St. Joseph, ‘model of mercy’

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An image of St. Joseph rests beside what is believed to be a relic of the saint. (Photo credit: Raymond A. Sebastián)

MOLO, Iloilo City, March 16, 2016 – In the context of the Jubilee of Mercy, a theologian counted St. Joseph, whom the Church honors on March 19, as among “the saints and blessed ones who made divine mercy their mission in life” (Misericordiae Vultus, 24) and, that by his example and intercession, can help the faithful to be merciful.

In an interview with CBCP News, Fr. Rey Zerrudo, professor of Biblical Studies in St. Joseph Regional Seminary and parish priest of San Jose Obrero Parish in Molo, Iloilo City, pointed out that St. Joseph was not merely a “just” man.

“The Gospel according to St. Matthew (Mt 1:19) presents the Holy Patriarch as ‘just’ not only in the sense that he was ‘righteous’ or ‘observant of the law’ but, above all, he was a ‘good’ man which, in the context of the Bible, means ‘merciful’ and ‘compassionate’,” he said.

‘Wife-saver’, not a ‘wife-beater’

The Bible professor pointed out that a closer look on key episodes in the Gospels manifest St. Joseph as a compassionate and merciful man.

“The first is when Joseph, learning that Mary, to whom he was betrothed, was pregnant even before they were married and living together,” he said.

“Rules for unmarried women at the time were harsh. According to the law, if a woman was already betrothed in marriage to a man she could be stoned to death if it was discovered that she had relations with another man.”

“Joseph, being a man of kindness, and even knowing that Mary’s child was not his, was concerned for his betrothed’s safety, so he decided to put her away as quietly as possible,” explained the priest.

“Another episode,” Zerrudo continued, “is when Joseph, upon being told by an angel in a dream to take Mary as his wife and to name the child conceived by the Holy Spirit ‘Jesus’. He got up immediately and obeyed (Mt 1:21).”

“Joseph’s naming of Mary’s son was an act of paternity which is a manifestation of his acceptance of the child as his very own.”

“You can observe in the Gospel’s that the rest of Joseph’s life centered on serving and protecting Jesus and Mary.”

“In all these incidents never can you detect in Joseph a word or an attitude of reproach or anger but of constant care and concern of a husband and a father,” the priest underlined.

Prototype of mercy

The Bible professor also underscored that the mercy of St. Joseph can be detected in Jesus’ public ministry.

As an example, he cited the episode of Jesus being confronted by the Pharisees to decide on the fate of a woman caught committing adultery.

“The answer of the Lord brought the men to realize that all of them were sinners and, therefore, did not dare throw the first stone against the woman. Jesus did not condemn the repentant woman and exhorted her to ‘Go, from now on, do not sin anymore,’” the priest related.

“Jesus, growing up with Mary and Joseph, was raised in an atmosphere of mercy. Joseph was the ‘prototype’ of mercy and Jesus is the ‘archetype; of mercy. By not condemning the woman and by leading her to repentance, Jesus acted like St. Joseph his father,” added Zerrudo. (Fr. Mickey Cardenas / CBCP News)

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