Childhood of Christ, Gerrit van Honthorst, c. 1620
This past week, the Church celebrated the Feast of St. Joseph the Worker (May 1). Scripture says that Joseph was a “just man” (Mt 1:19). Although Scripture records no words of Joseph, from his actions we can discern that he was a compassionate, caring man. We know Joseph loved Jesus and Mary. When the angel came to tell him that his family was in danger, he immediately left everything and fled to a strange country with his young wife and baby. He waited in Egypt without question until the angel told him it was safe to go back (Mt 2:13-15).
Upon returning from Egypt, Joseph settled his family in the obscure town of Nazareth out of fear for his life. When Jesus stayed in the Temple, we are told Joseph and Mary searched with great anxiety for three days for him (Lk 2:48). We also know that Joseph treated Jesus as his own son because over and over the people of Nazareth say of Jesus, “Is this not the son of Joseph?” (Lk 4:22).
We also know Joseph respected God and was obedient to all He told him to do. He took Mary as his wife even though she was scandalously with child (Mt 1:18-25). Eight days after Jesus’ birth, Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to have Him circumcised, to present his first-born male child to God, and offer a sacrifice according to the law of Moses (Lk 2:21-24). We are told that he took his family to Jerusalem every year for Passover, something that could not have been easy for a working man (Lk 2:41).
God is His infinite wisdom chose for the Savior of the world to be born into a family. God chose Joseph to raise Jesus in the traditions of the Jewish faith and to show Him what it means to be a holy man. God has given each husband and father that same task. You are called to be obedient to the commands of God, to love your wife and children, and to lead your family in their worship of God.
Unfortunately, many men (and women) have not had good role models in their fathers. Many suffer from a “father wound,” caused by a lack of unconditional love from their birth father. This wound can be caused by neglect, absence due to divorce, separation, or death, mental, physical, or sexual abuse, control and oppressive domination, or withholding love, blessings and/or affirmation. All of these deficiencies can lead to a profound lack of self-acceptance and worth.
Sadly, our image of God the Father is distorted by our father wounds. We have a hard time understanding an all-loving, compassionate, and merciful God when we have not experienced this with our earthly fathers. To heal from these wounds, one must look no further than Jesus to know the true heart of the Father.
If you know me, then you will also know my Father. John 14:7
God reveals Himself through His Son’s behavior in the world. We learn of Jesus in reading the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Reading about Jesus in Scripture will lead you to the true and perfect Father. Jesus called His Father, “Abba,” which closely resembles “Daddy” in modern vocabulary. It shows that Jesus has an intimate, loving, and personal relationship with His Father.
People flocked to Jesus because they had never experienced a man like Him. He was loving, compassionate, kind, and merciful. He was strong both physically and in His convictions. He knew His faith and was able to share it in both words and deeds. He was a model man like none other.
God is calling men to reveal His fatherhood to the world so in need of genuine masculinity. We are to show His love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness to those in our families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and the world. We need to stay close to Jesus, reading about Him in Scripture, to better conform our lives into His image. Like St. Paul, we must be humble to recognize our shortcomings and limitations by saying, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30).
This is the very perfection of a man, to find out his own imperfections. St. Augustine
We all fall short of the glory of God as husbands and fathers. The first step in becoming more Christ-like is to admit our failings and asking God to transform us into the men that God wants us to be and that our families need and desire. Believe the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
May your family see God the Father through your example of a godly man.
God bless you, my Brothers in the faith.