St. Joseph a model of solidarity with immigrants

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Today as we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph, who models for us what a good father must do when faced with challenges — walking by faith, responding to God’s message received in dreams, receiving Mary as his wife, being a faithful foster father for Jesus and good provider for his family. 

But given the current discussion in the public sphere regarding immigration, I thought it might be useful for us to consider what light the witness of St. Joseph might shine on this important topic for us today, for instance:

N Note that at the beginning of the Gospel account, Joseph was not a citizen of the country in which he lived. His family must have immigrated earlier from Judea to Galilee. 

But for whatever reason, Joseph was not yet what we would call a citizen of Galilee. That’s why he had to return to Bethlehem to register at the time of the Roman Census. He couldn’t register in Nazareth because he was of the house of David, and thus a citizen of Judea. And since that’s where Jesus was born, he too began life as a citizen of Judea, not Galilee.

N Note also that Joseph became a refugee. He had to bring his wife and newborn son across the Egyptian border without what would today have required a valid visa. They were refugees, fleeing the very government to which they would have had to apply to get a passport if such things had existed at that time. 

But like all of us, Joseph had the basic human right to immigrate when necessary and the obligation to protect and provide for his family, a right that comes from God, who gave this entire planet to all of us, a right that no government can legitimately deny us when dire circumstances so require. People say, “It’s the law, it’s the law, it’s the law,” but they forget that there is a higher law before which all unjust — inhumane — laws lose their binding force. 

Just like the Holy Family had to flee to Egypt, presumably without authorization, many other Josephs are forced to do the same thing to protect their children and provide for their families today.

N Note that after that, Joseph made a fresh beginning in Galilee. He made Nazareth his home once it became clear that living in Judea was not going to be an option so long as Archelaeus was king. He was the son of the murderous King Herod. 

Joseph succeeded in establishing himself in Nazareth for good even though he now belonged to an ethnic and religious minority in the land that the Scriptures call Galilee of the Gentiles. Jesus was called Jesus of Nazareth because — like many “Dreamers” today — that was now his home, that was now where he was from, even though he was actually born in Judea, a foreign country.

N Like immigrants today, Joseph contributed to the economy of his adopted home. He was a carpenter and worked hard to support his family. People from all over town benefitted from Joseph’s work. His efforts improved not only the circumstances of his own family, but also those of the rest of the community.

So as we celebrate this feast of St. Joseph, let us not forget that he is a model for Christian fathers and his witness to the demands of fatherhood includes protecting and providing for one’s family — and there are many fathers in today’s world who are forced to take extraordinary steps in order to save their children from violence — like Joseph did, fleeing to Egypt as refugees. 

In any event, let us pray today for fathers, thanking God for all the sacrifices they make to provide for their families and protect their children. We have a crisis of fatherhood in our country today and Joseph models for us how true fathers should be.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily March 19.

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