Lifelong CatechesisForming Catholic identity across generations
Forty days before the Triduum, the Lenten season disposes Catechumens and the faithful to celebrate the paschal mystery through prayer and penitential practices.
Joseph of Arimathea, Layman, First Century
One of the early saints of the Church, Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned in all four of the Gospels. According to Luke 23:50, Joseph was “a virtuous and righteous man” who was “himself awaiting the kingdom of God” (Mk 15:43). He was a member of the Sanhedrin and was secretly a disciple of Jesus. Like many Christians of that time, he kept his discipleship to himself “for fear of the Jews” (Jn 19:38).
When Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin to be condemned to death, Joseph opposed their decision. After Jesus died on the cross, however, Joseph “courageously” went to Pilate and asked for his body. Pilate consented, so Joseph wrapped the body in clean linen and laid it in a new tomb which had been hewn out of rock.
Legend tells us that Joseph went with Philip the apostle to Gaul to spread the Good News. Philip later sent twelve missionaries, under the direction of Joseph, to the British Isles. Though he did not accept Christianity, the king gave the missionaries an island, later to become Glastonbury, on which they constructed a church in honor of Our Lady. Joseph is also said to have inherited the chalice used by Jesus at the Last Supper, the Holy Grail, which as been the subject of many fictional quests. In the Middle Ages, when these legends reached the peak of their popularity, British clerics used them to support their claim that Britain was the first country of the western world to accept the teachings of Christ.
St. Joseph of Arimathea is the patron of funeral directors. Though he has no memorial on the liturgical calendar, he is honored on March 17.
Joseph’s message today: After Jesus’ death on the cross, Joseph chose to reveal himself as a follower of Christ, a move which must have caused his expulsion from the Sanhedrin. We too are sometimes asked to make sacrifices in the name of Jesus.