More on the Grace of Christ November 30, 2022 frmarkdwhite Does Christ have the fullness of grace? ST III Q7 a9 Does Christ alone have this fullness? ST III Q7 a10 Is the grace of Christ infinite? ST III Q7 a11 AdvertisementShare this:TwitterFacebookLike this:Like Loading... Related
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Speaking of those who are full of grace, as we reflect on the infancy narratives this Advent, I think we need to embrace the fact that Jesus and Mary had TWO men named Joseph in their lives. I see no other way to harmonize the Matthean/Lucan genealogies, which give different and contradictory descent from Joseph back to David.
It has to be, I think, that the Blessed Virgin Mary was betrothed to two Josephs over her lifetime: first, to Joseph-son-of-Heli (Lk 3:23) when she conceived by the Holy Spirit. This Joseph was a righteous man who fled with her to Egypt, raised Jesus in childhood, and naturally was thought by most to be Jesus’ true father.
Then, at some point, this “righteous” Joseph died, and Mary had to support herself and a still-rather-young Jesus. She did so by betrothing herself (chastely) to a second man, also named Joseph, which was a common name in their culture. Her second husband, Joseph-son-of-Jacob (Mt 1:16), was not necessarily a righteous man (we don’t know), he might have been the carpenter, and he had many children from former marriage(s).
This may explain the tension between Jesus and his “brothers” that we see in the gospels. Jesus was, in their view, the entitled stepchild who thought (correctly, as it were) that He was God. Of course, the other children saw their new stepbrother as a bratty outsider whose only contribution was to take a share of their inheritance. Also, they may have viewed Mary as a poor replacement for their birth mother.
So, Jesus knew both Josephs as his foster-fathers. It could even be that “James, brother of the Lord” was first-Joseph’s child from a pre-Marian marriage. Perhaps he never remembered life without Jesus, and was closer to Him than his new siblings, thus explaining why he seemed to believe in his brother more than the rest of the family. We don’t know which Joseph was with Mary when Jesus was found in the Temple, but this does shed light on some cryptic passages:
1) When the mother and brothers of Jesus were waiting outside to talk to Him, maybe Mary was seeking His help/support in a dispute with her stepchildren, thinking, most probably correctly, that she was being treated unfairly now that He left for public ministry. She needed His divine justice to vindicate herself; something akin to “Vindicate me against my rival!” If true, the stressful home life of her second husband, where she was looked upon with spite by many in the household, was something else she endured for the sake of our salvation, albeit something not very widely known today nor appreciated.
2) When Jesus asked John to take Mary from the foot of the cross into his own home, it could be that His last act was to deliver her from this tough domestic situation, which would only get worse once she no longer had His support against her stepchildren. His “brothers” may have been quite glad to see her go. I think this would indicate the second Joseph had died by then, but who knows.
With this interpretation, we see that two passages often used to knock Mary off the pedestal we Catholics give her might actually reveal a humble, patient suffering for our sake that only increases our admiration for her. Without this interpretation, we’re left gazing awkwardly at two contradictory genealogies for St. Joseph, and piously believing in the divine inspiration of both.
The evangelists must have feared that someone might use a legal technicality to argue that one Joseph or the other was not Jesus’ true, legal father, so they “covered their bases” by giving genealogies for both men, explaining the discrepancy in Jesus’ lineage. Lucky for them, they could tie both distant cousins back to King David, and thus forestall the objection that Jesus can’t be the Christ because he wasn’t truly the son of David.
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