Our relationship with our heavenly Father only occurs through our relationship with Christ. In Baptism, we gain our inheritance which is the life of Christ. In being a member of His body, we gain His Father and His Spirit. We also gain His human virginal mother, Mary, and His human, virginal father, Joseph. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph represent an earthly trinity that enlightens our understanding of the Divine Trinity. St. Joseph serves as an icon and likeness of God the Father to Jesus, and he does the same for us. We can and should look to St. Joseph to better understand God the Father. Through examining the abounding care, affection, and attention with which St. Joseph gave, we can see how our heavenly Father cares for us.
Joseph totally and completely fulfills his fatherhood of Jesus throughout his life by means of a self-sacrificial love, which is similar to God the Father’s total and complete self-sacrificial love for us. The dissimilarity being that, however much Joseph loved, our heavenly Father loves infinitely more.
Further similarities and dissimilarities abound. I will list many that I have found: Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus and God is not our Father according to our nature, for He is divine and we are human. However, we do participate in His nature through the grace of adoption, which we receive at Baptism. The grace received is the divine nature, yet we still remain fully human. Joseph is a father only through Mary and God the Father becomes our Father only through entrance into the Body of Christ, which is the Church, through Baptism. Joseph becomes the father of Jesus through receiving Jesus into His family, the conception of the Child by the power of God the Holy Spirit, and naming the Child (see Matthew 1:18-25). God the Father becomes our Father when we receive Jesus, believe in His name, and by the power of the Holy Spirit become His children (see John 1:12).
Joseph was surely filled with joy and awe at the message of the angel and looked forward to the birth of Christ. God the Father is filled with an infinitely greater joy and anticipation at our coming conversion and ever-deepening sharing in the sonship of Jesus. Joseph protects the child from threats of death (see Matthew 2:13-23) and our heavenly Father infinitely more so delivers His children from evil (see Matthew 6:13). St. Joseph surely taught the Lord how to pray, God the Father’s gift of love to the Son and the Son’s returning gift of love through the Cross and resurrection is the perfect model of all prayer. Joseph’s support of the Child with love, adoration, and material care can be compared to the infinite love and ineffable providence of our heavenly Father’s. Joseph cared for every material need of Jesus; our heavenly Father provides the whole material world, so that we might know Him more fully through His creation, for the sake of our eternal happiness. Joseph is the first human to speak the name of Jesus which wrought our salvation (The Hebrew custom of the father naming the child can be seen in St. Luke’s account of the naming of St. John the Baptist, where Zachariah is consulted on the name of the child in Luke 1:57-66).
God the Father gives His only spoken Word (Jesus) for the life of the world so that those who believe in His name might have eternal life. Without Joseph, there is no family for the Christ Child to thrive in His full humanity. Without God the Father, there is no Son through whom humanity is given divine life. When the Holy Family is in danger, Joseph authoritatively takes them into Egypt, to assure the continued life and welfare of the Child (see Matthew 2:13-23), whereas our heavenly Father moves His children away from sin, providing their docility, to assure their eternal life. Joseph’s pain at losing Christ while on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem is similar to our heavenly Father’s sorrow when we are lost in sin during our pilgrimage to the new Jerusalem (heaven). As Jesus would have laid his head on Joseph’s chest and asked questions during their Passover celebrations so to can we lay our heads on the heart of our heavenly Father and ask questions to contemplate the divine mysteries of His love. Joseph surrenders himself entirely to the service, life, and growth of Christ and God the Father gives of Himself entirely so that we may serve, live, and grow in Christ. As Joseph acts immediately when the angel reveals what must be done for the welfare of the family, so is our heavenly Father’s every act oriented toward love, which assures the welfare of those who share in His life. Essentially everything that Joseph would have done for Jesus, God the Father does for us, but to an infinitely higher degree.
This fatherhood of St. Joseph, that reflects the Fatherhood of God, begins through the consent of the virginal marriage between Mary and Joseph. God willed that the Son be born into a family so that He might be fully human in every way. Through the spousal relationship of Mary and Joseph, they share all things, including being parents of the Son of God. Therefore St. Joseph is the father of Jesus through his marriage to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. St. Joseph cares for Jesus in every way as a true father would because he is the true virginal father of Jesus. Given St. Joseph’s immense holiness and chastity, he is the perfect icon of our heavenly Father. Through understanding the relationship between Joseph and Jesus we can see the Father’s love for us — we who are in the Son through Baptism (see Romans 6:1-14).
St. Joseph’s love is so abundant for the Son, but our heavenly Father’s love for us is infinitely more abundant. How great our Father’s love for us, that we should be called the Body of Christ and share in the sonship of Jesus. Through sharing in the sonship of the Son we gain a whole family. His Immaculate Mother and His Virginal Father become our own. Through understanding the virginal father of Jesus, St. Joseph, we can say of our heavenly Father with greater awe than ever: “How great the Father’s love for us that we should be called the Children of God, and so we are” (1 John 3:1).
Tyson was born and raised in California, USA. He received a Bachelor's and Master's degree in theology from Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. He is currently a postulant for the Franciscan TORs in Loretto, Pennsylvania and is there praying his way to becoming a Franciscan Friar with the TORs. Having spent nearly a month in Gibraltar during the summer of 2016, he has developed a special love for the people of the Rock.