‘And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame…’
— Matthew 1v19
God chose the human father of our Lord well. And in the little we know about Joseph, we see that Jesus did grow up to become like his earthly father as well as his heavenly.
Of course Joseph knew that Mary’s pregnancy was of God, but we can safely assume that very few others bought that story. The fact that Joseph assumes that Mary has become pregnant in the normal way (and by someone besides him) suggests that people were hardly naive, and it makes his response all the more impressive. In a position of power, with the opportunity to exact revenge on the woman that he assumed had betrayed him, and even before an angel had explained the situation to him, Joseph decides to spare Mary as much shame as he can. Being a just man, he resolved to divorce her, and being unwilling to put her to shame, he chose to do it quietly.
Jesus follows his father’s example. Though he has every right to expose the shame of his people, he chooses not to. Yet Jesus is able to do even better than his father. His justice and his unwillingness to put his betrothed to shame are both able to find full expression in his own death. Joseph absorbed Mary’s shame as his own, but could not ultimately take it away. Jesus absorbs the shame of his bride, and in doing so cleanses her.
Mary’s story may have been believed by very few. No doubt many looking at the holy couple assumed that Mary was a slut and Joseph was a chump. And so too Christ’s betrothed, the Church, may look to outsiders to be foolish at best and faithless at worse, but he, like Joseph his father, is not afraid to take her as his wife, knowing that what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit too.