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The WORD. The TRUTH.

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Matthew opens his gospel with a genealogy linking Abraham and David with the Messiah and from here prepares his readers to expect an unusual birth narrative. And when viewed in the Mediterranean cultural context, (where betrothal and the taking of the bride to the bridegroom’s house are the two parts, the beginning and the ending, of the legal process of marriage), all the more Jesus’ conception and birth take on unusual contours.

Focusing on Joseph, the main protagonist in this part of the gospel, (Mt 1:18f) he found himself in a difficult predicament, if not an embarrassing situation. The honor code of the Mediterranean world demands that no one take what properly belongs to another. Mary’s child is not Joseph’s, so he hesitates to take it. He also knows that he will be unable to display publicly the “tokens of virginity” on his wedding night, (Dt 22:13-21). If he doesn’t act quickly he will be shamed. By law, Joseph is to return Mary to her father and expose her to death, (Num 5:11-31). But Joseph is a righteous man.

The word “dikaios” ( δίκαιος ) in NT is an adjectival form and is also used nominally with the primary meanings “righteous” and “just”, the two overlapping in meaning in many occurrences. Like the OT term “tsaddîq”, it refers to moral purity, or uprightness, i.e., conformity to the law covenant as well as to a judicial pronouncement of right standing before God. Contemporary usage in Josephus the historian shows that the Greek term means “one obedient to the commands of God, an upright man, a man of character. (Theologically speaking, it refers to God’s action as a consequence of the atoning work of Christ, Rom 5:19).

Joseph is such a person; so he decides to divorce Mary quietly, i.e., in the presence of chosen witnesses, without public scandal. His sense of honor hopes that the rightful father will seize this opportunity to claim the Child and marry Mary. In all of his decision, Joseph acts very honorably. And with the direct revelation, here in a dream, what is hidden in the plan of God is made known. God personally announces to Joseph the gender of the child (a highly prized male is a special gift of God in this culture) and assigns his name (Jesus). This fact immediately immerses Jesus in honor far surpassing human calculation and further enhances Joseph’s honorable reputation, for God would honor a righteous person. Through persons like him, the plan of God is accomplished and God’s presence is made manifest in the world, (Immanuel).

St. Joseph, Guardian of the Redeemer, and Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary, guide us in the path of life and defend us from every evil. Amen.

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Veritas Editorial

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

Rev. Fr. Anton CT Pascual

President of Radio Veritas

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