St. Joseph: A Father Like No Other

Consider this for a second: out of every single man on the planet and, indeed, in human history…God chose Joseph to teach Jesus what it meant to be a man. God could have chosen a famous teacher or an earthly king or a fearsome military leader to raise Jesus. He didn’t. God chose a humble carpenter from a town in the middle of nowhere. Joseph of Nazareth would not have had a verified account on Twitter. He wouldn’t have had many followers on Instagram. He was a no name, a “nobody” in the eyes of the world, but in the eyes of heaven, St. Joseph was somebody very, very special.

La_TourThe phrase “Abba” appears only three times in Sacred Scripture (Mark 14:36; Romans 8:15; and Galatians 4:6). Of course, the first time Christ uttered the word “Abba” on this earth, he was likely looking into the eyes of St. Joseph, which is a point that is worthy of mention. God the Father could have chosen to allow the Blessed Virgin to live and work as a single mother. He could have given her a couple of extra guardian angels or sent Elizabeth to care for her. He is the God who created the giraffe, the coffee bean, and cumulus clouds. He does not suffer from a lack of creativity or specificity in his providence, design, or problem solving.

Some suggest that God only had St. Joseph as part of the Holy Family because of cultural expectations, but that is dangerously presumptuous. This is a God who constantly laughs (Psalm 2:4) in the face of social norms. St. Joseph is not window-dressing in the home of the Holy Family; he is nothing less than one of the greatest men to ever walk the planet. A model of manhood and virtue, God the Father specifically called and designed Joseph to be the living embodiment of manhood and fatherhood to the second Person of the Holy Trinity during his most formative years. In St. Joseph, then, we’re given a glimpse into the heart of God the Father. It would be completely illogical to think, after all the trouble of the incarnation that he would fail to choose a man who reflected his divine image of paternal love with the highest possible measure of human faithfulness.

Scripture reveals to us that St. Joseph’s love for Mary was outdone only by his love for the Father (Matthew 1:19). Only his obedience and belief in the sanctity of the law could lead him to divorce Mary, but his love for her could not allow for harm to come to her, even if he was disgraced in the process. It sounds a lot like the love of God the Father, doesn’t it? His vow to the covenant couldn’t allow him to just dismiss our sin. His great love could not allow for him to dismiss us, even if he was disgraced in the process (Philippians 2:8; Hebrews 12:2).

How heroic the love of God the Father as embodied in Christ’s earthly abba, St. Joseph! How many mornings did he rise with the Egyptian sun, an alien in a foreign land, armed only with a tool belt, venturing into a hostile culture seeking enough employment to keep food on the Holy Family’s humble dinner table? How disciplined a man to have undoubtedly taught the God of the universe to invoke Scripture each day by praying the sacred Shema (the Jewish daily prayers). Echoes of Joseph’s and Mary’s voices can be heard in Christ’s responses to the devil in the wilderness, for his response to the first temptation is quoting the Shema he learned at the feet of his parents.

How focused and detail oriented Joseph must have been to make a living as a carpenter, in which the work of your hands points straight back to the craftsmanship of its creator. Could there have been a more perfect metaphor for the earthly father of God? Consider the humility he demonstrated throughout the unique circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy. Ponder his obedience in traveling almost one hundred miles with a wife in her third trimester. Contemplate the respect for others’ dignity and heritage that Christ undoubtedly learned from his parents (Matthew 2:10-12; John 4:30-42; Matthew 15:24-28). St. Joseph revealed the Father to Christ by who he was each day, not merely in what he provided for the family.

St. Joseph, pray for us!

Parts of this blog post were taken from “The “R” Father” by Mark Hart.

 

Painting by Georges de La Tour, sourced from Wikimedia Commons

Mark Hart

Mark Hart serves as Executive Vice President for Life Teen International. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and a twenty-year veteran of youth ministry, Mark is a best-selling and award-winning author (or co-author) of over a dozen books and one of the most sought-after speakers serving in the Catholic Church, today. Mark hosts his own weekly satellite radio show, “Fired Up!”, for The Catholic Channel, Sirius XM 129 and is a Research Fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology. Additionally, his weekly audio podcast (Sunday, Sunday, Sunday) and HD video spots (Beyond Words) are helping youth groups, families and classrooms in over two dozen countries enter more deeply into the Sunday Mass readings. Mark’s humor and his passion for Scripture —as experienced in his DVD Bible Study Series, “T3” and “Encounter” — are helping hundreds of thousands of Catholics, young and old, begin to read and study the Bible in engaging and relevant ways. Mark and his wife, Melanie, and their children live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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  • Bob Jann

    This article moved me. BTW, what verse from the Shema did Jesus recite when tempted by Satan in the wilderness?

  • Bill Thomas

    In all the stories of gods impregnating women in various mid-East, Greek and Roman traditions, the role of a human man is either non-existent or minimized. I think our tradition shows the importance of a human father. Although we know some of the infancy narrative may not be “historically” true, that does not mean it should not hold meaning for us of what a good father can be. Joseph listens to the messenger from God and professes in the two actions narrated about him, “not my will but thine be done”. Is this not the model for all of us to follow?