Day 35: Glimpses of An Earthly Father

Today’s readings

There are two options provided for the gospel reading for today’s solemnity of St. Joseph. The first one tells of God’s revelation to Joseph through a dream. He is painted as discreet, obedient and docile. The second depicts an exasperated Joseph looking for his 12-year-old son. The text tells us that Jesus was missing for three days! Imagine the range of emotions he and Mary must have felt, including their outrage when their precocious son dared to ask them why they were looking for him. Whatever their response, it seemed to clarify any doubt about who had the authority. After that moment, Jesus was “obedient to them.” I bet. Albeit silent in the text, Joseph is painted here as passionate and determined. 

Photo of wooden carving of St. Joseph referenced in the reflection provided by the author.

My dad once gave me a wooden carving of Joseph that he acquired many years before. It’s a plaque and Joseph is profiled from the chest up. He has a thick beard, wavy hair grown over his ears, a sharp nose, and is looking downward. Other than what looks like a scar under his right eye, he looks like many depictions of Jesus. There’s nothing about it explicitly connoting that it’s Joseph. To me, it’s Joseph because my dad told me it was Joseph. He might be focusing on a piece of wood that he is shaping. Maybe he’s weighing the revelation he received in his lucid dream. Perhaps he’s simply expressing the daily anxiety of raising a family under an occupying, oppressive empire. He’s enigmatic, like the images we get of him from the gospels today.

The lack of glimpses of Joseph in scripture leads me to look for him in his son. Could he be in that part of Jesus that pleads discretion with those he heals? Is that Joseph in Jesus’s impulse to retreat away to be on his own during his hectic ministry? Does Jesus sound like Joseph when he commands demons to be silent? Might the determined integrity of his earthly father be what propelled Jesus to fulfill his heavenly Father’s will?

On this solemnity of St. Joseph, I invite you to consider your images of him. What moments and qualities do you see in Jesus that could have been a product of the formation and love he received from Joseph of Nazareth? What kin-dom building qualities do you see in yourself that are the product of the formation received from a parental figure?

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