St. Matthew is clear that Mary’s unexpected pregnancy deeply troubled Joseph. Perhaps it seemed like a betrayal by one he thought he knew well and could trust; or perhaps she had been the victim of an assault. Mary seemed like such a transparently good person – what could have happened? Whatever was the case, Joseph knew it put her in danger of stoning and his own reputation would be ruined.
The clearest path seemed to end their betrothal quietly so she would not be exposed to public disgrace and punishment; she could leave town and have the baby where no one would ask too many questions. He loved Mary and it was a deep sorrow in his heart to lose her and the future they had planned; but this seemed the way to make the best of it for all involved.
Then God intervenes with the angelic messages in dreams – four incidents are recounted – and Joseph accepts Mary and her Child into his home, no doubt enduring some mockery and ridicule; flees to Egypt as an exile with his family, perhaps for almost two years; returns to Nazareth rather than Judea to yet again re-establish his home and business.
Referring to Mary’s faith and trust in answering the angel, “Let it be done to me as you say” (fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum), Pope Francis says: “In every situation, Joseph declared his own ‘fiat’ like those of Mary at the Annunciation and Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.” While we have no recorded words of Joseph, we have this solid testimony: “When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Matthew 1:24).
Reflect on a time when you responded in faith to something God asked of you despite its difficulties.