Last week, I shared my word for the year, Serve, and the shortcomings and sin in my life that have prompted me to focus on that word. Now, let me tell you a little bit about the Saint I am asking to walk this journey with me.
The Sunday before last, the Church (at least in the U.S.) celebrated the feast of the Epiphany. (The traditional feast day is the 6th, but it is often moved to the nearest Sunday.) The Epiphany celebrates the arrival of the magi to venerate the Child Jesus. The following is part of the Gospel reading that day (you can read the entire reading here):
They were overjoyed at seeing the star, and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:10-11)
The priest mentioned something that would have completely escaped my notice. In general, when mentioning the members of a household, the male head of household would be mentioned first, then his spouse, and then the children. But Matthew writes: "...they saw the child with Mary his mother." Jesus, the child, has the place of honor in this story. Mary is then mentioned by name.
What about Joseph? Surely he was present, yet there is no mention of him. In fact, he plays a very central role in the story of salvation. Without him, the Child Jesus would not have survived to adulthood. He first took Mary into his home, promising to care for her and her Child. He also took Mary and Jesus to Egypt to escape the slaughter of infant boys. He was responsible for the clothes on Jesus's back and the food in His belly and roof over His head and most certainly for fatherly love and affection. He passed on his trade as carpenter to his Son. He was also responsible in the fulfillment of the Messianic prophesies. It was Joseph, not Mary, who was from the line of David. The Savior had to be born in Bethlehem, and without Joseph taking her as his wife, Mary would not have given birth in a stable there. The Savior had to come "out of Egypt" and without leading them there, not only would they not have lived, but this prophesy would not have been fulfilled.
And yet, despite his preeminent role in the Gospels, Joseph is barely mentioned. He is content to do the work of God and then disappears into the background. He does not seek recognition or praise. This I admire. This I desire to emulate.
I can't imagine that the work God wants me to do in His name will ever get me mention in history books. I don't believe I'll be a canonized Saint. (But a saint, an unrecognized soul that makes it to heaven? That I do strive for, though am hardly confident in it.) In fact, I've never sought that kind of recognition. But I do seek daily recognition for the tasks I do within my family. Not only have I realized my failings in serving my family, but also my desire to be recognized when I do serve them.
"Honey, did you notice? I did ____________!"
"You didn't even thank me for _________________."
*Sulk, sulk, sulk* "He didn't notice!"
So this year, I'm seeking not only to serve, but to do so silently. Without expectation of praise or recognition. I want to learn to care of the people around me out of love, nothing more. And I'm asking St. Joseph (along with St. Catherine, of course) to walk this walk with me. I've always felt a great pull toward him. A humble man. An imperfect man. (How difficult it must have been to have a sinless wife and Son? To care for them when he must have felt so unworthy? So inadequate in comparison?) I can relate to him in a way I cannot relate to Christ or the Blessed Mother. He was imperfect, sinful, like me and yet still able to do incredible things for God and all humanity! And the things he did, while sometimes incredibly difficult (Marrying a teen pregnant with Someone Else's child? Taking your wife on a long donkey ride at nine months pregnant? Picking up your family on a moment's notice and traveling to Egypt long before the advent of airplanes or automobiles?), were within the realm of parenthood. He clothed. Fed. Sheltered. Loved. Protected. Taught. We're not talking about great, seemingly impossible feats, but the everyday actions of a father and husband.
St. Joseph, help me to serve God through serving my family, as you did yours. Guide me to see the beauty in selflessness and service. Aid me in doing the tasks of marriage and motherhood, both big and small, with joy and love. Teach me your ways of humility, so that I may never seek recognition or reward.