The Annunciations to Joseph

Posted On March 19, 2014

A Reflection on the Solemnity of St Joseph,
Husband of Mary

When we hear the word “annunciation,” we tend to think of the annunciation to Mary, when the angel Gabriel announces to her that, of all the women ever created, she is the promised virgin, chosen to give birth to the Messiah, the Son of God. We think of her fiat (Let it be done), whereby she surrendered to God her whole being — her heart, her mind, her body, her soul — and thus participated, in the most unique way imaginable, in the new creation and redemption of the world through her Son. There has never been a more important announcement or a more complete “yes” to God. This was the yes spoken aloud so that it could resound through the universe for all time, the yes spoken not only for herself but for us all, the yes that initiated God’s second creation.  In the first creation, God spoke, “Let there be light,” and there was light; and in the second creation, Mary spoke, “Let it be done,” and the Light of the World became flesh.

But, “in the fullness of time,” when God the Father chose to send His Son into the world to fulfill His plan of mercy, He kept His angels pretty busy.  Before the annunciation to Mary, Gabriel had also appeared to Zachariah, and later there were various other angelic announcements: to the shepherds, to the Magi, and, in several instances, to Joseph. The accounts of the annunciations to Joseph are especially significant, because they present us with a powerful (and challenging) example. Unlike Mary, Joseph wasn’t being asked to speak aloud on behalf of the world. He wasn’t being asked to participate in a new creation. He was simply being told what God wanted him to do, and his unspoken response is a model for us all. He doesn’t “say” fiat. He says nothing. He simply does exactly what he’s told, immediately and unquestioningly. He is a man whose life “speaks” a complete and unbroken “fiat.” Let’s take a look.

1. After Mary’s annunciation, when she was found “to be with child,” an unnamed angel appeared to Joseph “in a dream,” telling him not to be afraid. A similar encouragement not to fear was also given to Zechariah, Mary, and the shepherds, but in this case the fear is specified. Joseph is told not to be afraid to “take Mary as his wife” (Mt. 1:20). Unlike Zechariah, who asked for proof (“How will I know that this is so?” – LK 1:18), and unlike Mary, who asked for more information so that she could understand (“How will this come to be?” – Lk 1:34), Joseph asked nothing. He simply “did as the angel commanded him. He “took her as his wife” (Mt 1:24). We are told that this took place “to fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet” (Mt 1:22).

2. Later, when Herod was about to order the slaughter of the children of Bethlehem, “an angel” appeared to Joseph “in a dream,” and told him, “Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt and remain there until I tell you” (Mt 2:13). Notice the wording in the scriptural account. These are very specific directives, and Joseph’s response is an exact fulfillment of each detail. Did he doubt or ask questions? No. He “got up, took the child,… went to Egypt, and remained there” (Mt 2:14-15), “To fulfill what had been spoken by the prophet” (Mt 2:15).

3. After Herod died, once again “an angel” appeared “in a dream” to Joseph, this time in Egypt. Again the directives were very specific: “Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel” (Mt 2:19-20). Joseph “got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel” (Mt. 2:21).

4. When he was leaving for Israel, having heard that Herod’s son Archaelaus was ruling Judea, Joseph was afraid to return there. But God didn’t leave him in fear. He was “warned in a dream” and thus went to Galilee and made his home in Nazareth “so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled…” (Mt. 22:23).

The picture Matthew gives us of Joseph is of a man who always instantly and completely obeys. He doesn’t doubt; he doesn’t question; he simply does exactly what he is told to do, prefiguring his spouse’s later proclamation at Cana, “Do whatever he tells you.” And because of his immediate, unquestioning, and complete obedience, God’s will — as spoken through the prophets—is fulfilled. At Cana, Mary could very accurately have said, “Imitate my husband, Joseph, and do whatever God tells you.”

Jesus told us, “The kingdom of God is within you,”  and He told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.”

The kingdom of God is indeed within Joseph. In Joseph’s mind and heart, God is King, and he rules there. Joseph, like Mary, is the servant of the King and his fiat, though unspoken, is immediate and complete. Thus, he participates fully in God’s plan. God’s will can be done, because in Joseph His kingdom has come.

Joseph shows us that we are not supposed to merely “say” yes to God, not merely supposed to “pray” the Our Father. God’s will will be done when His kingdom has come in my life—when I have learned to live the Fiat and do whatever God tells me.


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