Today is the feastday of St. Matthew. St Matthew (Apostle and Evangelist) is the author of the first Gospel. It is in the Gospel of Matthew that we have the most complete account of St. Joseph’s calling to be the adoptive father of Jesus.
Here is a quote from Pope Benedict’s Angelus address on 12/18/2005:
“In these days of Advent, the liturgy invites us to contemplate in a special way the Virgin Mary and St. Joseph, who lived with a unique intensity the time of waiting and preparation for the birth of Jesus. Today, I want to direct our gaze toward the figure of St. Joseph… The one who gives the most importance to the adoptive father of Jesus is the Evangelist Matthew, emphasizing that thanks to him, the Child was legally introduced into the lineage of David fulfilling the Scriptures, in which the Messiah was prophesied as the ‘son of David’.”
It seems that adoption was part of God’s plan: Here is an excerpt from Unborn Jesus Our Hope:
“From a legal and social point of view, Joseph would be recognized as the father of the baby Jesus. According to the Israelite understanding of marriage in those days, a child conceived during the time of betrothal was a “legitimate” child, and the reputations of both mother and child were thus protected. “Joseph’s adoption of Jesus is effected in the two acts with which the account (Mt 1:24 25) closes, and which are in fact its most essential elements. ‘He took his wife…. And he called his name Jesus.’” (Jean Cardinal Daniélou, The Infancy Narratives) This constitutes a turning point in the life of Unborn Jesus. His earthly father reaches out to Him, figuratively embracing Him with wholehearted acceptance.
The relationship between Joseph and Unborn Jesus becomes very real. Fr. Faber states that Joseph was “part of the scheme of redemption” and “assists God in keeping the mystery of the Incarnation a secret”. (Rev. Frederick W. Faber, C.O., D.D., The Blessed Sacrament) Joseph begins a secret “adoption” process while Jesus is yet an unborn child (“he took his wife” and her unborn child) and then the process is later completed with Joseph’s naming of the child after birth and registering the child in Bethlehem during the census. Jesus needed to be accepted into a family, adopted into a family, and there existed a vacuum until that day when Joseph stepped forward in obedient faith to lovingly accept his son: “Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the ‘overseer of the Lord’s birth’, the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God’s ‘ordained’ entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws.” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Guardian of the Redeemer)
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