| By Sean O'Neill

St. Joseph, a model of love

To some of us, St. Joseph may seem to be a somewhat shadowy figure. We know little about him compared to other saints, yet because of his closeness to Jesus, he is of enormous importance. As the foster father to Jesus, he and Mary had the most influence on our savior’s development from childhood to manhood.

We can tell something of Jesus’ childhood relationship with Joseph from the way that, throughout his later ministry, Jesus spoke about how a child’s humility and trust are so appealing to God the Father. And this would have been the role that Jesus took up under Joseph. Growing up, he would have been subject to Joseph in every aspect of his life. And yet theirs was a relationship of mutual love.

Joseph had a massive impact on Jesus’ physical, social, spiritual and emotional development. He would have had Jesus study the Torah and answered his many questions. And, of course, he would have trained him in the carpenter’s trade and taught him how to obey instructions to the letter.

One thing we can say for sure is that Joseph was a profoundly holy, humble and obedient man who never swerved from following the will of God, no matter what the cost. His reaction when he found out that Mary was pregnant, yet unmarried, is a good example. Joseph did not hesitate to accept what, on the face of it, looked like a scandal, because he trusted God’s word. He, too, had learned to obey God’s instructions without question.

Joseph was a man who was driven by love. Not only did he love Jesus and Mary deeply, but we can imagine that he also modeled to Jesus how to love outcasts, tax collectors, the poor, the sick, and the many people who were “like sheep without a shepherd.” (Mt 9:36)

Just as Joseph modeled love to Jesus, he also models it for us. We are called to love. Indeed, how we love during our lifetime will be the primary yardstick by which we will be judged when we come before God at our death. As St. Peter urges us in his first letter: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Pt 4:8)

We could do no better than to seek the intercession and help of this towering figure of holiness and love to combat the sin in our own lives and press on toward our destination in heaven. St. Joseph, foster father of our savior, teach us how to love, and pray for us!