Every summer, my family loves to make the trip to St. Joseph, Michigan, on the eastern banks of Lake Michigan.
It’s a beautiful little town with a quaint touristy dining and shopping district located on a bluff overlooking Silver Beach and the lake. The mighty St. Joseph River runs through the town, whose history is intertwined with the waters of western Michigan.
The city was once known as Newbury Port. But as settlers from the New France of America made their way to the area, they incorporated it as St. Joseph, naming him after their patron saint – Joseph, who is honored with a Solemnity on today’s Liturgical Calendar.
When we visit, we particularly enjoy the St. Joseph Lighthouse, which is either the oldest or second-oldest lighthouse on the lake. Imagine how many ships and small boat captains have looked to the beacon of that lighthouse for direction, for comfort and for safety.
Direction, comfort and safety. Those are three things our Lord Jesus needed as a child, when he was born to the Virgin Mary without a biological human father.
In Joseph, the child found the perfect stepfather. Joseph the carpenter may have struggled at first in believing the miracle which had taken place with his betrothed Mary, but he ended up doing all that God asked of him in faith.
He gave his son Jesus direction in the ways of the world. He gave him comfort in times of need and he provided for his safety when faced with mass killing of babies in Egypt.
Joseph was a man. Human. Chosen by God to be the protector and guide for our Father’s most precious gifts – his Son and his Mother.
And yet he was given the grace to rise above the world’s expectations (and his own) by choosing to say Yes to God and raising Jesus as his own.
Had he not done so, Mary would likely have been an outcast as an unwed mother, an adulterer. She would have been punished. She might have been stoned to death.
Joseph could not let that happen.
For that, among other things, we call him a Saint.
We should all strive to be saints. We should all rise to the occasion when God asks us to do the right thing, despite what society would say or do … or how it might react.
Put yourself in Joseph’s shoes on that terrible night when he learned his wife-to-be was pregnant with a child that was not his own.
Consider how strange her explanation must have sounded.
How easy it would have been to just walk away.
These are not uncommon reactions to have whenever God asks us to participate in his salvation. Whether it’s the little things in life or the major decisions, He asks us each day to do this.
When faced with tough decisions, do we respond by respecting life? The lives of our children, our mothers and others who have been outcast in our world?
As Patron of our Church, Guardian of our Redeemer and patron saint of all workers, carpenters and citizens of Austria, Belgium, Bohemia, Canada, Mexico, Peru and South Vietnam – we look to Joseph for inspiration in our lives.
His witness of faith, virtue, courage and strength, should inspire all of us to rise above the fears we have and embrace God’s challenge to always do the right thing in our lives.
Who among us would turn away from the baby Jesus when He cries for help?
Now remember, whenever we do this for the least among us …