Have you seen some Catholics faithfully flip out and recite Novenas? Or are you one of them?  Novena to one of the saints on Mondays, to St. Antony on Tuesdays, St. Joseph on Wednesdays, Infant Jesus on Thursdays, the most Sacred  heart of Jesus on Fridays, to Mother Mary on Saturdays and to the Holy Spirit on Sundays. We mark special days for Novenas to various saints and pray fervently.  Merely making Novena prayers to Saints is lip-service if we don’t make efforts to emulate the saints.

Though very little is said about St. Joseph in the scriptures he is an all-time favorite for millions of Catholics across the world.  He is referred to as ‘a just man’ or ‘a righteous man’.

Our common understanding of being ‘just’ is to be just honorable and fair in our dealings with other people. To be just means to be consistent with what is morally right. Also, to be just means to have a good character and good morals. If you want to understand the depth, richness and splendor of this privileged character of St. Joseph, you have to know the Jewish understanding of ‘Righteousness’

All through the scriptures there are exhortations for kings and judges to be “just” (Leviticus, Deuteronomy, Proverbs…). For Prophet Amos ‘just’ is “righteousness” and “justice” which is more pleasing in the sight of Yaweh than any ritual religiousness. Prophet Hosea describes righteousness as something that should reveal itself in love or mercy (HESED). Prophet Isaiah calls “Justice,” or “righteousness,” as solicitude for the weak and helpless. This righteousness is true religion.

Jeremiah’s understanding of righteousness emerges from his eager hope of the reestablishment of the Davidic kingdom under “a righteous branch” a ruler who will do justice and who will deserve the name “Yahweh our Righteousness”. In Habakkuk “the righteous” stands for Israel as represented by the “pious,” the “meek,” the “poor,” the “remnant” OF Israel. In the Book of Psalms “the righteous” more frequently represents a party than individuals—”the meek,” “the lowly”; that is, the faithful who, in spite of persecution, cling to God’s law.

The most acceptable explanation of being “Just”   (from the Hebrew word ZEDEK) is that a thing, man, or even God, is what it, or he, should be, that is, “normal,” “fit.”; something or someone worthy and wholly acceptable.

If God chose Mary stainless and immaculately conceived He wanted also a virtuous man that was pure and obedient to Him who could be the Holy foster father of Jesus and the husband of Mary to constitute the Holy Family and reveal His salvific purpose for all generations. So he chose Joseph.

Joseph had the difficult task of caring for and protecting this Holy Family under unusual and threatening circumstances but he did so always listening for the voice of God.  He remained pure and chaste while loving and caring for his wife, Mary ever virgin. Even though they were married they remained celibate for “he had no relations with her” (Matthew 1:25a).  He struggled against the voice of public opinion against Jesus and Mary and constant threats to the life of Jesus right from his infancy.

But what kept Joseph going strong? It was just this thought ‘nothing less nothing more, nothing else but only The Will of God’.  He sacrificed much, endured much and never compromised for human favor even when there were enough and more options he could have chosen.  His ‘yes’ to the will of God summed up what for centuries the Prophets spoke of ‘true righteousness’.

So, what does devotion to this great saint mean to you? It calls for emulating his uncompromising submission to the Will of God even when the tide of popular opinion is against you, when the Will of God appears to conflict with ‘your will’, when the future seems unknown and scary to you.  In all these circumstances, allowing The Lord to begin the good work in you and bringing it to completion. Your restful surrender to God always unfolds His great plans for you.

Fr. Adolf Washington