St. Joseph, sharer of the Father’s Authority
Jul 4th, 2021 • 7 min
The Son of God once declared that He came, “not to be ministered unto but to minister”; at another time He said, “I am in the midst of you as he that serveth”; and of this He gave a striking example before the last supper which He ate with His Apostles, when He took a towel, and girded Himself, and washed their feet; but for eighteen years He had performed the lowliest offices in the House of Nazareth.
St. Basil, in the 4th chapter of his “Monastic Constitutions,” says that the Saviour worked indefatigably all the day to serve and obey Mary and Joseph, who thus received the continual ministrations of their God. St. Justin, in his “Dialogue with Tryphon,” affirms that the Incarnate Word helped St. Joseph in his workshop, relieving him in his toils as far as human strength permitted; for this beloved Son had the greatest respect for His foster-father, and, according to St. Jerome, could not fail in this obligation.
Necessitous persons look for no help in their domestic work but such as their children can give them; and (as St. Laurence Justinian observes) the Son of God, desiring in nothing to distinguish Himself from common people, was as a servant in the house of Mary and Joseph, that He might one day say with truth that He came, not to be ministered unto, but to minister. Again, St. Bonaventura says that Mary and Joseph were too poor to have servants, but the Lord of the World by His ministrations stood in the place of servant to them.
Let us, then, with the learned and devout Gerson, contemplate this King of Glory, this God of Majesty, this Sovereign Lord of men and of angels, demeaning Himself in such wise as regards His parents that He might well be believed to be their servant rather than their son; often (he says) lighting the fire, preparing the meals, washing the dishes, or carrying water from the fountain. This adorable Saviour passed the last three years of His life in His public ministry and in marvellous acts of charity towards all who needed help; but the time was short which He devoted to this display of His goodness to His people in comparison with that which He had devoted to Joseph, never leaving his side for so large a portion of the life He spent on earth, occupied with the one abiding solicitude to obey him and render him filial duty and submission.
“We are not to suppose,” says St. Bernard, “that the Mother of God and her spouse bade Him only do such things as were agreeable, and never what was difficult or would have been contrary to His natural inclination. We may believe, for instance, that Jesus would not so soon have left the assembly of Doctors in the Temple, where He was occupying Himself about the interests of His Eternal Father, had Joseph and Mary, who had been seeking Him for three days, been willing that He should remain longer. But, as He knew they desired to take Him with them, docile to His mother’s voice, He arose and returned with them to Nazareth.”
But all this was in accordance with His divine purpose and will, which was that, while inwardly reverencing and adoring Him, His parents should outwardly treat Him as other children are treated, using their own discretion and prudence in His guidance.
As it is impossible to fathom or duly comprehend the humility of the Son of God, who was pleased to occupy for so many years the position of an inferior in a poor carpenter’s house, placing Himself entirely under his orders and at his disposal, so also is it beyond our power adequately to realise the grandeur of Joseph’s exaltation.
But the power given to him over the Saviour and His most holy Mother was united in him to a proportionate fund of prudence and rectitude to enable him to sustain such a charge with all the decorum and perfection that was needed.
Above all, let us consider what must have been the rectitude of his will, which was so exact that a God was pleased to accept it as the rule of His exterior actions. Holy Scripture and all theology, nay, even natural reason, teaches us that the Supreme Will of God must be the regulator of all the movements of our will. And yet Jesus Christ, who had the Law of His Father deeply graven in the midst of His heart, and who Himself was the Living Law, had imparted such equity and rectitude to the will of our saint that He subjected His own will to his.
Hence we may infer, with the learned Chancellor, that, since the Saviour of the world was infinitely exalted above all men and angels, and all things created or possible to be created, and one moment of His divine life was more precious in the sight of God than a million of ages of the life of all creation, it is a legitimate consequence of this truth to hold that it was a greater glory for Joseph to command Jesus, not for thirty years, as in fact he did, but for a single moment, than to have had absolute power unto the end of time over the whole creation of God.
God, after the creation of the world, was not richer than He was before, neither did He become more powerful after the Incarnation of the Word than He had been for all eternity. Nevertheless, had it been possible that the authority of God should receive any increment, the creation and government of all the spheres would have added far less to it than the Incarnation of His Son, because, having hitherto governed only creatures, He then began to command His Divine Word.
Now, it was this power which He was pleased to share with Joseph; so that the authority of this great saint may be said to have been magnified to such a degree as in some wise to bear a resemblance to that of God Himself. Oh, the incomparable greatness and glory of Joseph! What have we as yet done for the honour of him whom the Eternal King so much desireth honour?
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