Feast of St. Joseph
Morning Office Readings: Psalm 132; Isaiah 63:7-16; Matthew 1:18-25
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph. Joseph is the central actor in Matthew’s story of Jesus’ birth, where Mary is the central actor in Luke’s. However, Joseph’s personality isn’t fleshed out in Matthew nearly as much as Mary’s is in Luke. Most of what we have of Joseph we either get from tradition or from projecting our needs and aspirations onto him, not from the canon of scripture. Within the bounds of reason, I find this projection of meaning understandable and comforting.
And so it is that I draw comfort from Joseph. Since one of the primary roles in my life right now is father to two sons, I look for examples of good fatherhood anywhere I can get them. Alas, there are no examples in Matthew of Joseph giving important life lessons to Jesus (how do you advise and correct one who is without sin!?!). But there are other traits I can use. Joseph is a righteous and modest man (1.19) who followed the commands of the LORD as he received them (1.20-24, 2.13-15, 2.19-21). Joseph was a protector and provider. And while this example can be overstated, it is nonetheless true that Jesus’ understanding of God as Father would be in some way formed by his experience of Joseph.
My experience of fatherhood, what I saw growing up and what I live out in my own family, is that I enjoy privilege and patriarchy that I often take for granted, while at the same time I bear special burdens and carry particular shame that I often think no one else notices. When I look online or in the news, too often I only notice the critiques of my privilege and patriarchy, and don’t find help in bearing my burdens or letting go of my shame. For that I need mentors, real exemplars of fatherhood. I’m proud to find them, however imperfectly, in my family, in the church, and on this day, in the person of St. Joseph.
O God, who from the family of thy servant David didst raise up Joseph to be the guardian of thy incarnate Son and the spouse of his virgin mother: Give us grace to imitate his uprightness of life and his obedience to thy commands; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.