We know very little about Mary’s fiancé. He was quite possibly a woodworker. The reason we believe this comes from the fact that Jesus is called a “woodcarver” in Mark 6:3. Sons often took on the jobs of their fathers, and since Jesus made things out of wood, then it is likely that he learned this from Joseph. It is likely he was around 20 years old when we first meet him in Matthew’s Gospel.
Thankfully, Mary’s parents chose a good and compassionate man when they selected Joseph. At his juncture in the story, Mary had become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit, but had immediately left town for three months. Now she has returned to Nazareth and it is obvious that she is going to have a baby. A close reading of the Bible reveals that it is possible Mary didn’t tell Joseph that she was pregnant, or how it happened. He may have found out the same way everyone else had (by looking at her).
Regardless of how he found out, Joseph showed remarkable compassion and restraint. In those days, an engagement was a legal contract. Joseph could have publicly humiliated Mary and her family. Some scholars say that he could have sued Mary’s father for allowing the girl to be “damaged.” However, the New Testament tells us that “because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:19)
It was then that Joseph had his own conversation with an angel. The first chapter of Matthew’s gospel tells us about a dream he had in which God revealed that Mary’s pregnancy was from the Holy Spirit. The Bible then says that Joseph took Mary home with him, but they did not have sex until after she had given birth. (Matthew 1:24-25)
So Joseph and Mary moved in together. At this moment, they are technically married. No ceremony is mentioned, just the fact of cohabitation. The other villagers assumed that the baby was his, or at least he would raise it has his own. In their eyes Joseph was at best immoral, at worst a fool.
Entitlement is the belief that you deserve things to go your way. God or the Universe or the Church or the Nation owe you something. When you get what you want, it is your just reward for being you. When you don’t get what you want, you are angry and bitter. I believe entitlement is one of the most disastrous of spiritual sicknesses.
Joseph did not suffer from entitlement. When it seemed Mary had broken her contract, he decided to be merciful. When God told him he would have to raise a son who was not his, he gladly took Mary and the boy into his home. When Joseph is forced to go to Bethlehem, and the flee to Egypt, he moves forward in God’s plan with no recorded complaint. He is the model of a man who is not getting what he wants or what he ‘deserves,’ and yet is faithful to the Lord and to his family.
May God give me the grace to lay down my entitlement, like Joseph does. May God give that grace to all his Church in this Advent season.
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