Meet St. Joseph
Therefore, you shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart,
and with your whole being, and with your whole strength.
St. Joseph: Man of Virtue
St. Matthew is the only evangelist who has much to say about St. Joseph—and he doesn’t tell us much!
We know that he was a carpenter or craftsman and that he was a descendant of King David. And we know that he was “righteous.” We know this because, at the time Mary conceived the Messiah, Joseph was betrothed to her, but not yet living with her. (When a couple was betrothed, they were considered married, but it was only some months later that the wife moved in with the husband, and they began normal married life.)
It was during this in-between time that Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant. St. Matthew tells us what Joseph did when he heard the news. His response has much to teach us about what it means to be righteous.
According to Jewish law, infidelity during the betrothal period was considered adultery, and Joseph was required by divine law to divorce Mary, or “send her away.” In making the decision to do this, Joseph was being righteous and obedient to the will of God. He was, in other words, fulfilling the commandment to “love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Dt 6:5; Mt 22:37). Jesus would later teach his disciples that obeying God’s commandments is an expression of righteousness.
While Joseph was required to terminate the betrothal and send Mary away, he still had a choice to make. He could have made the whole affair very public, perhaps out of revenge or a strong sense of “justice.” In doing so, he would not only have exposed her to public shame, but also possibly to death by stoning (Dt 22:21–24 and Jn 8:4–5). Joseph decided not to do this. Instead, he wanted to minimize the damage to her as much as possible by dealing with the situation discreetly.
As we celebrate the saints who have shown us God’s holiness in so many ways, may we be especially grateful to St. Joseph, the righteous man, whose example encourages us to seek always to “live the truth in love” (Eph 4:15).