19 March 2014

Joseph the Just Man

In his tiny volume on The Infancy Narratives, Benedict XVI reflected on the person of Saint Joseph, whose Solemnity the Church observes today, and his relationship between the New and the Old Testaments:
In the courtyard of the Casa Santa Maria
The designation of Joseph as a just man (zaddik) extends far beyond the decision he takes at this moment: it gives an overall picture of Saint Joseph and at the same time it aligns him with the great figures of the Old Covenant - beginning with Abraham, the just. If we may say that the form of piety found in the New Testament can be summed up in the expression "a believer," then the Old Testament idea of a whole life lived according to sacred Scripture is summed up in the idea of "a just man."

Psalm 1 presents the classic image of the "just" man. We might well think of it as a portrait of the spiritual figure of Saint Joseph. A just man, it tells us, is one who maintains living contact with the word of God, who "delights in the law of the Lord" (v. 2). He is like a tree, planted beside the flowing waters, constantly bringing forth fruit. The flowing waters, from which he draws nourishment, naturally refer to the living word of God, into which he sinks the roots of his being. God's will is not a law imposed on him from without, it is "joy." For him the law is simply Gospel, good news, because he reads it with a personal, loving openness to God and in this way learns to understand and live it from deep within (Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives, trans. Philip J. Whitmore [New York: Image, 2012], 39-40).

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