Tender & Loving Father

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Greetings my brothers and sisters,

We are in the month of March, the month of St. Joseph in the year of St. Joseph. So naturally we will reflect on St. Joseph! Continuing our journey through the Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, issued by Pope Francis and considering the second section with the title above, “Tender and Loving Father”

Continuing to refer to Joseph as father to Jesus, after considering him as Beloved, Pope Francis now considers his tenderness and love toward Jesus and Mary his family. Quoting from the Gospel of Luke, the Holy Father recognizes that Joseph had the privilege of seeing Jesus grow “in wisdom and in years and in divine and human favour” on a daily basis. What form did this take? “As the Lord had done with Israel, so Joseph did with Jesus: he taught him to walk, taking him by the hand; he was for him like a father who raises an infant to his cheeks, bending down to him and feeding him (cf. Hos 11:3-4)”. (n.2) Joseph was no absentee father to Jesus. He was present to him and with him in his daily ups and downs.

The next thought in the letter from Pope Francis is truly amazing: In Joseph, Jesus saw the tender love of God: “As a father has compassion for his children, so the Lord has compassion for those who fear him” (Ps 103:13). Imagine that: Jesus knew of his Father in heaven because of the love of Joseph his father on earth. Of course, this is supposed to be the way things are between children and their fathers. We know that is not always the case, unfortunately. However, it is somewhat startling to think that Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, needed the love of a human father to know of the love of His Father yet that is what the Pope states. Certainly, this is in reference to Jesus in his human nature, not his divine nature. That is, Jesus does not need to grow as God and so he knew of the love of his Father from all Eternity in the Trinity. Once he took on a human nature, though, then he needed to grow in his knowledge and love of God just like every human being and Joseph helped in this by his example of tenderness and love.

Joseph was able to do this, the Pope continues, because he experienced the tender love and mercy of God “whose “compassion is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9). He knew that God loved him despite his weaknesses and limitations and this he knew in a special way because he had the love of God incarnate before him day after day. God’s love and mercy he could see in the gift of the child. I wonder if every father (and mother) experiences the same. Sometimes we concentrate too much on our failings and sins (and those of others) and lose sight of love and tenderness. We can become very harsh and judgmental. Pope Francis states, instead: “Tenderness is the best way to touch the frailty within us.” We can experience the tenderness and mercy of God most especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation and Lent is a good time to make use of that gift of forgiveness. It also helps us to be more forgiving.

Pope Francis concludes this section with this very pertinent observation: “Joseph, then, teaches us that faith in God includes believing that he can work even through our fears, our frailties and our weaknesses. He also teaches us that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.” Plenty of tempests going on these days! We would do very well to follow the example of Joseph and “let the Lord steer the course” in discerning our vocation After all, He knows who we are and where we are mean to go. Let’s ask him to help us cooperate as he captains our ship, with St. Joseph as first mate! God bless.

Fr. Brian Crawford, OSJ

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