We’ve all, at some point in our lives, made the mistake of walking in the dark. Often the result is a stubbed toe, a knocked head, or worse a fall down the stairs. Our Lord gives us night walkers some apt advice, “The
man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going.” (John 12:35) but, “A man who walks by day will not stumble, because he sees the light of this world.” (John 11:9)
Walking in the dark can be difficult, but spiritually walking in vocational darkness can be disastrous. We need light – the light of fatherhood which overcomes a father’s dark moments. St. Joseph experienced this darkness when he discovered that Mary, the woman to whom he was engaged, was pregnant without his cooperation. This vocational crisis was perhaps one of the darkest moments in Joseph’s life – had God abandoned him?
Joseph was not afraid of the dark but rather prayerfully entered this darkness seeking divine light, when “an angel appeared to him in a dream”. (Matt 1:20) Joseph was seeking the light – praying even into his deep sleep.
“Joseph, arising from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took unto him his wife.” (Matt 1:24) By receiving Mary, the Mother of God, Joseph receives the Light of lights, the Son of God living in her. From Joseph we learn that there are two basic steps we need to take to receive the light of fatherhood: First, we must receive the Mother, who is full of light, and second, by receiving the Mother we will receive the Son, Who is the Light. To be a great father we need the great mother, because “The Lord is with her.” (See Luke 1:26)
Our Lord Himself says that this is the human father’s means to receive the Spirit of the Father: “Whoever receives a little child for my name sake, receives me: and whoever receives me, receives Him Who sent Me.” (Luke: 9) And again, Our Lord says that if a man loves and obeys him, “My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23). This speaks of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the human father.
This statement lies at the heart of Christ’s Gospel to fathers. It is not enough to be a biological father. We must spiritually adopt our children, receiving them for Christ’s sake. By accepting this role of spiritual adoption we receive Christ in our children, and not only Christ, but also the Father, into us. This is what makes a true father great: The Holy Spirit of the heavenly Father living in the human father. So, like Joseph, we ought to bring Mary into our home, (i.e. into our soul) for she also brings Jesus with her, and Jesus also brings the Father into our “home.”
In a long line of Patriarchs who longed for the messiah, St. Joseph was the first father to literally receive the light of Christ. By receiving the light of Christ, he also received the Father into himself. Thus he became, as the Church has entitled him, “Light of Patriarchs”.
St. Augustine stated that the New Testament is hidden in the Old Testament and the Old Testament is revealed in the New Testament. The secrets of St. Joseph’s fatherhood are hidden in the Old Testament Patriarchs, and the fatherhood of the patriarchs are revealed in Joseph. St. Joseph casts light upon the secrets of fatherhood of the past and this light is reflected back upon Joseph – revealing his fatherhood, God the Father, and our
fatherhood in a clearer light.
If we are to understand our fatherhood, we must “come to the light”, that is the “Light of Patriarchs” and learn from St. Joseph how to become a father on earth like the Father in Heaven. In meetings to come we will discover the vision of fatherhood by means of discovering Joseph in the Old Patriarchs and the Patriarchs in Joseph and by doing so we will obtain from St. Joseph the light which will show us the path to fatherly greatness.