The Holy Week Shadows of St. Joseph: Palm Sunday
The first of several reflections 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.
Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the kingdom of our father David that is to come! Hosanna in the highest! (Mark 11:9-10).
The crowds who hail Jesus with their palm branches welcome him to Jerusalem as the “son of David” (Matthew 21:9). They recognize in Jesus, at least on this day, the one who will fulfil the prophecy that the prophet Nathan had given to King David: And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever (2 Samuel 7:16).
If the Blessed Mother was in the crowd that day, she would have remembered what the Archangel Gabriel had told her in Nazareth about the son that she would conceive: He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end (Luke 1:32-33).
Mary herself is introduced to us first as “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David” (Luke 1:27).
Jesus is the son of David, of the royal house of Israel’s greatest king. It is of greatest importance. For us today, knowing what we know, we think of Jesus fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son (Isaiah 7:14). But Jesus’ contemporaries, not knowing of the virginal conception, considering him to be “Joseph’s son” (Luke 4:22), would have had in mind the prophecy that the House of David would be restored.
At the time of Jesus, under Roman occupation, with vassal kings installed by the faraway emperor, the return of the Son of David did not appear imminent to the children of Israel. Then Jesus appeared, teaching them with authority, not like their own scribes (Matthew 7:29), working astonishing miracles and claiming authority even over the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and the Temple (John 2:19).
Could this be the long-promised king who would inherit the throne of David? Here we encounter Joseph’s first shadow. While both he and Mary were of the House of David, it was his legal fatherhood which conferred that status on Jesus. Joseph was of the royal blood, hence his return to Bethlehem, the city of David, for the census. Joseph who puts Jesus in the line of David.
Psalm 110 tells us that David is not only a king, but also a priest — even more, a priest forever like Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). Melchizedek was a king and priest, and so was David. The Son of David would likewise be both priest and king.
The crowd on Palm Sunday would soon disperse. On Good Friday, Pontius Pilate would propose to another crowd that Jesus was indeed their king (John 19:15). He would speak and write better than he knew, seeing to it that Jesus died under the charge that he was indeed the “King of the Jews” (John 19:19-22).
Jesus, “Joseph’s son”, is the Son of David, heir to his throne.