19 March 2009 Solemnity of St. Joseph, Husband of Mary
2 Samuel 7, 4-16; Psalm 89; Rom 4, 13-22; Matthew 1, 16-24
It is said that in today’s world, patriarchy or matriarchy is considered an enemy of equality. And since a large number of single-parent families are headed by women, the father’s role now seems confusing. In a changing world where we are becoming more socially equal, what lies ahead of the role of fatherhood?
Though this is a brewing issue, I still believe in a family with the father as the head. His job is to discipline, educate and prepare children for the world. Of course, I am talking about an ideal complete family. If in families where one or both parents are absent, then we make do of what is best in that particular situation. I hope I don’t get into hot water. There is danger of me being accused at every side: you talk about fatherhood, you raise the eyebrows of women; you talk about motherhood, you get a stern look from the fathers. But since it is the Solemnity of St. Joseph, then I have reason to talk about the father’s role both personally and experientially. And this is not a paper on equality; but on our uniqueness. We are equal in dignity, but unique in our roles in life.
The ideal Christian family is a complete family. We spend most of our lives preparing for the world within the context of the family. Jesus himself, in his years unmentioned in the Gospels, spent his hidden life under the care of Joseph and Mary. And thus, despite the changing times, the family is and will always be in the plan of God.
And now Joseph. We do not know much about Joseph. We know that he was a descendant of King David based on the genealogy of Matthew and Luke. We know that he spent some time in Nazareth, then Bethlehem, and was exiled in Egypt for a time. We do not know of any spoken word in Scriptures; thus, Joseph was seen as a quiet worker, unassuming but had put his heart and soul into his life and work.
As husband to Mary, God has given Mary a companion in life. And as a father, Joseph has given himself as a gift to Mary and Jesus, using his time and talents at the service to the Messiah himself. And because Joseph was a good husband and father, Jesus obeyed him as a response to his parents’ love. However, Christian tradition has it that Joseph probably died before Jesus’ public ministry since there is nothing written about him from that time, and Mary has been alone in His passion.
But in Joseph, we see the personal meaning of work in the context of the family. We know that he was a tekton, a skilled artisan, a professional carpenter who works with wood, steel and stone. A tekton was not just a house builder, but a ship builder. It is through Joseph’s profession that he was able to provide for his family. Work was an expression of his concern for them, and thus it deepened his capacity to love by bringing his family together. Think of the family who eats together: the food on the table, wrought by the hands of the parents, enriches each member of a family. Food not just nourishes the body, but the spirit. I remember how my family became closer because of the stories we share at table. Work acquires personal meaning when it is an expression of our love for people who matter. Through the inspiration of Jesus who identifies himself as the carpenter’s Son, then we too acquire honor and identity by the work that we do. It is sad that some interpret the role of the father as just provider, in the sense that many fathers focus on career, money, success and hobbies without nurturing and maximizing their potentials to change the world as fathers to their children. Jesus changed the world.