“Do not be afraid”: Saint Joseph and the virus

Julian Paparella

March 19, 2020
The Flight into Egypt by Andrea Pozzo (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

A reflection for the Feast of Saint Joseph in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis

March 19, 2020

As our lives are shaken by the coronavirus crisis, there is another contagious virus that is knocking at our door: fear. There are many reasons for us to be concerned and careful, most of all the health and well-being of our family, our friends, and especially the elderly among us. We also think of all those who are isolated, those who are infected, those who have died and are dying, in our own cities and around the world.
In the midst of this crisis, the Church marks the feast of a man who stared fear straight in the face at many points in his life and never let it overcome him. On March 19th, we celebrate the feast of Saint Joseph, the husband of Mary, foster father of Jesus, descendant of King David, and hard-working carpenter of Nazareth. He is the patron of workers, the patron of Canada, and the patron of the Universal Church.
What is the secret of Joseph’s life? His deep trust in God. Trust does not make things easy. Trust can be difficult to find and hang on to. But putting our trust in God is the best insurance policy, no matter how difficult or uncertain things may be in our lives. Our lives may be at a standstill, the stock market can plummet, everything around us can change, but God remains faithful. We can put all our trust in Him and never be disappointed. This is not because God will keep everything bad out of our lives, but because no matter what we face, God never abandons us, and He always leads us towards what is best. He brings springtime flowers out of the barrenness of winter. He can make beautiful things spring even from the darkest part of our lives.
Saint Joseph knew this. The Gospel of Matthew tells us that when Joseph learned that Mary was pregnant, knowing that he was not the father, Joseph was ready to let her go quietly. He did not want to denounce Mary because otherwise she would be stoned to death for infidelity by the Jewish authorities. Joseph wanted to spare Mary but, at the same time, didn’t want to continue with their relationship. An angel appeared to him in a dream bringing God’s message: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). And when Joseph woke from his sleep, he did exactly what the angel had told him and took Mary as his wife.
In the midst of uncertainty and doubt, Joseph had the courage to let God change his plans. He put all his trust in God and followed what God wanted even more than his own personal judgment. Joseph put into action the timeless words of the Book of Proverbs: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5).
This is the challenge for all of us, every day of our lives and especially in moments of crisis, like the one we are facing together in these days. How can we put all our trust in God like Joseph? How can we listen to God’s voice saying to each one of us: “I am with you, I am near you, I never abandon you, I love you…”
Joseph’s life was not easy. He took Mary as his wife and cared for her and Jesus even when they had to flee for their lives to Egypt. Jesus learned from Joseph in his work as a humble but skilled carpenter and builder. Joseph’s character and example taught Jesus and left his mark on our Saviour. Like Jesus, let us follow his example and fight the virus of fear by trusting in God more and more each day.
We can ask Saint Joseph to help us…
Saint Joseph,
Man of justice and faith,
God found you worthy
To be the guardian of our Saviour.
You knew how to take care of the Virgin Mary,
And protect her from all danger.
You became the protector of Jesus our Lord,
Caring for him, a vulnerable child.
You are a living image of the tenderness of God,
You are a model husband and father,
You are the watchful guardian of the Church,
You are the help and consolation of families.
We come to you with confidence:
Pray that God have mercy on us,
In this time of epidemic that we face,
So that the Lord protects us from all evil.
Intercede for those who have died,
Comfort the sick,
Protect and inspire those who care for them.
Grant us to remain steadfast in trust and in peace,
And keep our hearts open to the needs of our brothers and sisters,
To accompany them in difficulty
To love one another as God’s children.
Saint Joseph, pray for us,
Help us.
Protect us. Amen.
(Prayer to Saint Joseph by Mgr Michel Aupetit, Archbishop of Paris, in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis; unofficial translation by Julian Paparella)

Julian Paparella has contributed to Salt + Light Media since 2012. He served as an intern for many summers and currently studies theology at the Institut Catholique de Paris.