instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Friday, March 19, 2004

Father of Jesus

I know Catholics often call Joseph the "foster-father of Jesus." But I prefer to follow Mary's example:
"Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety."
Of course, Jesus answers equivocally (showing, those of us who were once twelve-year-olds in trouble, no little human wisdom), "Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father's house?"

Still, St. Joseph was Jesus' father, even if a thousand years had to pass before our Christology was solid enough to begin to consider the implications. There has been a lot written about the infinite condescension shown by God to place Himself under the command of a mere human father, but if Jesus was a man like us in all things but sin I can't believe Joseph treated Him as a divine houseguest, or as a magical talisman of unsearchable power in human form.

Jesus was the son of Joseph (who himself was a son of David), and would have been treated as such, even as He would have been treated according to St. Joseph's understanding of His role in God's plan for Israel. In this is the mystery of the Incarnation. Mary was closer to the mystery and, we might suppose, saw further. But it was a mystery Joseph lived with every day, one which he could not simply contemplate but had to live with, had to adjust to.

We, too, are faced with the mystery of Jesus as God and man. But we are also faced with the reflected mystery of each other, created in God's image and likeness, created to become adopted children of the Father even as Jesus is His begotten Child. How do we contemplate, live with, adjust to this mystery, that the child we scold or praise -- and the the coworker we greet or laugh at, the person in the paper or on television -- is a creature who from eternity was to be created for eternal glory?