March 20 marked the Solemnity of St. Joseph, a saint who has had great significance in my life.
As I reflected on St Joseph’s virtues, I was struck by his humility in marrying the literal perfect woman.
Anyone who encountered Mary, The Immaculate Conception, must have perceived her holiness, her perfection. According to Ven. Anne Catherine Emmerich’s visions of Mary, “her whole being, the abundance of grace in her, and her wisdom were so remarkable from her childhood in the Temple onwards that they could not be entirely concealed in spite of her great humility” (The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, 118).
St. Joseph thus surely knew that this woman was holy on a level of which he could only dream. In comparison, he must have felt like his faults were painfully obvious. But he did not shy away from her. Having been chosen by God to be her spouse, he humbly accepted the mission and devoted his life to loving her and her Son, the Son of God.
How often do we avoid or belittle people whose goodness makes us feel insecure? Rather than taking the opportunity to learn from them and grow ourselves, we often prefer not to be challenged. We say that they “act holier than thou” or are puritans or religious fanatics. We may feel that to acknowledge their spiritual strengths is to acknowledge our shortcomings, and that makes us uncomfortable.
This human response is captured well throughout the Bible. Jesus said in the beatitudes: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11-12)
And John wrote, “Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” (John 3:19-20)
It is part of our fallen nature to reject or even harm anyone who exposes our sinfulness. It takes true humility to rejoice in others’ holiness and to strive to emulate them. As we advance through the balance of this Lenten season, let us be aware of the spiritual models that God has placed in our lives. Let us ask for the Grace to open our hearts to instruction. And let us ask for St. Joseph’s intercession, that we might grow in humility.