone tells us that the King of Israel during the time of Jesus’ birth – King Herod – was an imposter king. Scripture also reveals to us that he was a just man – a holy man. This is evident in his desire not to embarrass Mary when he found out she was pregnant. At that time, divorce was basically a written document signed by two witnesses that the husband had divorced his wife and that she was now free marry another. Joseph’s decision to divorce Mary “quietly” implies that he refused to subject her to the public disgrace.

Yet, his decision and confusion over the matter is cut short by a visit from an angel. Here, we get a glimpse into who this man Joseph was really. The announcement of the birth and naming of Jesus is the center of this section of St. Matthew’s Gospel and it follows a specific pattern of announcement births – such as Ishmael, Isaac, Solomon, and Josiah. The announcement to Joseph is also accompanied by the famous prophecy of Isaiah, found in today’s first reading, and a reference to the fulfillment of the covenant made by God with King David. Being of the House of David and also being a holy man, Joseph would have been very familiar with this type of announcement. He knows, therefore, that this is big, that this is something divine – the fulfillment of the covenant with his forefather King David is about to become a reality and he has a major part in God’s plan.

Joseph’s actions following his dream is what make him a true role model – particularly for Christian men of today. He presents himself, by his own actions, as not only a hearer of the Word of God but also a doer. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for him, though, being the only one in the household born with sin. Living with Mary, the Immaculate Virgin and Jesus, the Son of God – anything that went wrong in that house had to be Joseph’s fault. And yet it is he who was called by God to be the leader and protector of that family. Even though this child is not necessarily his own, Joseph shows forth his true humility and love for God by bringing Mary into his home and accepting her pregnancy as divine intervention in human society. A little later on, shortly after the child’s birth, Joseph will be called upon again to protect his family by bringing them to Egypt in order to escape the slaughter of all the newborn males in Bethlehem. He was called by God, therefore, to be a man who listens, hears, and acts upon God’s word and to lead his family by that Word.

Joseph’s openness to the Word of God, his ability to act in accord with that Word and lead his family is what makes him a true role model – far beyond that of the Hollywood type – even for us today. He is a role model particularly for all Christian fathers and families – spiritual, biological, extended, or otherwise. It was his distinct humility before God that makes him such a great hero. God did not choose Mary to lead that family – though it was through her the child Jesus was born. No, it was Joseph. He remained strong in the presence of adversity. He remained strong and bold while called upon to protect his family. But yet his greatest attribute was his faith – his dependency on God. He does nothing on his own – he simply trusts in God and in His plan. There is something within the male spirit that seeks strength and personal achievement. The flaw comes because we men have the tendency to confuse strength with being self-sufficient. St. Joseph teaches all of us that great strength comes only through our faith and trust in God Himself. Christian fathers today are called to be men like St. Joseph – listeners, hearers and doers of God’s Word; that by being attentive to the voice of God in their own hearts they will have the strength to lead their families on the path to holiness. Like St. Joseph, any father’s greatest potential and strength is developed only when he humbly turns toward our Heavenly Father – the very source of our dignity and strength.

In a very short time, our God will come to us, and so, in these last few days of Advent, like that of St. Joseph, may all of us have hearts and minds open to the voice of God drawing closer and closer to Bethlehem and with greater faith, show Him that we too are hearers and doers of His Word. St. Joseph: pray for us!


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA


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