The Holy Week Shadows of St. Joseph: Easter Sunday
A reflection on St. Joseph by Father Raymond de Souza for your Holy Week contemplations.
In his apostolic letter for the beginning of the Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis cites Polish author Jan Dobraczyński. The Holy Father explains that his novel, The Shadow of the Father, “uses the evocative image of a shadow to define Joseph. In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” (Patris Corde 7)
Nevertheless, Joseph is not present in the Lord’s public life. Yet we might find St. Joseph during Holy Week, if we allow ourselves to imagine where his “shadow” may have fell upon Jesus in those most sacred days.
After this Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him leave.
So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who had at first come to him by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds’ weight. They took the body of Jesus, and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb where no one had ever been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, as the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there (John 19:38-42).
In the stillness of Easter Sunday morning, the holy women come to Joseph’s tomb. Jesus was laid in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea, that prominent man who was too afraid to be counted among Jesus’ disciples when He was alive, but marvellously found the courage to stand up for Jesus when He was dead on the Cross, asking Pontius Pilate for the body.
As Jesus and Mary would have attended to St. Joseph while he was dying, so too St. Joseph would have wanted to be at the foot of the Cross, comforting Mary and tending to the dead body of his son. I like to think that St. Joseph, from the bosom of Abraham, sent another Joseph to do what needed to be done. St. Joseph could not place the body of Jesus in the arms of the Blessed Mother, so Joseph of Arimathea did so. And like Joseph in ancient Egypt filled his storehouses for the salvation for the world, so Joseph of Arimathea laid in the tomb the Savior of the world.
It was the mission of St. Joseph to find a place for Jesus — to be born in Bethlehem, to be kept safe in Egypt, to grow in wisdom and stature in Nazareth, to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem.
Now another Joseph finds a place for Jesus in death. The shadow of St. Joseph falls across the tomb.
So, too, our task, following the model of St. Joseph, is to find a place for Jesus in our hearts.
But like Bethlehem or Nazareth or Jerusalem, this world cannot fully contain Jesus, any more than Joseph’s tomb could contain the Risen Jesus. Our hearts are too small a place. If we find a place for Jesus there, it is only a prelude to Jesus finding a place for us in heaven:
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also (John 14:2-3).
For whom was the first of those places prepared? In the glory of heaven, it is now Jesus who finds a place for St. Joseph. There are shadows no more, but all is alight in the glory of the Risen Christ.