On Labor Day weekend it is good to recall Saint Joseph the Worker. When God decided to partake in our humanity, He could have had anyone for His foster father, and He chose a humble carpenter, a man who worked with his hands. Why?
The Bible gives us no indication that Saint Joseph was intelligent, brave or resourceful. He may have been all these things, but the Bible does not tell us. We know that he was of the House of David, but judging from all indications in the Bible he lived in relatively humble circumstances. What made Joseph stand out to God other than the fact of his heritage?
Kindness I think, simple human kindness. This was graphically demonstrated at the very beginning when Saint Joseph first is mentioned in the Gospel of Saint Matthew 1:18 and 19:
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
The phrase “unwilling to expose her to shame” puts rather delicately what Mary would have been facing. If Joseph had wished, he could have dragged Mary to the center of the town and publicly accused her of adultery. If proper procedures had been followed, a trial would have been held before a doctor of the law. If Mary had been found guilty of adultery she and the child within her womb would have been put to death by stoning. If procedures were not followed, a mob would have gathered and, Joseph throwing the first stone, Mary and her child would have been put to death by a stoning “lynching”, not an uncommon occurrence in the time of Jesus. Joseph would have been completely within his rights pursuant to the Law to seek Mary’s blood for what he must have assumed was her betrayal of him.
However, Joseph loved Mary. His love did not die when he thought she had betrayed him with another man. Instead, his first instinct was to forgive her and to seek to protect her and her child. God chose Saint Joseph I think because in his willingness to forgive and to protect someone he thought had gravely wronged him, he was very much a man after God’s own heart. In this great act of forgiveness and love we see in miniature the preaching of Christ and how we must emulate God in His love and forgiveness for all of fallen Man.
Many years later, when the woman caught in adultery was dragged before Him, perhaps Jesus recalled the great act of selfless love that caused Joseph to protect Mary from the Law.