Thursday, March 19, 2015

Joseph, Husband not Father

Some would argue that the Catholic Church makes too much of Mary's virginity. I would argue that we are only staying true to the scriptures. Luke provides us with genealogy of Jesus going back through David to Adam. Matthew provides us with the genealogy of Joseph beginning with Abraham but is careful to make sure that he is not claiming paternity.

Jacob begat Joseph the husband of Mary from whom was born Jesus called the Christ. (Mt. 1:16)

I used the older word begat because it is a more accurate translation of the Greek. The Jacob here is one of many Jacobs not THE Jacob. That Jacob is listed way back in verse 2. But most importantly after 15 verses of begetting, the begetting stops and the text says simply that Joseph was the ανήρ, literally the man of Mary. By context we know that it means husband. In Spanish a man can refer to his wife as "my woman" and it is in no way derogatory.

Matthew is drawing a clearly line in the sand between everyone up to and including Joseph and Jesus. There is no human father. From the outset Matthew wants us to know that the Father of Jesus is God. Jesus is not begotten like the rest in the list. The text simply says he is "born of/from" Mary.

Today we celebrate the unique role that Joseph played in the life of Jesus but we should be clear about how small it was and how little we know. Over the centuries, people who could not be content with the information that we have have concocted many legends to fill in the blanks. This seems a disservice to Joseph. Part of what Joseph models for us is a man who is content not to be famous, a man content to do what God called him to do without recognition. Even when it comes to naming the child he says "what she said", deferring to Mary for the name.

As we turn toward St. Joseph today can we model his humility? Can we be content with being "nobody" in the eyes of the world? Joseph quietly carried out his role and disappeared into history content to serve only God. May we be content to do the same.