We often view Mary as the mother of God and Joseph as her “spouse”. We get caught up in what they did and who they were apart from their marriage. We miss the great love story behind the holy family. Mary and Joseph had a beautiful relationship, although not perfect, that can teach all couples how to have a godly marriage. There are 4 things that stand out about their relationship which should demonstrate to us a lot about lasting marriages in a culture of separation and torn apart families.
1.) Mary and Joseph listened to the Lord: We see Mary’s obedience to the Lord in Luke 1:26-38 when the angel Gabriel comes to her and informs her she will be the mother of the Messiah. He tells her that she will give birth to the Savior and explains how she will do it. Her response, in verse 38, is “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord, may it be done to me according to your word.” Mary listened to the Lord and the message from God before consulting with Joseph. She does not tell the angel that she must run home and ask Joseph what he thinks of this idea. The Blessed Mother places God’s will ahead of her own and even that of the opinion of others. She shows a total trust in God that His will for her life will be fulfilled. Her response reminds us to place the Lord first in our life and that includes above our spouse or children. When we place the Lord as the most important person in our life then He will handle all our other relationships.
We see in Joseph a man who has an open ear and open heart to God. Joseph is troubled by the news that his wife may have committed adultery and is now pregnant with someone else’s child. In Matthew 1:18-25 we see where Joseph is contemplating divorcing Mary and ending their relationship due to his belief she had committed infidelity. While he is considering this act, an angel appears to him in a dream and tells him the child she is carrying is indeed the Messiah and that he is to take Mary into his home and be her husband. He is informed that the child he will be responsible for raising is the Lord. In verse 24 we see his response in that, “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.”
There are many marriages today that could be saved and strengthened, despite hardships and mistakes, if both individuals would open their heart and listen to God’s voice and God’s instruction.
2.) Joseph protected his family: We see Joseph’s faith once again lead him to listen to the Lord. In Matthew 2:13-15, we are given a picture of Joseph’s commitment to do whatever it takes to protect his family. “When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’”
Joseph trusted the Lord enough to get up and relocate his family to a place that we have no indication he had any resources or family. Egypt was the traditional and primary place of refuge at that time for people fleeing from danger in Palestine. Joseph trusted the Lord enough to become refugees in a foreign land.
3.) Mary and Joseph raised their son in the faith: There are a few reasons we know that Mary and Joseph worked together to raise their son in the faith. We know that Mary was sinless and, as a result, we know that she would have obediently taught her son the law and ensured he was raised to adhere to the customs and laws of Judaism. We also know, according to St. Luke, that Jesus was immersed in the faith. Mary and Joseph went on their annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the Passover, and they took Jesus with them when his was 12-years old. After they celebrated the feast and were returning home, they realized Jesus was not with them. The lack of communication caused Christ to be left behind for three days. The couple raced back to Jerusalem to find their child. In Luke 2:46-52 we see, “After three days, they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions, and all who heard him were astonished, and his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety’. And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he said to them. He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them; and his mother kept all these things in her heart.”
We know Jesus was God incarnate and is the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is the Son of God and God made man. As a result, we know Christ did not have to be in the temple to know the faith. He did not have to ask teachers of the law their interpretation or what it meant because he was God. He did, however, set the example and do as he instructs us to do and that is to grow in wisdom and knowledge of the faith. He learned that from Mary and Joseph’s presentation of him in the temple all the way throughout his childhood by the example they set for him.
4.) Joseph provided for his family: Sacred Scripture tells us Joseph was a carpenter. We know, according to scripture, that Joseph was a hard worker. As a carpenter, he would have worked long hours, with his hands, and it was difficult work. He was a man committed to providing for his family by hard work and sacrifice. As a result of his dedication and work ethic, we see is Sacred Scripture where he would have taught Jesus how to work with his hands and how to be a carpenter. St. Mark tells us this: “Is he not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? Are we not his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him.” (Make 6:3)
The primary thing we are reminded of by Mary and Joseph is that love is not based on feelings. Love is not rooted in emotions. Love, true love, is grounded in commitment and faith. It grows in the fertile soil of faith, trust, and hard work.
If you truly want to grow in your marriage, then it would benefit you to take heed to the lessons learned by one of Scripture’s greatest couples.