There are literally hundreds of millions of fathers in the world. Fatherhood is like oxygen; it is all around us. It can easily be misinterpreted as something common and even go unnoticed. Yet if we dig deeper we will discover that just as a person cannot survive without oxygen, the world cannot survive without fatherhood. So what is it that makes fatherhood so necessary? What is the glory of fatherhood?
A logo represents or symbolizes something literal or real. For example, golden arches represent the company McDonalds and a gold deer represents the company John Deere. When we see these icons, these symbols, they remind us of the reality, the companies which they represent.
Human fatherhood was created by the Logos, the Word, to be a logo, an icon which directs humanity to God’s Fatherhood. In a sense, human fatherhood is the symbol and image of God’s Fatherhood. This is the human father’s great glory and distinct honor.
St. Paul describes this iconic character of the human father when he says, “For this reason I bend my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ from Whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth receives its name.” (Eph 3:15) Notice that we fathers are named after God – not the other way around.
Our Lord Jesus also invites us to engage and embrace this iconic reality of human fatherhood by doing something unthinkable, audacious: He calls us to compare the human father with God the Father: “Therefore, if you who are evil as you are, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him.” (Matt 7:11)
Fathers fail in their duty to father. We make mistakes. And yet, we are not the sum total of our mistakes. There is something deeper than sin – it is God’s goodness within us. The fact that sinful, fallen fathers love and desire good for their children, powerfully signifies the glory and perfection of the all-benevolent, perfectly loving, glorious God.
St. Thomas Aquinas maintained that the Sacred Scriptures could be interpreted both literally, that is historically, and also spiritually. One of the ways the Sacred Scriptures can be interpreted spiritually is allegorically – or
symbolically. For example, Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea to the Promised Land. This is historically accurate. The allegorical meaning is that Moses is a type or symbol of Christ leading the Church through the waters of baptism and re-birth to Heaven – the Promised Land. So, there are things in the Old Testament which are like logos directing us toward things in the new testament.
The lives of the Patriarchs, especially Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David, are all symbols or types, of St. Joseph. Joseph’s fatherhood is the fulfillment of the Patriarchs. The Patriarchs are like logos directing us to Joseph, and Joseph is a logo which directs us to God the Father. By studying the life of St. Joseph through the life of the Patriarchs we will discover how we can, like this saintly father, be a father on earth like the Father in Heaven.