Merciful like Joseph

On our pilgrim journey of life, call upon the help of St. Joseph as your guide

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

What would you think if you had a dream involving seven healthy cows and seven well-developed ears of corn, followed by a vision of seven gaunt, emaciated cows and seven thin, dried ears of corn? I know I would wake up craving White Castle sliders. But such were the images in a dream that would change the history of a people and their faith.

Struck by these stark images, the Pharaoh of Egypt sought their meaning, finally seeking the help of a young Hebrew slave by the name of Joseph. Given Joseph’s seemingly divine interpretation foreseeing seven bountiful years of harvests, followed by another seven years of terrible famine, Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of his palace and of all the land so as to best prepare for the times to come.

If we are to be the saints we are called to be in good times and in evil times, then the command of Pharaoh to his people is no less urgent for us today — “Go to Joseph!”

In the Old Testament figure of the patriarch Joseph, we find a beautiful foreshadowing of he who would become the husband of Mary and foster father of Jesus — St. Joseph.

We celebrate his special feast day on March 19, which also is the seventh anniversary of my episcopal ordination. And what St. Joseph did for Mary and Jesus he continues to do for the Church — in every age and for all of us.

Seven is an important number in Scripture, symbolizing completeness, perfection and fulfillment in God.

There are seven days of creation, seven days in a week, and the “70 times 7” that represents the perfection of our love when we are merciful like the Father, as we are reminded to be in this Year of Mercy. As the patriarch Joseph was an instrument of God’s mercy for a people in need, giving them grain for their hunger and seed for their future, so St. Joseph helps us to be God’s instrument of mercy in the world — he leads us to the Eucharist to be nourished so that we might also be sowers of God’s mercy in the world.

When I think of St. Joseph, I often reflect on how much he loved and cared for Mary and Jesus. I think especially of how he guided and protected them when they had to flee and find safe haven away from Herod’s murderous envy after Jesus was born.

And it is St. Joseph’s special mission in the Church to help all of us to love Jesus and Mary as much as he does, and to be our guide to the haven of God’s merciful love with Mary, the Mother of Mercy, and Jesus, who is Mercy Incarnate.

As with all of Scripture, there is so much richness to be mined from a prayerful reflection on these two Josephs of the Old and New Testaments. So let us heed those words of Scripture, “Go to Joseph!”, so that we might partake more fully of the unfathomable storehouse of God’s mercy and be sowers of that mercy.

As we approach the solemnity of St. Joseph, I want to invite you to join me for a special retreat entitled “Mercy and Mary” March 18-19 in the Knoxville Catholic High School gymnasium. Leading our retreat will be the most sought-after speaker on the Divine Mercy and Marian Consecration, Father Michael Gaitley, MIC. He is a Marian Father of the Immaculate Conception and the best-selling author of the book 33 Days to Morning Glory, which has sold more than 2 million copies. His book is a must-read, and I pray you can join us for a life-changing retreat. Let us call upon St. Joseph to guide us through this Lent to the Risen Christ and to Mary, the Mother of Mercy.

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