I hope that today finds you having a happy and blessed Feast Day of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary. My regrets also go out to all of you, who like myself, find yourself with a “busted bracket” one day into the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. If anyone doubted that the Big Ten was the best basketball conference in the nation this year they only had to tune into yesterday’s games to see the real Big East. Now that it has been settled that the Big Ten was once again superior to all others this year I’m sure some of you are interested in hearing about today’s station church.
Today’s station church was Sant’ Eusebio. The patron saint of this church is Saint Eusebius who was a priest of Rome in the 4th century. Saint Eusebius was a martyr who was persecuted and killed because he held the orthodox position on the divinity of Christ during the Arian controversy. He defended Saint Athanasius before the Emperor Constans in 357 and was condemned to death by starvation. This sentence was carried out at his home which was transformed into today’s church. The first church was restored around 750 and then rebuilt later that century. Another reconstruction was finished in 1238 under the instruction of Pope Gregory IX. This version of the church was renovated and redecorated from 1711 to 1750 giving us the church as it stands today.
The thing I found most striking about the church is the ceiling of the church which shows Saint Eusebius in glory. In the image Saint Eusebius is shown holding a tablet on which is inscribed a Greek phrase that translates to, “consubstantial with the Father”. This is the phrase he defended and it is the truth that he died for. Saint Eusebius is a great saint to ask for intercessions on behalf of those who do not hold that Jesus Christ was truly God.
Since today is the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husband of Mary there are some options for today’s readings. I would like to comment on the first chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. In this Gospel we find Joseph, betrothed to Mary, but before they had a chance to live together, finding out that she was with child. This of course was scandalous to him since he did not know that she had been with no man, but instead was carrying the Christ child. Joseph was a righteous man and instead of deciding to have Mary stoned, which would have been perfectly in his rights since it appeared that she was carrying another man’s child, he decided that instead of exposing her to shame he would divorce her quietly. It was in this time that the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and told him how Mary came to be with child and to take her into his home. When he awoke he did exactly as the angel of the Lord had instructed him to do. It is on this that I which to comment.
As you know, Saint Joseph’s words are not recorded anywhere in the New Testament. The man whom God decided upon for his only son’s earthly father is not quoted at any time and it is easy to find this perplexing. Could it be that it is not that Joseph had nothing important to say, but it is more important that we look to his example. In Joseph we see someone who in today’s readings is completely caught off guard with God’s plan and instead of protesting and trying to strike a bargain with God he does immediately what he is told. That in itself is enough for a gut check. However I would like to explore further the example that Saint Joseph gives us.
How often do we find ourselves wishing that we could do something heroic for God? How often do we wish that we could prove our love for God in some way, do the unthinkable so as to give God glory? The truth is that for most of us we will spend most of our lives doing things that we find less than heroic for God. But perhaps it is in this desire to do something heroic that we can learn from the example of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph was a devout Jew and there is no doubt that like any other God fearing man he wanted to do something great for God. However, when it comes down to the actual living of his life Joseph spent much of it quietly obeying the will of God and without much pomp raising the Christ child and caring for his wife Mary. I believe that it is in doing all these little things, simply going about doing God’s will for him, that he was prepared to do something great for God when he was called upon. It was Joseph whom God called upon to protect the baby Jesus and his mother Mary from King Herod and Saint Joseph did so heroically taking his family and leading them into Egypt. It is from the example of Joseph that we learn that there are many things which God will ask us to go about doing quietly and without the notice of others so that when we are called upon for greatness for the Lord we will be willing and able to do so. Our reward of course for quiet and simple fidelity to the Lord will be great like Joseph’s reward, closeness to Jesus Christ and his mother Mary.