March 19 is the feast day of St, Joseph, Mary's husband, the earthly father of Jesus. I have done some thinking about Joseph, as many of us do, in the Advent season, when occasionally we get to hear about Joseph. He thinks of quietly unweaving himself from Mary, who is pregnant. This behavior is our first indication of his character. Under ancient law, he could have had Mary stoned to death, but he takes a gentler path.
And then, his life takes an even more surprising turn. He follows the instructions of the angel who tells him of God's plan. He could have turned away. He could have said, "I did not sign up for this!" He could have said, "No, thanks. I want a normal wife and a regular life."
Instead, he turned toward Mary and accepted God's vision. He's there when the family needs to flee to Egypt. He's there when the older Jesus is lost and found in the temple. We assume that he has died by the time Christ is crucified, since he's not at the cross.
Some of us today will spend the day celebrating fathers, which is a great way to celebrate the feast day of St. Joseph. We might also celebrate stepfathers and all the other family members who step in to help with the raising of children.
Lately, I've been thinking about his feast day and what it means for administrators and others who are not the stars but who make it possible for stars to step into the spotlight.
Most students will remember their favorite teachers. They won’t remember the people who scheduled the classes, the ones who ordered the textbooks and supplies, the ones who kept the technology working, the people who kept track of the records, the ones who interfaced with loan officers and others to get the money necessary for school. But those people are important, too.
Let us today praise the people in the background, the people who step back to allow others to shine. Let us praise the people who do the drudgery work that makes it possible for others to succeed.
Many of us grow up internalizing the message that if we're not changing the world in some sort of spectacular way, we're failures. Those of us who are Christians may have those early disciples as our role models, those hard-core believers who brought the good news to the ancient world by going out in pairs.
But Joseph shows us a different reality. It's quite enough to be a good parent. It's quite enough to have an ordinary job. It's quite enough to show up, day after day, dealing with both the crises and the opportunities.
Joseph reminds us that even the ones born into the spotlight need people in the background who are tending to the details. When we think about those early disciples and apostles, we often forget that they stayed in people's houses, people who fed them and arranged speaking opportunities for them, people who gave them encouragement when their task seemed too huge.
I imagine Joseph doing much the same thing as he helped Jesus become a man. I imagine the life lessons that Joseph administered as he gave Jesus carpentry lessons. I imagine that he helped Jesus understand human nature, in all the ways that parents have helped their offspring understand human nature throughout history.
Let us not be so quick to discount this kind of work. Let us praise the support teams who make the way possible for the people who will change the world.
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