by Jeannine Gramick, SL
Scripture tells us that Joseph, husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus, was “an upright man”. He was a responsible man. To him was entrusted the care of Mary and Jesus in their sojourn in Bethlehem, their flight into Egypt, and their residence in Nazareth.
Joseph was an honest person. He earned his livelihood by carpentry. He was loyal, trustworthy, and just. We can assume, as an honorable Jew, that Joseph faithfully followed the law of Moses.
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant during their engagement but before they lived together, he was “unwilling to expose her to the law.” He decided to divorce her quietly. Although a dedicated follower of the law, apparently Joseph was not rigid, dogmatic, or absolute in his adherence to it. Law, he realized, must be tempered with kindness, interpreted with love, and superseded by a higher law when necessary.
Sometimes, like Joseph, we need to circumvent the letter of the law to live its spirit. Sometimes we must go around to the back door when a law keeps the front door locked. Sometimes a human law stifles God’s divine law of love. Sometimes we may be called upon to examine a law and challenge it if it is unjust.
- What is my attitude toward law?
- Do I feel free to disregard a law if it is not life-giving?
* This reflection is from Embracing Conversion: Reflections for Lent 2001.