St. Joseph: A True Father
St. Joseph is not depicted as saying much in the Gospels. In fact, at no point in the New Testament does it actually mention him saying a word. This perceived silence often causes us to view him as a mere placeholder, as Mary and Jesus’ glorified Secret Service member. We tend to hear his title as ‘Foster Father’ and think that he is only secondarily important. To do this, however, is to sell him far short. People often say that you can tell a lot about a person by the way they treat the janitors. Janitors have a glory-less job, but it is completely necessary for making things functional and smooth. It is fitting that St. Joseph is sometimes called the custodian of the Holy Family. Therefore, we should be careful not to overlook him. In his silence, we find not a lack of substance; on the contrary, we find a deep sense of purpose which radiates from his actions and decisions. He is not merely dragged along for the ride, but actively works to create a space for our Savior to be brought into the world
Nazareth, it turns out, is nearly 100 miles from Bethlehem. According to Mapquest, if you were to walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem at a constant speed without stopping, it would take 33 straight hours. The road is long and the terrain is difficult. Leading a heavily pregnant lady (with the incarnate God) through the desert would be a monumental task – even with a car! Doing it on a donkey brings the feat to a whole new level. St. Joseph traveled this distance with Mary and Jesus, and it is not hard to imagine the difficulties and challenges that must have come to them along the way: all the way from garnering food, to navigating their way, to finding shelter for each night’s rest. There was no GPS and there were no smart phones or computers. All Joseph had was his wit and his ever-consistent trust in God’s providence. Yet, throughout the journey, his trust and obedience allowed him to function beautifully as protector and provider. It is because of this that we can look to him as a model for fatherhood.
In our day, it is easy to think of a father’s role primarily as one of autonomy; the father is the one who makes the decisions both for himself and everyone else. As Christians, we should never forget, however, that the role of the father is not to lead the children to himself and his own will. Instead, his role is to lead his children to Christ and wherever the divine plan takes them. A good father is, in fact, obedient. St. Joseph understood this well. Going against the grain of our broken human nature, his deep sense of purpose did not come from his own initiative. He did not act for the sake of his own agenda, nor did he go looking to be anything special. Rather, he was moved to act outside of his ordinary day-to-day life through God’s extraordinary workings, through God’s initiative. On more than one occasion, he obeyed the will of God immediately after it was revealed to him, carrying it through to its completion. Keep in mind, he did not lethargically ‘get around’ to doing the will of God as soon as he had time. He did it right away. Scripture mentions two separate occasions of this; in one, an angel appeared to him in a dream, commanding him to take Mary into his home as his wife. In the other, the angel commanded him to flee with the family to Egypt. The first occasion had him provide a space for Christ to be brought into the world, while the second had him protect the Child from Herod’s murderous decree.
Reflecting on the events of Christmas and the initial events in the life of our Lord, we can see the key role that St. Joseph played. We can truly look to him as the paragon of a man of God. He was one who followed God’s will by silently, faithfully, and willingly providing for and protecting the family that he loves. This Christmas season, we should keep his example very close to our hearts, making good use of his intercession as well, for he is indeed the paragon of a true father. Merry Christmas! And St. Joseph…pray for us!