How Joseph Relates To Jesus

For some time now I have enjoyed using a moving invocation to St Joseph, which the Church has offered us, in the preparatory prayers of the Mass: "Joseph, blessed and happy man, who was permitted to see and hear the God whom many kings wished in vain to see and hear, and not only to see and hear him, but carry him in your arms, kiss him, clothe him and look after him: pray for us." This prayer will help us to begin the last topic on which I would like to touch today: Joseph's affectionate dealings with Jesus.

The life of Jesus was, for St Joseph, a recurring discovery of his own vocation. We recalled earlier those first years full of contrasting circumstances: glorification and flight, the majesty of the wise men and the poverty of the manger, the song of the angels and the silence of mankind. When the moment comes to present the child in the temple, Joseph, who carries the modest offering of a pair of doves, sees how Simeon and Anna proclaim Jesus as the Messiah: "His father and mother listened with wonder," says St Luke. Later, when the child stays behind in Jerusalem, unknown to Mary and Joseph, and they find him again after three days' search, the same evangelist tells us, "They were astonished."

Joseph is surprised and astonished. God gradually reveals his plans to him, and he tries to understand them. As with every soul who wishes to follow Jesus closely, he soon discovers that here is no laggard's pace, no room for the halfhearted. For God is not content with our achieving a certain level and staying there. He doesn't want us to rest on our laurels. God always asks more: his ways are not the ways of men. St Joseph, more than anyone else before or since, learned from Jesus to be alert to recognize God's wonders, to have his mind and heart awake.

But if Joseph learned from Jesus to live in a divine way, I would be bold enough to say that, humanly speaking, there was much he taught God's Son. There is something I do not quite like in that title of foster father which is sometimes given to Joseph, because it might make us think of the relationship between Joseph and Jesus as something cold and external. Certainly our faith tells us that he was not his father according to the flesh, but this is not the only kind of fatherhood.

"Joseph," we read in a sermon of St Augustine, "not only claims the name of father, but he has a greater claim to it than any other." And then he adds: "How was he father? All the more effectively, the more chaste the paternity. Some thought that he was the father of

our Lord Jesus Christ in the same way as other fathers who beget sons carnally and do not receive them only as the fruit of a spiritual love. This is why St Luke says: 'People thought he was the father of Jesus.' Why does he say only they thought? Because this thought and human judgment refer to what is usual among men. And our Lord was not born of the seed of Joseph. Yet of the piety and charity of Joseph a son was born to him, of the Virgin Mary, and this was the Son of God."

Joseph loved Jesus as a father loves his son and showed his love by giving him the best he had. Joseph, caring for the child as he had been commanded, made Jesus a craftsman transmitting his own professional skill to him. So the neighbors of Nazareth will call Jesus both faber and fabri filius: the craftsman and the son of the craftsman. Jesus worked in Joseph's workshop and by Joseph's side. What must Joseph have been, how grace must have worked through him, that he should be able to fulfill this task of the human upbringing of the Son of God!

For Jesus must have resembled Joseph: in his way of working, in the features of his character, in his way of speaking. Jesus' realism, his eye for detail, the way he sat at table and broke bread, his preference for using everyday situations to give doctrine—all this reflects his childhood and the influence of Joseph.

It's not possible to ignore this sublime mystery: Jesus who is man, who speaks with the accent of a particular district of Israel, who resembles a carpenter called Joseph, is the Son of God. And who can teach God anything? But he is also truly man and lives a normal life: first, as a child, then as a boy helping in Joseph's workshop, finally as a grown man in the prime of life. "Jesus advanced in wisdom and age and grace before God and men."

In human life, Joseph was Jesus' master in their daily contact, full of refined affection, glad to deny himself to take better care of Jesus. Isn't that reason enough for us to consider this just man, this holy patriarch, in whom the faith of the old covenant bears fruit, as a master of interior life? Interior life is nothing but continual and direct conversation with Christ, so as to become one with him. And Joseph can tell us many things about Jesus. Therefore, never neglect devotion to him—Ite ad Ioseph: "Go to Joseph"—as Christian tradition puts it in the words of the old testament.

A master of interior life, a worker deeply involved in his job, God's servant in continual contact with Jesus: that is Joseph. Ite ad Ioseph. With St Joseph, the Christian learns what it means to belong to God and fully to assume one's place among men, sanctifying the world. Get to know Joseph and you will find Jesus. Talk to Joseph and you will find Mary, who always sheds peace about her in that attractive workshop in Nazareth.

From Christ Is Passing By: Homilies by Josemaría Escrivá
Scepter Publishers, Princeton

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