By Martin Nchedo Umeatuegbu
It is indeed very pleasing to see great titles Joseph is being decorated with in his Litany by the Church founded by his Son, Jesus, which we have been considering one after the other. One of such titles is that of him as a “Watchful Defender of Christ.” This title is in tandem with that of him as Chaste Guardian of the Virgin”, Jesus’ Mother, for they both denote Joseph as one who cares without negligence. But the present title speaks so much in a spectacular way about this holy man. It tells us something about the power and strength of Joseph, for it is only one is strong and powerful that can defend another person.
Among the pericopes of the Gospels that give insights about Joseph’s watchful defence of our Lord is the text of Matthew 2:13-14 where the Angel tells him to take his Son and the Mother into Egypt to avoid being massacred by the wicked Herod. This text becomes also the fulfillment of the ancient prophecy in Numbers 23:22 which reads: “I called my son out of Egypt”. Joseph truly is Jesus’ defender because his flight into Egypt is to save him from the danger of death – that is, to defend the life of our infant Redeemer from one who has shown himself an enemy to him. Jesus deserves to be defended because by Herod’s anger and hatred, his life is has been threatened. Imagine the scenario: ordinarily, Jesus’ birth ought to attract celebrations from the friends of His parents in sharing the joys of new born baby. But on the contrary, it rather brought desolation, and this was not shared by him alone, but also by his parents, Maria and Joseph. The threat posed to Jesus by Herod is also posed to Joseph his father and Maria his Mother, for assuming Herod dared to approach the household of the Holy Family, the destruction will not be experienced by Jesus alone, but invariably by His parents. So, Joseph in heeding to the words of the Angel, saves not only his Son, but also His Mother and himself from death. Truly, this is defence.
Indeed, Joseph did not have the power and arsenal to face Herod physical, yet in defending His Son, He also defeats Herod. Yes, he overthrows him not by fight, but another formula greater than fight. Joseph defeats Herod in three ways: obedience, silence and detachment, despite Herod’s hostility. While Herod was planning how to kill Jesus, Joseph was thinking how to save Him. The first way Joseph defeats Herod in defending Jesus is by obedience having listened to the Angel. He knows that this same Angel who has always given him God’s message will never deceive him, unlike Herod who in listening to the advice of cabinets of his throne as a way of obeying them, is deceived by then. Hence, while Herod fails by obedience to his ungodly advisers with reference to Jesus, Joseph triumphs over him in obedience to the Angel with reference to the same Jesus.
Joseph, in the second and even in a greater way, defeats Herod by his silence, which is contrary to the latter’s noise. Herod’s decision to slaughter Jesus in the pretense of payment Him homage was made not in silence, but in noise, for his heart is filled with chaos. On the contrary, Joseph, being a humble and prayerful man, in silence, took his Son with His Mother to safeguard their lives. By this he demonstrates that insofar as life is the highest natural good, silence remains one of the best ways to preserve it. But this kind of silence is accompanied by action of saving the life of the person involved, and not leaving him to be a prey of the enemies. Therefore, Joseph’s silence against Herod the enemy becomes a way of defeating him and simultaneously defending his blessed Son. Jesus imitates this silence as an adult while enduring insults and maltreatment from His opponents during His Passion. So, the same instrument of obedience that constitutes Herod’s failure becomes also the same instrument of Joseph’s triumph in defending his Son.
In the third place, Joseph also defeats Herod by detachment by fleeing into Egypt. The meaning of this act is that the best way to avoid sin which is by avoiding occasion of sin. Joseph’s flight into Egypt not only prevented Jesus from being killed, but also prevented Herod himself from committing murder, even though, out of desperation, he massacred innocent children. Yet, Joseph defeats him by saving him from being a murderer of the Redeemer. No matter how this is seen, Herod owes Joseph some thanksgiving for, by his detachment, he shows Herod that he is not the true King, for a true King is not the one who murders his people as he had done, but rather, a true King is the one who saves His people as Jesus comes to do, and that is why God uses Joseph to defend Jesus. This, therefore, speaks without words the reason this title of Joseph as, “defender” is qualified with “watchful”, so as to become “watchful defender of Christ.” Joseph truly is a powerful and strong man.
Our modern world is, consequently, invited by God to see Joseph as a hero who both teaches us how to defend life by saving it. He teaches us to take action when life is at stake because every life has a destiny from God. In a special way, Joseph tells the youths and adults to avoid involving in any way in the moral evil of abortion which kills a human life. Be it by discouraging the pregnant lady from keeping the pregnancy, or by supporting her to terminate it, or by scolding her to do away with it, or even by advising and assisting them in doing so, these are all sins to be avoided because it cries to Heaven for vengeance. Joseph encourages us to preserve life by defending it by being faithful to the fifth Commandment where God instructs us not to kill. This involves every form of killing such as killing the unborn (abortion), killing another person (murder), killing oneself (suicide), and killing terminally ill or aged person by lethal injection or withdrawal of nutrition (euthanasia), for s/he who kills has no peace of mind as seen in Cain, Herod and so on.
Joseph as Jesus’ watchful defender tells us that all the above owe to the truth that life is sacred and precious, for God takes no pleasure in the extinction of the living” (Wisdom 1:13). In the mind of God abortion is a great abomination before the Lord for man’s blood cries out to God for vengeance (see Wisdom 15:11). It is sequel to this that the Church recommends that we *go to Joseph* to learn how he defended Jesus, to defend our lives too in times of danger, and to teach us how to defend the lives of others. We, therefore, with confidence we beseech him saying:
O St Joseph, Watchful Defender of Christ and faithful spouse of Maria! Pray for us who have recourse to you!
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