Monday, March 19, 2018

The Feast Day of St. Joseph

Today is the feast day of St. Joseph, Mary's husband, the earthly father of Jesus.  Here are the readings for today:

2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16

Psalm 89:1-29 (2)
Romans 4:13-18
Matthew 1:16, 18-21, 24a

I have done some thinking of 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, 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 towards 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.  Lately, I've been thinking of 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.

Let us today praise the support teams, 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 which makes it possible for others to succeed.

For example, I am not the kind of person who immediately decides what to do with each piece of e-mail.  Consequently, once every few weeks, or more often, I need to go hunting for a particular e-mail.  I am amazed at how many e-mails I send and receive in any given day.  And yes, much of it is not that important.

But occasionally, an e-mail exchange can quickly settle a problem.  Some times, it's good to have an e-mail chain for reference. 

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 that make the way possible for the people who will change the world.

Here is a prayer that I wrote for today:

Creator God, thank you for your servant Joseph.  Help us to remember his lessons for us.  Help us look for ways to shepherd your Good News into the world in ways that only we can.

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