Lives of Saints Last Updated: Feb 8th, 2011 - 05:50:02

Messiah's Foster Father an Impressive Example of Manhood
By Fr. Barnabas Powell
Jan 8, 2011, 10:00
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Source: The Pueblo Chieftain Online



December 26, 2009


I love my children, but they sometimes push my buttons to the point where I fear Iíll lose my mind. I can't imagine the depth of love and patience it must take to assume responsibility for a child not your own by blood.

That's why I have such regard for adoptive and stepparents, especially St. Joseph. Even if the child he consented to raise was better behaved than others, Joseph still accepted a greater challenge than most of today's men are capable of meeting.

How many resist the urge to publicly humiliate or assault a fiance they suspect of infidelity? Joseph had far more physical evidence to rely on than the sweetie pies we read about in the Crime Beat, yet when he discovered Mary with child, he forsook his wounded manhood and made up his mind to divorce her quietly.

There must have been some in the neighborhood who branded him a cuckold, but Joseph wasn't worried about fronting any machismo.

Since jealousy and spite weren't in his character, he was God's pick for foster father of the Messiah - a worthy example of manhood for the Son of Man to grow up imitating.

As if this weren't enough, adopting Mary's child cost him the comfort and stability he'd worked his whole life to achieve.

From the day the child was born, men sought his life, so Joseph took the family into hiding in Egypt. This cannot have been lightly done, especially at his age.

There's a reason Joseph disappears from the Gospel narrative relatively early and isn't around to witness Jesus' ministry. He was old.

According to an apostolic writing called the Gospel of James, Joseph was a widower several decades Mary's senior at the time of their betrothal.

He was ready to sit in a rocking chair on his front porch and watch the world go by, but left this prize unclaimed and packed his bags. That's a substantial sacrifice for the sake of an adopted child, even one conceived by the Holy Spirit.

James' gospel, incidentally, has always accounted in Orthodoxy for the "brothers of the Lord" mentioned in the canonical gospels.

They were Joseph's sons from his first marriage. Roman Catholics hold they were Jesus' cousins, also plausible since close relatives of your generation are considered "brothers" and "sisters" in the Near East and many other parts of the world.

Either way, only in recent times have modernist skeptics convinced the general public that Joseph and Mary went on to sexually reproduce after Jesus' birth. Such a notion was inconceivable to all but the most obscure heretics among the early Christians, who failed to share our assumptions about the ubiquity of sex.

What a difference a few centuries have made in mores, and concepts of manhood. Pop culture glorifies a masculinity that fits the definition of "vicious," one characterized by the ability to dominate and manipulate others, particularly women.

Meanwhile, feminized streams of contemporary Christianity promote our emasculation in the name of sensitivity. What's an unabashedly male Christian to do?

I'm hoping we can rediscover the classic ideal of Joseph, for whom being a man and a husband meant being a protector first of all. This is my particular hope as we head toward another anniversary of legalized abortion in America.

Orthodoxy is about as pro-life as you can get, yet I cringe at the misplaced rhetoric that lays blame for this modern slaughter of the innocents solely at the feet of the woman.

Usually, there's another person involved. I know of only one case where a woman became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Why should the so-called man who uses and discards her not be held accountable? If we were real men like St. Joseph, abortion would become a practice of our barbaric past, rather than a false recourse for abandoned women.

Strength is not our virtue. Virtue is our strength.


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