In today’s Gospel, Joseph takes the center stage. Usually Papa Joseph is mentioned in the sidelines of our celebration of Jesus’ birth. Minsan para lang siyang alalay na inuutusan to go here and there, to do this and that for Mary and Jesus. It is understandable since we have very high regard for women’s sacrifices in giving birth and who doesn’t love cute babies? In today’s reflection we shall note that the the book of Matthew starts with a story highlighting the role of Joseph in fulfilling the prophecies surrounding Jesus birth and being. It also tells the story of a turning point in a man’s life where his faith is challenged and his character tested. It is also essentially a story of how Joseph started his journey into fatherhood.
The fatherhood of Joseph was very special. And very inspiring to us in the LGBT community. Joseph was an adoptive father. He understood that. He knew Jesus was not his own flesh and blood. His participation in the birthing of Jesus did not include or necessitate his mortal body. He did not participate in the forming of this child in the womb. But he identified as this boy’s father.
Let me therefore invite you to consider this proposition. Fatherhood, as reflected in the life of Joseph as father to Jesus, is not necessarily specific to any biological sex. Meaning, while Joseph took on a specific gender role (as dictated by the social constructs in his context), it wouldn’t have mattered if whether he was male or female-bodied. At least not when we view the accounts from a gender-lens. And not, at least during that window in this timeline: pre-natal, pre-marriage leading up to the last trimester of Mary’s pregnancy. Unlike Mary who needed to have the reproductive organs to fulfill her mission, Joseph’s mission did not require this kind of physical qualification.
The fatherhood of Joseph flows from a deeper source, he was qualified as father because of his: Godliness, Integrity, Obedience and his immense capacity to Love. None of his physical characteristics qualified him for fatherhood. Only his beautiful heart and his wonderful spirit did.
- God wouldn’t have hand-picked him to be the “teacher” of Jesus during his formative years if he was not Godly;
- His integrity, and his willingness to challenge tradition and to swallow his patriarchal pride (not divorcing Mary even if she was suddenly pregnant, tell story of how culturally shameful this was);
- His obedience to God, he still took Mary to be his wife despite of, he took the boy Jesus and his mother to Egypt without any question, he gave the name Jesus because it was what was required of him. Never mind if it was a man’s pride to be able to name his “firstborn.” (what is up with ancient peoples and first borns?”)
- And his Love. Oh his profound love for his wife, and his adoptive son. His profound Love for his God—this encompasses all of the Father-traits. To be able to Love without question. To be able to Love over and beyond what is culturally permissible. To be able to Love selflessly—denying tradition, not minding what other people may say. Loving still, even if the future seems so unclear.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, that is Joseph. The man God chose to be Father to his Son, Jesus. Learn from him. As parent, be more like him. As lovers, love as he loved. Fatherhood is not limited to one’s physical maleness. Fatherhood is deep within you. It is deep within all of us.
So the next time you think of Joseph, think of him with pride. He wasn’t just a carpenter, or a minor actor in the greatest story ever told, he wasn’t just a man in the background, He was Joseph, perhaps next to my dad (of course and feel free to disagree) the greatest Father who had ever lived on this earth.
Parent God, thank you for Joseph’s example of faith and love as your servant, as a lover, a husband, a leader and a father. Help us to be as sensitive and responsive to your calling for us now and forever. Amen.
Written by: Kakay Pamaran Edited by Red Macalalad