St Joseph is a good saint to look at as we approach the Advent season. The Church reveres him as the patron saint of workers, fathers and a happy death. But he was also a man who had to deal with crises, the same crises that millions of families face today: government-sponsored terrorism, forced migration and the pressure of leading a family in distress. Not once, but three times, the Gospel describe Joseph as a man on a journey. First he sets out for Bethlehem with Mary, his pregnant wife, for mandated census. Then with their newborn baby, they flee Bethlehem for Egypt. Later in calmer political times, Joseph takes his family to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. Must of what we know of Joseph’s life then is an odyssey: heading from place to place over going great distances to fulfil the will of God.
It was state sponsored terrorism, when Herod ordered the death of all boys in his city that the families of Bethlehem awoke to hoof beats outside their doors, the metallic sound of swords being drawn and the frantic and terrified cries of mothers and children followed.
Joseph was forced to flee with Mary and Jesus on a 200 mile journey through a desolate desert to save Jesus’ life.
There are millions of refugees today that are having to do the same thing today. Central American migrants leave families behind to search for jobs in the north, Syrian and Lebanese families take dangerous voyages to Europe only to be confined in crowded camps; persecuted families in Eritrea and the Horn of Africa flee to Ethiopia only to find a drought. There are literally millions of Josephs in our own time.
So Joseph stands out as an example of resolute trust. He conveys the same message carried to him by an angel: “Do not be afraid.” Without saying a word, Joseph offers steadfastness, surety and hope. He was able to cross the distance and keep his family safe. Joseph can be the advocate for those people today, weeping, grieving and praying for them. His example of trust and quiet strength can serve as an encouragement to us as we struggle to maintain hope in times of difficulty and personal pain.
When you are faced with anxiety about the future, when worries seem to much, look to Joseph, who was the bodyguard for his family. He trust God to get him through all the anxious, worrisome times and to help him understand the mysterious plan God had for him.