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Pastoral Ponderings . . .
Ken Stanczyk, Director of Adult Ministry
St. Joseph: Patron Saint of Fathers
Twenty years ago, I finished my Masters’ thesis on “Human Fatherhood in the New Testament”. Of course, one of my primary focuses was on St. Joseph, the patron saint of fathers. Since it is Father’s Day, and our parish is named after St. Joseph, I thought it would be fitting to revisit some of the insights found in the paper. If you don’t agree with some of the content, complain to Fr. Steve – he was my advisor on the paper!
There is not much to be found about Joseph in the New Testament. He only appears in two of the four gospels: Matthew and Luke, and only in the first couple chapters of each. Joseph does not even appear during Jesus’ adult ministry. Further, Joseph does not utter one single word in the gospels. Since that is the case, we must look to the example of his life to see what we can learn from him about fatherhood.
Of the two, the gospel of Matthew provides more detail about Joseph. In fact, Matthew actually focuses more on Joseph than on Mary. We are told that he is “an upright man”, unwilling to expose Mary to the law. He was upright, but also merciful. In Luke, the angel appears to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth; in Matthew, Joseph is visited by an angel in a dream and is told about the special nature of the pregnancy. “When Joseph awoke he did as the angel of the lord had directed him and received her into his home as his wife.” Obviously Joseph’s honor in the community suffered when he decided to wed Mary, but adherence to God’s will was more important than human honor.
In the next verse, we are told that Joseph named the child Jesus. An important duty of the ancient Near East father was the naming of the child. This showed that Joseph was claiming Jesus as his son. By naming Jesus, Joseph also provides him with a genealogy, an ancestry.
One last example from Matthew (2:13-15) of a fatherly duty that Joseph performed is “The Flight into Egypt”where he leaves his hometown and moves to a foreign land for the protection of Mary and Jesus.
In the second chapter of Luke’s gospel, we see a father who adhered to civil laws as Joseph returned to his hometown for the census. From verses 21 onwards we also see a father who participated in the practices of his religion. Luke 2:27 states that Jesus’ parents took him to the temple “to perform for him the customary ritual of the law.” Verse 41 states that Joseph and Mary “used to go every year to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover.” The religious training of a child was an important responsibility of a father in the ancient Near East, and here we have evidence of Joseph doing just that. Joseph’s actions certainly told Jesus that respect for God’s Law was integral to his life. Finally, the last verse of chapter two provides us with a glimpse of the home environment Joseph provided for his son and to which we can aspire: “Jesus, for his part, progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men.”
Read more about what is happening in our parish in this week’s Bulletin.