Working in Exile
Last meeting we discussed the idea of obedience as a “proof of our faith,” and how the faith of Abraham and Joseph was tested in four particular ways: 1) They were directed by God to journey to a place though they did not know the way 2) They lived in a land of exile 3) They accepted the trials and tribulations that were a consequence of embracing the women who would bear them both sons 4) They offered the fruit of their marriages—their sons—in sacrifice.
Last meeting, in particular, we discussed the idea that we as fathers are like Abraham and Joseph in that we do not “know the way of fatherhood,” and that to become the great fathers that we are destined to be we must humble ourselves and learn from someone more experienced in the matter of fatherhood—we would do well to learn Joseph’s Way. Today, we will briefly discuss the second of the four tests of faith just mentioned: living in exile.
Salmon (the fish), are known as being “anadromous” which means that they “run upward”—upstream. Every year, thousands upon thousands of salmon, after maturing and achieving full body mass in the ocean, migrate and return upstream—up rivers—to their native place of birth. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as “salmon runs.” When these salmon runs occur the salmon become easy prey for wild animals such as bears who enjoy feeding on them.
God creates everything by the power of His Word. He speaks and it is. God thought and spoke the universe, the solar systems, stars, mountains, sea creatures, the human mind, the human heart, the human person into existence. His Word created you. God desired to create you—thought you into existence for a purpose—to be an expression of His glory. But before He sealed you up for delivery, to be planted into your mother’s womb, He whispered His Word into your being. This message, this voice, this Word has been programmed into you. This Voice is your call, your vocation, your destiny, your call to greatness. This voice will never leave you, it may haunt you, indeed it is a part of you, and it chases after you desiring you to chase after it—to “run upward” like the salmon—to return to your Origin.
When we run upward, however, we become like salmon, easy prey for Satan, who stands in the midst of that river attempting to intimidate us, implant fears, doubts and insecurities in our minds. He works tirelessly to makes us feel inadequate, to believe that we do not have what it takes to answer the call to fatherly greatness. The evil one wants us to give up the “run upwards” and remain in the comfortable ocean of sin, selfishness and a life of meaninglessness.
The three main areas in which Satan attempts to discourage and defeat the human father are in his duties to protect, to feed, and to teach or lead. Due to time constraints, we can only focus on one of these—and only briefly. We will focus on a father’s duty to feed and nourish his wife and children.
A father is called to labor for his family and place work at the service of his family. Satan attempts to convince the human father to place his family and himself as a servant of his work. Often, rather than mastering our work, our work masters us—and what a wicked master it is! The human father can easily be convinced that his work is his real accomplishment, that it is his identity—what makes him who he is. Often being a father can appear to be mundane, routine, lacking glory and honor and acclaim, and so many men, desiring acclaim and honor, attempt to obtain the affirmation of men by means of work or ministry. A father’s identity, however, is found in his vocation—that Word, that whisper of God within him, which says that he is a father and will always be so. Jobs come and go, and we will be replaced, perhaps by someone who is more qualified than we are. But as fathers—we are irreplaceable. All the data and statistics confirm this.
Jesus’ words are the definitive statement on work: “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life.” (John 6:27) Jesus also says, “And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me.” (Matt 18:5)
When we work for our children, we work for Jesus. The ultimate purpose of work is to labor for Jesus in our children (and wives), and labor to develop Christ in our children (and wives). Work is at the service of the human father’s family, giving him the necessary resources to build effectively the domestic church. Everything that St. Joseph did by means of his work was accomplished for his Son—for his Lord. Joseph labored in order to provide bread to the Bread of Life, and doing so, he worked for the Bread that does not perish, but rather grants eternal life. For Joseph, work was not an end in itself, but rather a means to union with Christ Himself.
On April 22 we will begin a nine day novena to St. Joseph that will enable us to unlock the meaning and power of work by means of following St. Joseph’s example. Let’s continue to “run upwards” and answer the call to fatherly greatness. You are irreplaceable.