Joseph: A Man of Few (Read: No) Words

Yesterday’s Gospel was St. Matthew’s account of what is sometimes referred to as the Annunciation of Joseph – the appearance to Joseph of an “angel fo the Lord,” telling him that it was through the Holy Spirit that Mary had become pregnant and that, therefore, he should not be afraid to take Mary into his home. At Mass last night, the celebrant said something I must have realized before, but had not really spent any time thinking about – that Joseph never speaks in the Gospels.

Joseph is that only “major player” in the Gospel I can think of that has no speaking parts. Not a word comes out of his mouth in any of the four Gospels. Nonetheless, we are able to form a clear picture of this “righteous man” who had such enormous faith in God. With Joseph, it is not a case of actions speaking louder than words. Rather, his actions speak volumes in the complete absence of words.

When he learns Mary is pregnant, he determines not to have her stoned to death, as was his right, but to quietly divorce her.

When the angel delivers the message of yesterday’s Gospel, Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”

When another angel told him to take Mary and Jesus into Egypt to protect Jesus from Herod, he departed for a strange place, leaving behind all that he knew.

When the angel came and told him to return to the land of Israel, he immediately followed that instruction.

And then he raised Jesus, teaching him all that he knew.

St. Francis is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel always; if necessary use words.” We have no words of Joseph. But we have actions that speak volumes about the man. A humble man of tremendous faith. He was open to hear God’s word, and when he heard it, he acted upon it.

May our actions speak as loudly.