New birth stirs emotions St. Joseph must have felt when seeing Jesus

Published: December 14, 2017

By Chris Thomas
St. Edward Church, Texarkana

This year has been one of joy as each of our two sons were blessed with new children, Jude and Elizabeth.

Both pregnancies had their challenges when there was little more that we could do but pray and hope. The safe and healthy arrival of our grandchildren brought us back to prayer, this time in profound gratitude.

I have always treasured the memory of my husband’s full-face smile when he first held our children; and now I add the memory of his pervasive joy as he holds our grandchildren.

Holding a newborn invites one to reflect on the miracle of life, the mystery of what the future holds and our responsibility to encourage each child to be Christ in their world in which they live.

There is something about a baby that brings tenderness to his face. To see that same tenderness in our sons’ faces as they hold their children brings a sense of awe while I ponder the gift of family.

In prayer, I imagine that look of tenderness on St. Joseph’s face as he held the baby Jesus and the love that filled his heart as he gazed on the child’s sleeping face. After months of concern and anticipation, I imagine his heart turned to a prayer of profound humility and gratitude as did ours.

Much can be gleaned about St. Joseph in the few Bible verses in which he is mentioned. Matthew 1:19 gives a clue to his character: “Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man.” A righteous person is morally just and guided by truth, reason and fairness.

When he heard of Mary’s pregnancy, he decided to divorce her quietly, thus severing ties with someone he believed to be in gross violation of the law, but saving her from a much harsher legal sentence.

In a 1969 homily, Pope Paul VI reminded us that no words of St. Joseph were ever recorded. Rather, it was his response to the angelic voices that spoke in his sleep and his “prompt and generous obedience” to them that changed the course of his life.

An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream (Matthew 1:20) telling him the origins of Mary’s pregnancy and to name the child Jesus. This biblical passage goes on to tell us that the moment Joseph awoke, he did as the angel commanded him in bringing Mary to his home as his wife.

From that moment on, as Pope Francis writes in “Paternas Vices” ("Fatherly Care"), this “Just man, caring most lovingly for the Mother of God, and happily dedicating himself to the upbringing of Jesus Christ, was placed as guardian over God the Father’s most precious treasures.”

Dreams are mentioned more than 80 times in the Old Testament, but only eight times in the New Testament, with St. Joseph receiving four of them. Not only is he a just man but also one who is courageous and bold enough to believe that God would make known to him a wonderful mystery through a series of dreams.

Acting upon the information given him, his young family was kept safe and ultimately knew when to return home to Israel to give Jesus the foundation of his heritage and the tradition of his ancestors.

Holding a newborn invites one to reflect on the miracle of life, the mystery of what the future holds and our responsibility to encourage each child to be Christ in their world in which they live. If we experience that in gazing into the eyes of a new child or grandchild, how much more must St. Joseph have meditated on the future as he held the baby Jesus.

For the reward of his bold, courageous and just action in following the dream God gave him, was to gaze into the eyes of Jesus. Have you been given a dream from God calling you to a courageous and just action? What action might you do to fulfill God’s will?

“O Saint Joseph, you witnessed the miracle of birth, seeing the infant Jesus born of your most holy spouse, the Virgin Mary. With wonder and awe, you took into your arms the Savior. With gratitude that only a parent can know, you glorified God for the birth of his Son, entrusted to your fatherly care. What great trust and confidence God placed in you, St. Joseph. Teach, guide and support me to fulfill well my awesome vocation. Amen.” (Oblates of St. Joseph)

Understanding Our Church