Just about every day, I drive along “St. Joseph Lane”…on the way to encountering my Lord in the Eucharist at daily Mass.
Our recent trip to the Holy Land gave me the chance to saunter along the “real” St. Joseph Lane…and in doing so, to encounter a delightful new dimension in my relationship with this Emmanuel, God-who-walks-among-us.
As church, we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph today. It’s a Solemnity…so we’re instructed to pull out all the liturgical stops: The Mass includes a Gloria, three scripture readings, Creed, even a special Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer. And the message is clear, even to a sleepy-headed congregant in the pre-dawn hours of an otherwise-ordinary Tuesday: THIS saint is a very big deal – worthy of veneration. Worthy of naming both a parish and a street after.
Not to take anything away from the good man’s honor, his righteousness…but you get a slightly different take on St. Joseph when you walk the streets of Sepphoris – a city that once claimed the role of “commercial center” in Galilee.
Now, understand this: Sepphoris was still pretty much a Palestinian backwater in the 1st-century scheme of things. A world away from the glitz and glamor of Caesarea…or the power and politics of Jerusalem.
But a tradesman could find work in Sepphoris. So it’s likely that Joseph bar-Jacob walked these very streets. Likely, too, that a young-adult Jesus would have accompanied him along this way – earning his moniker as “the carpenter’s son.”
One thing you notice is that there are grooves worn in the cobblestones in Sepphoris. Grooves worn by wagons hauling, every day, for ten thousand days.
This, then, is the real St. Joseph lane – a road this great saint walked faithfully, diligently, conscientiously…ever and always traveling well under-the-radar of the powers-that-be.
I loved meditating on the simple holiness of this Galilee guy – the man who laced up his “work sandals” day after day…rising before dawn, to trek on over from Nazareth to Sepphoris…trusting that the Lord would put a project or two on his plate…so that he could keep on keeping on – just enough, perhaps, to keep a roof over the heads of Mary and Jesus.
A great man, this Joseph bar-Jacob. He shows us how to live with Emmanuel – the overwhelming mystery of a God who desires to walk among us.
Joseph simply loves, and trusts, and laughs, and works. He gets up and goes after it every day. He believes, without ever fully comprehending the mystery, that this is precisely how God enters into the world.
Not with power and glitz and glamor and dominion. Rather, in simple measures, persistently applied.
Such righteousness, such faithfulness, might seem inconsequential at first glance. But as it turns out, it’s mighty enough to cut grooves in stone.
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.
Ah, simplicity: the bearer of all things great. It withstands the test of time and stone. Joseph, one of the 2 righteous men we honor with such a title. Amen