“WWJD: What Would Joseph Do?”
It occurs to me that, as a husband, a father, and a pastor, I fulfill many of the same roles as St. Joseph. And yet, at the same time, my roles are nothing like his. I cannot imagine the situation of living with and taking to wife the Mother of God, let alone raising God Incarnate as my son.
St. Joseph is known as the Nutritor Domini, the Nourisher of our Lord. He was responsible for protecting and providing for the physical well-being of Jesus from the time of the Annunciation onward. This child was not his, and yet Joseph took on the legal and ethical burden. This is not unlike the vocation of a pastor toward his congregation. My people are not, strictly speaking, my people – they are the people of God, the children of our heavenly Father. And yet, they are mine because they are entrusted to me by that same Father. It is my charge to bring to birth, bathe, feed, teach, and nourish them in the faith, just as Joseph was charged with the same duties for our Lord Christ. I hold them as a trust from the Lord, to deal with them according to His command.
As a father, I am in much the same position. My children are my own – biologically, legally, and ethically speaking. And yet they are not mine. Although they come from my flesh, they are the children of God entrusted to me for only a lifetime. It is my vocation to bring them to birth, feed, bathe, clothe, house, and raise them in the fear of the Lord. They are a gift, a trust from the Lord. They are His, and finally I must surrender my will, my hopes and fears, my desires and wishes for them, and I must let His will be done for and to and through them.
To be married to the Mother of God is something I cannot fathom. I have no words to talk about that because it is truly extraordinary. However, I know the love that flows between a husband and wife. And I know the sacrifices and difficulties, as well as the triumphs and unspeakable joys, that happen in a marriage. There is something to be said about Rome’s idea that a priest is wedded to the Church. St. Paul speaks of the marriage relationship as a living icon of the relationship between Christ and His Church. It is my duty and privilege to stand before my wife and before my congregation as their Defender against evil. It is my vocation to provide them with all that they need to support their daily life. It is my privilege to speak to them, both privately and publicly, the Word of the Lord to forgive their sins and strengthen their faith. It is my duty to stand in the gap, between them and the evil forces of this world, to beat back the darkness with the Light of the World.
Lord God, our heavenly Father, thank you for the example of St. Joseph, the Guardian of our Lord and the Protector of the Church. Strengthen all faithful men to be guardians of Your people and defenders of the Faith as You have given to us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Pastor Ryan McDermott