Solemnity of St. Joseph: A Righteous Man

March 19, 2024 | Sr. Sarah Crotty, CSJ | Today’s Readings

“Joseph, since he was a righteous man…” (Mt. 1:19).


The law and righteousness, vengeance and mercy, retribution and restoration: these tensions are often highlighted in our Lenten readings. Today, in our society, we seem to be heavy handed on the side of the law, vengeance, and retribution. We even call our systems of incarceration Departments of Corrections. If one commits a crime, one must be corrected instead of healed, punished instead of restored.  

But how are we to behave? What stance toward others and towards social ills are we to take as Christians? 

One of the most history-altering lines of Scripture is included in today’s reading about the birth of Jesus: “Joseph, since he was a righteous man…” (Mt. 1:19). 

Joseph was a righteous man, not a vengeful man. He was faced with a situation wherein he had the power to have a woman, Mary, put to death. If he had made public that she was pregnant before they lived together, she would likely have been stoned to death. But Joseph chose righteousness over the law and mercy over vengeance. Thus, Jesus was born and became the Emmanuel. 

If Joseph had chosen otherwise, history itself would have been radically different.   

Joseph’s son then went on to teach us to be like his earthly father as well as his Heavenly Father. Jesus clearly taught us what he learned from Joseph and what he knew as God’s truth: to choose righteousness, mercy, and restoration over the law, vengeance, or retribution. Time and time again, Jesus shows mercy and offers healing and restoration, even when the law gives him the “right” to enforce punishment. Consider the Samaritan woman (John 4) or the woman caught in adultery (John 8).

As we pray today with Joseph, let us remember that as a man of deep faith, righteousness was his value and mercy was his way of being in the world. 

We pray that like Joseph, we have the courage and faith to choose righteousness, compassion, and repair of relationships. As Christians, we are called to nothing less; for we know that such as these are expressions of God’s great love for every human being.  

Want to see reflections like this throughout Lent? Subscribe to get weekly reflections emailed directly to you.