February 20, 2021 - Pastor Message03/01/2021
THE YEAR OF ST. JOSEPH RIGHTEOUSNESS (cont.) “In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zecharia of the priestly division of Abijah; his wife was from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. Both were righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blamelessly” (Luke 1:56).
In last week’s column, we continued our reflection on righteousness by looking at how the concept developed in the Bible from the covenant fidelity of God, who can always be trusted to fulfill his promises, to the personal attentiveness and fidelity of individuals to God as he reveals himself and his will to them, exemplified in Noah and Abraham. We then looked at how the concept expanded to apply not only to individuals but to an entire people, the Israelites, whose righteousness takes concrete and public form in observing the Law God gives them through Moses, exemplified in David.
Moving into the New Testament and the transition to the coming of Christ, we find the concept expanding even more in the figures of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Simeon. Luke describes Zechariah and Elizabeth as “righteous in the eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.” This fits the meaning of righteousness tied into being faithful Israelites who followed the Law, and Zechariah and Elizabeth did so “blamelessly.” But God then comes into their life and calls them to go beyond the requirements of the Law. Similar to Abraham and Sarah, they are advanced in age, well past the point when they could have children, and yet also like Abraham and Sarah, God tells them they will have a son who will play a very special role in his plan for salvation and whom they are to name John. Zechariah initially doubts God’s word to him, and so God renders him mute until the time for the boy to be born. When he is born, however, Elizabeth and Zechariah do as God commands, naming the boy John. Zechariah’s tongue is loosed, and he uses it to sing his faith in God’s righteousness. Zechariah and Elizabeth commit to raising John according to the strict norms laid out by God to ensure the boy will be ready to carry out his special task, coming in time to simply be known as “the baptist”.
Simeon “was righteous and devout, awaiting the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). His example of righteousness brings it full circle as his attentiveness and trust in God’s promises come from God’s closeness to him through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals to him that “he should not see death before he had seen the Messiah of the Lord” (Luke 2:26). In the power of the Spirit, Simeon comes to the temple just as Joseph and Mary bring the baby Jesus there to fulfill the requirements of the Law. Taking Jesus in his arms he sings God’s praises for fulfilling his promises, to Simeon personally but even more to all the faithful people who had come before him.
Thus we see how the different aspects of righteousness developed over time and led to the righteousness exemplified by Joseph: from God’s attentiveness and fidelity to the covenants he forges with individuals, through the attentiveness and faithfulness of individuals to God as they respond to God’s call, through the attentiveness and faithfulness of a people embodied in their obedience to God’s Law, to the fusion of all these elements in a communion of God and people, revealing his righteousness to them and enabling them through his Holy Spirit to respond with righteousness in return. It is this total package we see in Joseph.
Fr. Marc Stockton