Every man, every father, is continually challenged by various trials, obstacles and nearly impossible situations. If you are a man, you will be attacked by evil and tested in many ways. If you are not tested and challenged, then you are either not a man, or you’re dead. All of us are men, and all of us are alive, which means that there is no way to avoid the challenges of fatherhood. So, if every father, every man, is challenged, what is the secret of those who succeed in overcoming the challenges? The answer: faith in God.
Last meeting we said that Abraham is our “father in faith” (Rom 3:27) and that he was a “just man (who) lived by faith,” (Heb 10:38) and that when Abraham encountered his vocational crisis and took this fear to the Lord, God promised to be “his shield.” (Gen 15:1) The Church in her litany of praise and honor to St. Joseph lauds him as “Joseph Most Faithful” and the Scriptures testify to his faith by naming him the “just man.” (See Matt 1:19) If Abraham is our “father in faith” and “justified by faith” (see Rom 5) then Joseph is the culmination of Abraham, a father most faithful, the just man who lives by faith. And it is this just man that the Lord surrounds, as with a shield. (See Psalm 5)
As with Abraham, we first encounter Joseph amidst the storm of a vocational crisis. Recall that Abram’s name meant “high father” – indicating his vocation. Joseph’s name comes from the verb “yasab”, meaning to add, increase, do again, Increaser, Repeater, and Doubler; He Shall Add. This provides a clue to his vocation & saintly identity.
Joseph was a Son of David who by blood received a royal heritage that gave him the potential to be a king, though he remained hidden and unnoticed. Joseph silently carried this secret of royal inheritance and being a just man, a faithful Jew, he longed with all of Israel for the Messiah. This ability to transfer the kingship of David was a gift given by God to Joseph and was a reality that, at some level, he must have considered.
Considering this potential, Joseph’s name has tremendous significance. The potential of providing an heir to the David throne would indeed fulfill the meaning “he shall add,” for Joseph would be adding to the Davidic Kings. This potential increased when Joseph betrothed Mary – but Mary “was to be with child of the Holy Spirit. But Joesph being a just man and not wishing to expose her to shame, was minded to put her away privately, but as he considered this an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream…” (Mt 1:18-20)
As with Abram, we encounter Joseph in a seemingly impossible situation. Joseph is tested – a trial is set before him – fear sets in. Joseph was being intimidated by Satan and tempted to flee his vocational path. But Joseph 1) had faith in God, 2) presented his fear to the Lord and 3) waited and listened in silence. Joseph’s silence indicates that he is a man who is ready to be directed by God. Just as the Lord encouraged Abraham, “fear not Abram, I am your shield,” so the Lord also encouraged the “just man,” Joseph, “do not be afraid Joseph, Son of David,” (Mt 1:20) for the “just man is surrounded by a shield.” (See Psalm 5)
Like Abram, Joseph was asked to look into the heavens, beyond an apparently hopeless situation, and count the stars, that is, God’s promise that his descendants would be more numerous that the stars. Most of us are being intimidated or tempted by Satan to neglect of flee from certain aspects of our fatherhood and marriages. But if we follow Joseph’s Way and 1) have faith in God, 2) present our fear to the Lord and 3) wait and listen in silence, God will answer, assuring us to not be afraid.
The key to our success as fathers, as men, is being courageous enough to exercise faith amidst hopeless situations and overwhelming challenges. “In all things take the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one.” (See Eph 6:16) The key to Joseph’s greatness was his unwavering faith – this is also the key to our success. Faith is trusting that God can accomplish all things in us.