The Man Who Adopted God
Mary is the Mother of God. Joseph was the man who adopted God. While God Incarnate was not his son, Joseph took the boy in and treated him like his own. What kind of man was Joseph, and what is his message to me?
We know very little about Mary’s fiancé. He was quite possibly a 20ish year-old woodworker. When we first meet him in Matthew’s Gospel, Mary had already become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. She had immediately left town for three months. Now she has returned to Nazareth and it is obvious to everyone that she is going to have a baby. It seems that 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 “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)
Joseph and Mary moved in together while she was pregnant. This made them 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 as 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 owes you something. 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 took Mary and the boy into his home. When Joseph is forced to go to Bethlehem, and then 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 us the grace to lay down our entitlements, like Joseph does. May God give that grace to all his Church in this Advent season.