Today we celebrate the feast of the carpenter, Joseph; tomorrow we begin tracing the course of events that led the carpenter’s Son to the cross. The smell of wood shavings, usually so sweet and comforting, is suddenly infused with menace and horror. There is a terrible irony in the fact that the boy taught to love and cherish wood is to die on a wooden cross, pierced with nails such as no carpenter would ever use. The boy learned from the man, and I have said before why I think St Joseph’s role in forming Jesus’ charcter was so important (see the blog post here or do a search of the blog via the sidebar search-box for other posts on St Joseph).
We think of Joseph today as a man of unassuming holiness — obedient, faithful, true; a good father, quietly brave. Perhaps we should also think of him as a migrant, taking his family on the painful journey into Egypt, to live and work among an alien people. What did it cost him to remain a good Jew in such circumstances? How much hostility did he and the Holy Family have to endure? What did Jesus learn from that experience of exile, young as he was?
This week-end we are asked to pray especially for persecuted Christians in the Middle East. That can sometimes seem remote from our own experience in the comfortable West. It is not remote, however, from the experience of St Joseph, nor is it remote from the experience of Christ himself. As our thoughts turn towards Holy Week and we trace, step by step, the road to Calvary, let us not forget those who also travel that way, and more completely than we.