The Example of Joseph
Mary and Jesus are, of course, the proper focus of Christmas, but the season of Advent, which we now observe, is also the true time of St. Joseph. The Gospel for the Second Sunday proclaims that John the Baptist was sent to “Prepare the way of the Lord,” as Jesus began his public ministry, but the man who “prepared the way” for Jesus’ birth was Joseph. Just think of all he did and suffered to make sure that Mary was safe and the Child would find a home in the world. Strong and silent, obedient and resourceful, he is the embodiment of the “servant leadership” that Jesus would later preach saying, “He who would be great among you must be a servant of all” (Lk 22:26).
But if you look at all of the scripture that we will hear this Advent, you will notice that there is not one reference to the adopted father of Jesus until the Fourth Sunday, and even then it is a passing reference only stating that the angel Gabriel was sent by God, “to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.” Joseph is an important aspect of this Advent time, but he does so, as men often do, by standing in the background and doing the small duties that the leader of the household must do. And not a word from him is heard throughout the entire Gospel story. He is simply there, leading when needed, and stepping into the shadows when the time comes for the Son of God to shine.
- What can this mean for us, especially fathers who have St. Joseph as a patron? May I recommend that we look for “Joseph moments” in our day-to-day lives? After all, chances are we are quite often offered opportunities to exercise the “servant leadership” of St. Joseph. A good place to start is to become familiar with God’s word in Scripture so that we will become accustomed to the tone of his promptings in our own lives. Thus, reading the Bible – especially the Gospels – is Step One in recognizing the “Joseph moments” in our lives. Here are some other suggestions:
- If you find your wife or family in any danger, take well-considered and effective action, just as Joseph took the Holy Family to Egypt. The dangers you face may not include a mad King Herod, but be aware of the workload your wife may face at home, the pressures of childcare, the financial burdens of your family and even something as seemingly small as gossip about your family among in-laws. Stand up and present yourself as a defender of your wife and children.
- Be a leader of the spiritual welfare of your family. It is amazing how attuned and attentive Joseph was to God’s angels, who appeared to him on three occasions commanding three huge tasks. As a father, don’t leave the religion to your wife. Your children will grow up thinking that faith is only feminine. Give them an example of faithful masculine leadership, which includes humility in the presence of God.
- Be open to changing your plans for the sake of your family. Joseph may have imagined a normal marital and domestic life with his beloved bride. But he gave up all such dreams for the love of God and the love of Mary. Acknowledge the possibility that God’s plans for you and your family may be different from your plans.
May God Bless you and keep you safe.
Fr. Edward Gibney