An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you, Herod is about to search for the Child, to destroy him.’
Our Father in heaven could have chosen any man on earth to be the guardian of His beloved Son and the husband of the Child’s mother. God chose Saint Joseph. He was ‘a just man’ (Mt 1:19), a holy man, a hard-working, resourceful carpenter and a might warrior against Satan and his fallen angels. When the Enemy launched assaults against his family, the armor of his character and the weapons of his righteous conduct were their sure defense.
When Joseph learned that Mary was carrying a Child who was not his, no doubt the Devil’s thoughts came furiously: Adulteress! She deserves to be publicly shamed and shunned! No-she should be stoned! But Joseph’s kindness was Mary’s shield, and he sought instead to send her away quietly, far from wagging tongues and scornful glances.
Then, when the angel appeared in Joseph’s dreams to tell him to wed Mary and take the Child as his own, Satan most surely would have sought to plant doubt that God had spoken, just as he had in Eden. Has God really said to keep that woman? How could her Child be conceived by the Holy Spirit? Blasphemy! Send her away as she deserves!
Joseph stood firm in his confidence that God had spoken and that God speaks only the truth. He would bravely endure the whispered rumors, the open taunts, the mockery of his manhood that would surely come. He received the heavenly instructions in faith, just as Mary had done.
Satan was no doubt furious. Presenting Mary and Joseph with temptations of anger, doubt, and fear had been futile; the situation called for stronger measures. He would launch a violent, murderous assault on the Child and those who tried to protect Him. The Devil knew just how to make it happen.
Herod was a vain, arrogant, ambitious politician – and powerful. What provocations might the Enemy have stirred up in his heart when the Magi spoke of a newborn King in Bethlehem? This Child is your rival. You must assassinate Him immediately. Do whatever it takes.
Herod was also ruthless. He had a history of brutality toward those he viewed as threats, having murdered even members of his own family. So the screams of babies and their mothers who were strangers in far-off Bethlehem mattered little to him.
The king ordered the massacre of the innocents. The Dragon was confident he would devour the Child who would rule the nations (see Rv 12:4-5, but he had not counted on Joseph’s mighty faith and invincible obedience.
Once again, heaven spoke. ‘Rise, take the Child and His mother, and flee (Mt 2:13). They escaped to safety.
After Joseph left this world for the next, he went on to take on the mantle of a defender, not just of the Holy Family but of the extended family of Jesus and Mary – that is, the whole church. Many titles ascribed to him in the litany that bears his name remind us of this role: Guardian of Virgins, Pillar of Families, Patron of the Dying, Protector of the Holy Church. But none of them is more fitting than the title that reveals his might as a spiritual warrior: Terror of Demons.
Joseph may well have been a man of few words. Sacred Scripture has recorded nothing from his lips. But this title reminds us that when we call on him for rescue from our diabolical adversaries, he need not even speak to them: His very presence terrifies them and sends them fleeing.