Father Abraham and St. Joseph

St Joseph shrine immaculate conceptionHe is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed. (Romans 4:17)

In my book, it is wonderful to contemplate the deep brotherhood shared by Abraham and St. Joseph, the two ends of the long chain of lineage that gave the world the Christ.

The brotherhood they share: Both Abraham and Joseph sought the Lord–with upright, religious hearts. Both longed, above all, to do God’s will.

Both received visits from angels. And in both cases, the angel demanded faith in a highly improbable promise, a promise that most of us certainly would have doubted.

To Abraham: “Yes, you are old. And you’re wife is barren. But you will have offspring more numerous than the sands of the seashore and the stars of the sky, and all the nations will be blessed in your progeny. And even if I ask you to sacrifice your only son, don’t doubt Me then, either. Lead him to top of the mountain, teaching him that God provides the lamb.”

To Joseph: “Yes, the love of your life appears to have gotten pregnant by another man. But do not despair of her single-hearted love for you. Her child comes from the Holy Spirit. Marry her as you planned, and raise the eternally-begotten Savior into manhood as any human father would raise a son.”

If you and I didn’t doubt the first promise, then we most certainly would have doubted the second. At least we would have doubted our own ability to carry it out.

But Abraham did not doubt, and neither did Joseph. They believed what they could not themselves envision; they trusted the heavenly Father they could not see. They stepped forward, abandoning all self-interest, and gave their lives over completely to the God of outlandish promises.

So: Who is our “father in faith,” our patriarch, the father of the faith of the Catholic Church? That’s what we call Abraham, and it is also what we call Joseph.

No contradiction in it, really—calling both Abraham and St. Joseph our patriarch, father. There would be competition between them for exclusive claim to that title, if the two men were anything less than incandescently selfless. But as they are both consummate vessels of the one divine will—since they both offered their lives as obedient sons of the heavenly Father–then we rightly identify both ends of the genealogical line—Abraham and Joseph—as the “father” of the Body of Christ, our father.

After all, the most important lesson a father can teach is the one they both taught the Christ, and us: How to live as children of God.

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