Meeting You the Rest of the Way: St. Joseph & Fatherhood

19 March 2010 Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Husband of Mary
2 Sam 7, 4-16; Psalm 89; Rom 4, 13-22; Matthew 1, 16-24 or Luke2, 41- 51

One of my most vivid experiences of St. Joseph is not only in the meditation of the Infancy narratives in the Spiritual Exercises, but most especially in the hidden life of Christ. What do we know about Joseph? We know his selfless acceptance to be the foster father of Jesus and taking Mary as his wife. We know that he loved Jesus as his Son. We know that he taught him his trade. Other than that, Joseph’s presence has always been at the background. However, in my meditation of Jesus’ hidden life, it was Joseph’s presence that came to the fore. I guess I was operating in the saying, “like father, like son.” The adult Jesus — His health, stamina, courage, strength of purpose, like-ability factor, charisma and experience of God, His Father — can be traced to His experience of Joseph. I can vividly see how Joseph was to Jesus, not just as a foster father but an excellent parent to Jesus.

The experience of Joseph in the life of Jesus is a very intimate portrait of the role of my personal father to me. Who I am now — the values and principles that I hold on to, the joyful optimism that I find characteristic of me and the music that keeps me sane and young-at-heart — can be attributed to how my father has raised me. Before he passed away, it was his words to my mother that continued to reverberate in my growing up years in the Society of Jesus. You see, there was a time he was against my vocation, but later he told my mother that I should follow my heart. So now, whenever I encounter a difficulty or a crisis within my vocation, I dream of him. If I have to decide on certain personal matters, I follow my heart. This way, my father’s presence has always been a source of strength for me.

The experience of fatherhood both as a son or as a ‘father’ to my students has become the template of my priesthood. I enjoy being with the young: taking care of them, forming them into people for others, deepening their faith and love for God, and simply just spending some quality time with them. Being there as they grow is to me being a father. One thing is clear to me: I want to tell them that Christianity can make them become better.

In the spirit of Lent and the feast of St. Joseph, we can reflect our role as father to the people entrusted to our care.

There are two ways to approach it.

First, as a child. Reflect on your experience of being cared for by your father or whoever person who have been ‘father’ to you.

And second, as a father.

There is a story of a father whose son went away. He sent his messenger and begged his son to return. His son replied, “I cannot return any longer, father. I am too far away from you.”

Then, the Father replied, “Return as near as you can, and I will meet you the rest of the way.”

How far have we tried to meet those who have lost hope? In working with others or renewing relationships, have we compromised and meet the other person the rest of the way?

In St. Ignatius’ words, how far have we cared for souls?

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