In this year when Pope Francis has invited us to pay special assistance to the patriarch of the Holy Family, we have probably already heard the expression “Go to Joseph” (Ite ad Joseph) more than once as a Christian encouragement. The Holy Father uses it early in his apostolic letter Patris Corde. The phrase has its biblical origin in the story of Joseph, the son of Jacob, whom his brothers sold into Egyptian captivity. As an interpreter of dreams, Joseph wins the esteem of the Pharaoh and becomes vizier of all Egypt—its second most powerful figure. At the time of plenty, Joseph assumes the charge of amassing stores of food in his adopted land. At the outbreak of famine, people from all over the world make their way to Pharaoh to beg for sustenance. His instruction provides the current catch phrase “Go to Joseph and do whatever he tells you” (Gn 41:55).
In the New Testament, I can hear these words on the lips of Mary as she spoke to the young Jesus—“Go to Joseph—though she undoubtedly said Abba—and do whatever he tells you.” Seeking the help, support, and wisdom of Joseph was probably second nature to Mary and Jesus as they grew in Galilee. His unfailing willingness to demonstrate God’s blessings to his wife and son would surface without question. Can you hear Mary say to herself a thousand times “I must go to Joseph and seek his advice on this matter,” just as Joseph would say a similar thing about her? Do you imagine Jesus saying “I must go to Abba to seek his help?” Yes, this Old Testament expression would have multiple applications for the Holy Family.
Am I too fanciful when I think about how different the wedding feast of Cana might have been if Joseph was there? You will remember that both Jesus and Mary attend. When Mary recognizes that the wine was running out, she mentions it to Jesus and then she says to the servants “Do whatever he tells you” (Jn 2:7). (Do you recognize the similarity to the words of Pharaoh above?) This leads to the turning of water into wine. If Joseph were there, would she have made her observation to him and then directed the servants similarly “Go to Joseph. Do whatever he tells you?” No turning of water into wine, but counting on Joseph to find a solution. I imagine it so.
In this year, when we celebrate Joseph in a special way, does this phrase have particular meaning? Can we see ourselves going to Joseph and seeking his advice on matters related to family, to job, to justice, to surrender to the will of God? Can we imagine that he could give us advice on being quiet and listening as we invite others to speak? Could he strengthen us in our respect for the teachings of the Church, in our dedication to prayer, in our confidence in the goodness and protection of God? Does he have guidance to offer on humility, understanding and acceptance? Yes, making our way to Joseph is a good idea and doing whatever he tells us has merit. Seeking the intercession of Joseph reflects our wisdom and confidence in a good man. In my thinking, as long as he was alive, Joseph was the “go to” guy in the Holy Family. What was good enough for Jesus and Mary is certainly good enough for us.