A Role Model for the Ages

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I heard a joke today and it goes like this:

A boy came home from school and told his mom that he had a part in the school play. His mother said, ʺThat’s wonderful! What part are you going to play?ʺ The boy said rather dejectedly, ʺI got the part of the father. The boy’s father smirked and said, ʺCongratulations son. Maybe next time you’ll get a speaking part.ʺ

Of course there is the bite of irony in the joke, a satirical swing at marriage relationships. But it reminded me of one of the most interesting people in the Gospels; a man whose role was absolutely important to the story, but who spoke not a single, solitary word in the Gospel narratives: Joseph.

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What we know of Joseph is from his actions, not his words. But his actions tell us much about love, faith, care, courage, and commitment. He marries the young Mary, even though she is found with child before their marriage. He does this in response to a visit from the Angel Gabriel in a dream. He, like the Joseph of the Old Testament, is a man of dreams. His response to these dreams is faithful, quick, total, and he never looks back. He loves Mary and his new born son so much that, in response to another dream, he leaves everything he knows behind, his carpentry shop, his friends and family, and takes Mary and the infant Jesus on the long and dangerous journey into a foriegn land for their safety. In every case he sacrifices everything for them, with no concern for his own desires.

Joseph is a disciple of Christ long before the original twelve were chosen. He understood in the depths of his heart and soul who it was that he had been given the duty to father and protect. He understood the great faith and sacrifice of his wife, Mary, who said yes to the Angel’s invitation to be the Mother of God. He took on those duties with perfect humility and with a courage that is almost beyond comprehension. Like Mary, he knew that his role was a background role, a minor part in the great story that Jesus, their son, was about to unfold before the world. We can learn much about being fathers and mothers from these two people. We can learn a lot about the demands of our faith as well. We are asked to follow their models, to love Jesus with our whole hearts, minds, bodies and souls. And it follows that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves with the same humble, unpretentious faith that they did. If we but say ʺyes,ʺ as these two did, God will give us all that we need. This we can believe with our whole hearts. Amen.

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.