Calling All Men: Imitate St. Joseph, the Man's Man
In an age that has lost its way, given over to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure and denying the existence and relevance of God's loving plan, Joseph should once again be lifted up as a model, particularly to men who desire to follow Jesus Christ - as men. In popular language we sometimes use an expression to refer to men who are comfortable in their skin and content with being men. We say of such a man - He is a man's man. Well, Joseph is a true man's man. He was a man of few words, because he spoke through his actions - he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded.In this age of the anti-hero, men should rediscover this true hero, this man's man named Joseph. Then, we need to follow his example by courageously, humbly and faithfully loving Jesus Christ. We need to learn to give our Yes to the God whose love always invites participation. Joseph is our teacher and shows us the way. He is a true Man's Man, calling all men to follow Jesus.
The Angel of the Lord appears to Joseph and Joseph acted. The Lord continues to speak to us, how do we respond?
CHESAPEAKE, VA (Catholic Online) - One of the most popular formal prayers in the Roman Catholic Tradition is referred to as the Angelus. It recounts the appearance of the Angel (the word angel in the Latin means messenger) to Mary and her response of surrendered love to God's invitation. The wonderful event is recounted in the Bible (See, Luke 1: 26-38) and recited daily by Catholics and other Christians around the world.
It begins with the Latin words Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae and is rendered in English "The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary". The refrain which follows is "And she conceived of the Holy Spirit."
As beautiful as that encounter is, revealing the Marian response to God's invitation as a prototype of the call we all have to say YES to the Lord, there is another Angelus, an appearance and message from an angel which also bears serious, prayerful reflection as to its profound implications.
One of the Gospel readings which is proclaimed in the Catholic Liturgy during the last days of the Advent liturgical season points us to this prayer. It could be called the Angelus of Joseph. It speaks to all who people want to follow Jesus Christ, but, in a special way, to Christian men:
"Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary; of whom Jesus was born, he who is called Christ. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to send her away quietly.
"But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins". When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him." (Matthew 1)
From antiquity, Christians have cherished Joseph as a model of genuine manly virtue. Since the fourteenth century there has been a specific day set aside in the Roman Catholic liturgical calendar to honor him as a Saint and a Patron.
He is viewed as the Patron of the universal Church, of all husbands and of social justice. He has also been designated as the patron of all workers, this simple but excellent Carpenter who taught the Word Incarnate, the Child Jesus, how to work with wood, is a vital witness for this very hour.
This man was the foster father of the Incarnate Word of God - and he loved Jesus with an exemplary and tender love. This same Jesus who learned to work with wood from the hands of Joseph would, during his 33rd year on earth, save the whole world through the wood of the Cross.
In an age that has lost its way, given over to the selfish pursuit of illusory pleasure and denying the existence and relevance of God's loving plan, Joseph should once again be lifted up as a model, particularly to men who desire to follow Jesus Christ - as men.
In popular language we sometimes use an expression to refer to men who are comfortable "in their skin" and content with being men. We say of such a man "He is a man's man". Well, Joseph is a true man's man. He was a man of few words, because he spoke through his actions - he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded.
Joseph was a man for others. Though the Scriptures say little about Joseph, even that absence speaks volumes. Why? Because to Joseph, he was not the one who was important, others were. He loved Mary above himself and his behavior was just as a result of his love.
He was prepared to do the right thing when she was found to be with child. He could have chosen otherwise. He, like everyone of us, was given human freedom. He submitted that freedom, out of love, the Lord who is its source and its fulfillment. How refreshing this upright manly behavior is in an age where men often cower in the face of difficulty.
Joseph was a man of faith and courage. Along with loving his betrothed, Mary, he loved His God courageously. He had a close, intimate personal relationship with the God of His Fathers. In fact, this just man was, in a sense, the last Patriarch, completing the lineage and fulfilling the promise.
Through his response of faith, Joseph would receive the great gift promised to all men and women and hold in His arms the One that His fathers had only longed to see.
God's messenger, an angel, visited Joseph in a dream. He was ready to receive. He was disposed not only to the encounter but to the invitation it presented to pour himself out in love and for Love.
He heard the message and, without hesitation, did what the Lord commanded! This is, in a real sense, Joseph's Fiat, his Yes, his exercise of human freedom to advance God's eternal plan of redemption. How refreshing such manly faith and courage are in an age of cowardice and rebellion.
Joseph was a humble man. There was not an ounce of false bravado or machismo in this servant of God. Named after the great Patriarch who was sold into slavery in Egypt; he bore the name with similar humility.
As the Old Testament Joseph embraced his lot, rejecting the temptation to bitterness or victim-hood and actually came to rule Egypt, even forgiving the very brothers who had sold him into slavery; so too this son of the Covenant embraced the One who would establish the New Covenant on the altar of Calvary by shedding every last drop of His blood out of love for the whole world. In so doing, Joseph becomes a patron and a model to all men who choose to walk the way of the cross in daily life.
Joseph emptied himself in order to be filled with the love and life of God. He gave himself fully to God through accepting his unique and specific vocation as a guardian of the Redeemer. The child Jesus, God in the flesh, was given to Joseph to raise as a father raises a son. A Carpenter, Joseph taught this child how to work with wood. That was, after all, what he had to give.
During what are often called the hidden years, because we have little in the Gospel text about them, Jesus was with Joseph and Joseph was with Jesus. Joseph uniquely participated in the mystery of Gods loving plan of redemption through simply being the man he was called to be. How challenging his witness is in an age of narcissism and inordinate self-love.
For over two millennia, the redemptive mission of Jesus has continued through His Body on earth, His Church. He has entrusted the work to all men and women who accept the invitation to empty themselves in order to be filled with the life and love of God. We are invited to continue His redemptive mission for the world.
Through the Fountain of living water called Baptism, the Father invites each one of us into His new family, the Body of His Son, the Church. He still gives His message and His mission to men who, like Joseph, cultivate ears to hear and then choose to exercise authentic manly virtue and act out of courage.
He still invites men to turn the ordinary into extraordinary through cooperation and participation in God's plan. He is looking for a few good men like Joseph who will work in the workshop of the world that he created in order to recreate it anew in His Son.
In this age of the anti-hero, men should rediscover this true hero, this man's man named Joseph. Then, we need to follow his example by courageously, humbly and faithfully loving Jesus Christ. We need to learn to give our Yes to the God whose love always invites participation. Joseph is our teacher and shows us the way, a true Man's Man, calling all men to follow Jesus.
Deacon Keith A. Fournier is the Editor in Chief of Catholic Online and the Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and seven grandchildren, He is a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate who has long been active at the intersection of faith and culture.He served as the first and founding Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice in the nineteen nineties and is the Chief Counsel of the Common Good Legal Defense Fund. He is also a Senior Contributor to THE STREAM and a featured columnist for the Catholic News Agency.
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