By Mark Hart
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.
The 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