44 Days of St. Joseph – March 26 – Provider for the Son of God

We all know the story. When Jesus was a boy, and his parents took him to Jerusalem for the Passover, they left town, assuming he was with their party. Then, realizing he was not with them, they found him in the Temple after three days of searching and anxiety.

The Blessed Virgin asked him why Jesus had done this to them. Jesus responded, with his typical rhetorical instructiveness: “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” The phrase can also be translated “Didn’t you know I must be about my Father’s work?”

Tradition has been careful always, rightly, to strictly clarify that Joseph, while Jesus’ legal father, was not his biological father. “Foster father” is a common phrase. And while it is strange to formulate the truth in this way, it is nonetheless true to say that Joseph fostered Jesus. That is to say, he nourished him, provided for his flourishing.

It is worth reflecting, however, that Joseph’s role as provider, guardian, mentor, and father was always qualified. He put in the work of a father, you might say, but was denied the natural consolations of being Jesus’ actual father.

Perhaps the sting Joseph must’ve felt in this episode—and perhaps many other times in his life—is akin to that of Moses who, when looking down at the Promised Land—the physical manifestation of what was the aim and purpose of his life—knew he himself would not be entering in. That was a consolation which would not be his.

The gift given by both Joseph and Moses must have brought with it an enduring sting of sacrifice.

Did Joseph know that in loving in such a way—with a love containing the bitterness of desolation—he was also pre-figuring the love his son would offer some twenty-one years later? Did Joseph know the significance of such a love?

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