The Unworthiness of St. Joseph

Homily for Friday of the Third Week of Advent

I have always wondered about this story with St. Joseph, specifically about him being filled with fear at the prospect of taking Mary into his home after he discovers that she is pregnant with a child not his own. My personal interpretation has been that Joseph was so scared that he was led to a place where that fear was crippling and almost brought him to the point where he would make the biggest mistake of his life. I’ve often questioned how such a man, if he was truly filled with righteousness, could not see the deeper meaning of what was truly happening within Mary initially. It took an angel telling him the truth for him to realize it.

Earlier this year, I was doing the consecration to St. Joseph in preparation for ordination, I read a new take on this story. In the book Consecration to St. Joseph, Fr. Donald Calloway talks about how Joseph sought to divorce Mary because he was in awe at what was happening.

When St. Joseph finds out that Mary is pregnant, he wasn’t doubting her purity, her innocence, or her faithfulness to the betrothal. “Instead, he doubts his worthiness and ability to take care of Mary and the child.”[1] Joseph knew of Mary’s holiness and that she belonged to God at the very core of her being and he thought that he wasn’t worthy enough to live with her. So he decides that he is going to divorce her “quietly out of justice to God and reverence for Mary. He is willing to leave the picture so as not to reveal her mystery.”[2]

In other words, Joseph’s fear wasn’t because he was ashamed of Mary and thought that she had done something wrong. Instead, his fear was more centered on his own unworthiness and his desire to not interfere with the plan of God. This changes the entire meaning of the scripture. The angel stepped in not because Joseph thought Mary had been unfaithful, but rather in order to reassure him that this was in fact something that God had brought about. The angel was sent to encourage Joseph and to tell him that his awareness of God’s presence within Mary was exactly why he was being chosen as the foster father of the Savior. What Joseph thought made him unworthy was exactly what God wanted to use. The same is true for each one of us.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own sinfulness and our own mess, that we think those things hinder us from being able to do something for the Lord. In actuality, though, it is because of our unworthiness that we become worthy in the eyes of God. The Lord knows that we are going to make mistakes in life; He knows that we’re sinners. Often, when we acknowledge that fact, we sometimes begin to believe that God could never use us to be the instruments that bring His presence into the world. That’s what the devil wants us to believe! And it’s a lie! God instead, sees our sinfulness, sees our recognition that we are sinners, and desires to use that to bring Him glory. He wants us to be like St. Joseph and to embrace our weaknesses…so that we can rely solely on His grace.

Only God can make us worthy. There is nothing that we can do to make ourselves worthy of His love. Only God does that. All we have to do is acknowledge our sinfulness and humbly ask God for his help. May that be our prayer today, that we may rely on God and ask Him to be with us in our weakness, in our unworthiness, so that He may be brought glory in all that we do.


[1] Donald Calloway, MIC. “Just and Reverent Man” in Consecration to St. Joseph (Stockbridge: Marian Press, 2020), 143.

[2] Calloway, 143.

Published by Fr. Tom Pringle

Priest of the Diocese of Orlando. Parochial Vicar at Holy Name of Jesus Catholic Church, Indialantic.

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