The Self-Giving Love of Joseph — By Fr. Joseph, O.P.
At the same time, I find it interesting that Jesus’ first words are some sort of playful response to the Father’s first words. He asks His mother Mary, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
It’s amazing how much is said in this story. For one thing, though we can pray anywhere, there is a hierarchy of places. It is better to pray in a church than anywhere else. We also see Mary’s response to sin. Although she did not sin, like sinners, she was separated from God. Her response was an immediate search for God. We also find a new distinction between the Old and the New Testaments. Jesus calls God “Father” in the Sermon on the Mount the same number of times God is called “father” in the Old Testament (which shares many books with Jewish Scripture). Jesus clearly wants us to know that God is not just some omnipotent being; He’s our Father.
I can’t help but find it interesting that this is the reading for my last Mass as Associate Pastor of the Newman Center. Why? Because the first time Jesus calls God “Father” is the last time we hear of His foster-father Joseph. Joseph’s passing is without fanfare. The next time we see Jesus, He’s an adult and Mary is alone.
Joseph led a difficult life. His engagement to Mary was … troubled. One can imagine what went through his mind when Mary was found to be with child. And then the child, during the presentation, was prophesied to lead a life of suffering, and His mother would feel all the suffering in her heart. These are not easy words for any father and husband. Joseph was also the recipient of unfair criticism and shame. When people criticized Jesus as being the carpenter’s son (Mt 13:55), this is an assault on Joseph’s profession and his fatherhood. Jesus, after all, was the one born out of wedlock. In Joseph, we see foreshadowed the unjust condemnation of Jesus.
Joseph never speaks in Scripture, but we can tell he was a man of extraordinary holiness. Scripture tells us that the Son of God Himself was obedient to Joseph. Any sort of meditation and study on the Blessed Virgin Mary ought to convince us that being her spouse was a singular honor. It is clear from the Annunciation that both Mary and Joseph intended and were called to be celibate (Lk 1:34). The reason I asked for the name Joseph when I entered religious life was because of this silent and total service to Jesus and Mary.
Joseph is certainly a model for all priests. Joseph took on the responsibility to serve others and to share their difficulties and their burdens. But how could one say that it was not also filled with purpose, meaning and joy? Self-giving is, after all, where true joy comes from. I very much enjoyed my time here in Columbia. I was proud of the work I did. I came to love the people. I’ve seen many people grow so much in their faith. But the work was never about me. It was about Jesus and Mary. They remain, and I leave. Thank you to the Newman Center community for making my job so meaningful and joy-filled.