Gift of the Holy Spirit:
Blessed are they who are persecuted for holiness’ sake, the reign of God is theirs.
When they had departed, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.
A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentations; Rachel weeping for her children and she would not be consoled, since they were no more.
When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”… “He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled. “He shall be called a Nazarene.
From the heavenly bliss surrounding the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem to the prophetic encounter with Simeon at the Temple in Jerusalem, the Holy Family has hardly settled in their humble home in Nazareth, when the Angel of the Lord appears again in the middle of the night to ask Joseph to flee from the domain of the tyrant Herod who, determined to kill the Messiah King, has ordered all infants before two years of age to be slaughtered.
Without waiting for the morning, with heaven providing the protective cover of a darkened sky, Joseph hurriedly gathers their few belongings, and with Mother and Child astride a donkey, he begins his own way of the Cross, trekking to Egypt in self exile with his family.
His heart is in agony as he contemplates on the cruel fate that awaits the innocent infants and their mothers, as if hearing their distant wailings, victims of Herod’s cruel sword. He prays and ponders on this mystery of human suffering caused by the sin of one despot, drunk with power and driven by evil. Why would anyone be afraid of his Messiah Son who is destined to save His people from sin, and to usher them to a reign of righteousness and holiness?
The Spirit of Fortitude descends upon Joseph to give him strength and courage. In the dark night, he comes to realize that the God-man is not exempt from human persecution. From the Old Testament, Joseph knows that from the beginning of time, evil men, cohorts of Satan in every age, would persecute the children of God to thwart the divine plan of redemption for the salvation of man.
Joseph remembers Simeon and his prophecy at the temple – that Jesus would cause the rise and fall of many and reveal the thoughts of men’s hearts – a prophecy whose fulfillment, he never thought, would come to pass so soon. Trusting in the Lord, he keeps these mysteries in his heart as he silently leads his family, the Son of God and His Mother, to seek refuge in a foreign land.
As they cross the desolate country and the dry desert, the Holy Spirit fills Joseph with His gift of Fortitude that he may have the moral courage and strength to overcome all adversity on earth, with his eyes fixed on his heavenly home.
Persecution is the fire that purifies his soul, fortifies his resolve and causes his love of God to burn all the more. God has chosen His Son’s guardian wisely. From his role as guardian of the Savior and His Mother, Joseph would be proclaimed in our day as the Protector of the Universal Church.
Joseph remembers that at the Presentation of Jesus in the temple, Simeon had turned to Mary and prophesied that her soul shall also be pierced by a sword. From the silence of Simeon in his regard, Joseph knows in his heart that his beloved spouse would have to suffer alone with their Divine Son in the redemption of mankind. She alone will be the Co-Redemptrix, the Mother’s heart pierced together with the heart of the Son at the foot of the cross in a grand alliance of hearts.
In his humility of heart and poverty of spirit, Joseph did not inquire from the prophet Simeon into his own fate. Rather, with the Spirit of Piety burning in him, he places his fate, with complete trust, in the hands of the Father. At that moment of realization, a sword pierces his own heart, to remain there until his last heartbeat on earth.
The spiritual pain that he has to endure is all the more intense, knowing that he would not be present to share in the suffering of his Foster Son and his Beloved Spouse to whose care he has totally dedicated himself.
Such is Joseph’s loving courage that he could bear every persecution for their sake, of which the extreme cruelty of Herod is only a foretaste. In sorrow, he ponders on this mystery of so many innocents who had to die in place of his Son. It was said that they numbered seven hundred.
Blessed indeed, he prays in the dark night of his soul, are these innocents and their mothers who are persecuted for God’s sake; God shall send His angels to accompany them to His Kingdom. He prays silently for them and their mothers: rejoice and be glad for your reward shall be great in heaven.
In his silent suffering, Joseph comes to know the nature of his own role, that of silent sacrifice of the obedient servant of the Father, in the loving offering of himself, his Foster Son and his beloved spouse for the redemption of man. He knows that he is the Father’s Substitute and Surrogate on earth. His own spiritual suffering truly mirrors the silent sacrifice of the Father Almighty in heaven.
As Holy Scripture is silent on the Father’s holy sacrifice, prefigured by Abraham’s willing sacrifice of Isaac, so must Joseph’s spiritual sacrifice, however intense, be also suffered in physical absence and absolute silence.
In Amsterdam, there is a painting depicting the Heavenly Father taking down the lifeless body of His Crucified Son from the Cross into the waiting arms of His Sorrowful Mother with the Holy Spirit hovering above.
This image of the Heavenly Father could very well represent the presence of St. Joseph in spirit to complete this heartrending scene: the Family of the Holy Trinity and the Holy Family of St. Joseph mourning together in this supreme sacrifice of the God-Son, “son of Joseph the carpenter.”
On the death of King Herod, the Father in heaven sends His angel once more to Joseph to instruct His faithful surrogate to return with his family to his homeland, fulfilling what He had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt, I have called my son.”
Surely, the reign of God belongs to St. Joseph, a true image of our loving Father in heaven.
Dear Father Joseph, enkindle in me the fire of your love, that the Spirit of Fortitude will also burn in me, to purify and strengthen me, to guard my own family from all and every evil as you guarded your family and to prepare me to bear the cross of persecution for holiness’ sake, that I may persevere to claim the Kingdom of God as my prize for all eternity. Amen.
Our Father. Ten Hail Marys. Glory Be.
These meditations invite the reader to a spiritual journey with St. Joseph, reliving nine joyous, sorrowful, and glorious events in his life with his most beloved Jesus and Mary. They are meant for prayer and presented in the framework of a Novena Rosary of the Holy Family.
The matching of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit with the Beatitudes in the life of St. Joseph is not meant to be theologically precise. They are presented as meditations to demonstrate the truth that one cannot live the way of the Beatitudes without the Gifts of the Spirit.
It is to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit that our prayers are addressed, and St. Joseph in the company of Blessed Mary are there to receive our petitions and intercede for us, to help and guide us as we shepherd our own families toward our Heavenly Father’s house, the true destination of our own earthly journey.
With love and devotion to the Holy Family,
Howard Joseph Q. Dee