Homily: Fathering Jesus of Nazareth
“I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need for a father’s protection.”
These are the words of a man, with whom I have had the pleasure of both abhorring and adoring at the same time in my study of psychology. The great, irritatingly brilliant, Sigmund Freud. He has numerous phallic propositions—most of these I will not even dare mention here, but this statement, rings of more than just conceptual truth.
I am feminist, partly because I came under the protection of my own father. And he made space for me in this painfully patriarchal world to fly, to think, to be feminine, to be Woman. To be Woman who is unafraid to speak highly of men.
Let us pray: Our loving Creator God in heaven, Father and Mother of us all, thank you for this day. Thank you for you have gathered your wonderful people here in this space to hear your message. Free our hearts and our minds from sadness, and hurt and the injustices we experience on a daily basis. Forgive us, God, if we have offended you be it by words, deeds and thoughts. We come to you today, thirsty for Wisdom. Speak through your servant, I pray, so she may be messenger and teacher pleasing to your ears. All these we claim and pray in the mighty name of your Son, Jesus our Christ. Amen.
The bible is not short on male, father-figures, patriarchs and what have you. We all know that. People say the bible, itself, was written by men. But none of these biblical men has endeared me, and claimed the highest respect from my early rabid feminism and still maintained that sort of honor to this very day than Joseph, husband to Mary, adoptive earthly father to Jesus whom we herald as the Christ.
Tonight, dear friends, we are going to take a closer look at the life of this extraordinary man who was tasked to be earthly father to Jesus.
Joseph was mentioned in only 14 life events in only 2 gospels, Matthew and Luke, and his presence was only limited to the infancy accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. But in these 14 life events, Joseph fulfilled the most important ancient prophesies spoken to mark the birth of the Son of God.
Prophecy number 1:
Matthew 2:5-6: They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: (6) ‘And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.”
Micah 5:2: But you, O Bethlehem of Ephrathah, who are one of the little clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me, one who is to rule in Israel whose origin is from of old, ancient days.”
If it weren’t for Joseph, the prophet Micah would have been so embarrassed. It was Joseph who had to register in Bethlehem. You all remember the grand census right? Emperor Augustus (Mk 2:1-5) gave the order to have everyone registered in their hometowns where their families originated from. So if it weren’t for Joseph, Jesus wouldn’t have been born in Bethlehem.
Now imagine what that would have been like? The Magi (the three, probably four, wise men), who followed the star couldn’t have found the boy Christ in the stable (or cave, according to Luke) wrapped in swaddling clothes! If it weren’t for Joseph, our Nativity scene would look different. If it weren’t for Joseph, those shepherds couldn’t have witnessed and worshipped as they were meant to. If it weren’t for Joseph, wala si little drummer boy! And our carols would have different lyrics!
And then you know the story of the Magi not going back to Herod.
If it weren’t for Joseph, the boy Jesus, would have died by the sword of Herod’s armies before he can even say “Halleluiah.”
Which brings us to our next Prophecy that needed Joseph so it may be fulfilled:
Prophecy # 2
From the words of the prophet Hosea: “Out of Egypt, I have called my Son.” (11:1)
If it weren’t for Joseph who heeded to what the angel told him in a dream, (Mtt. 2:13-15) this prophecy wouldn’t have been fulfilled. And the son wouldn’t have come from the land of Egypt.
Let us all inspect Luke 1:69—in the prophecy of Zecharaiah: “He has raised up a mighty Savior (“horn of salvation”—Alluding to a Davidic ruler) for us in the house of his servant David.”
Mattew chapter 1 provides us with a detailed genealogy of Jesus. Jesus needed a Davidian lineage. Meaning, for the prophecy to come to pass, and for the people of Israel to lend him some semblance of credibility, Jesus needed to be born from and borne out of the house of David. Mary, the mother of Jesus, couldn’t have been able to give him that. It was Joseph, from the line of Kings, who gave Jesus this identity.
And in connection with that, perhaps the most important role Joseph had to fulfill is found in Mt. 1:25. It was Joseph, who legally gave the Name– the most powerful Name in all of history, herstory, past, present and future—to this boy, Yeshua, Jesus. The name we speak with such pride and reverence to this very day. The name we use to claim our very birthrights.
The fatherhood of Joseph was very special. And very inspiring to us in the LGBT community. Joseph was an adoptive father. He understood that. He knew Jesus was not his own flesh and blood. His participation in the birthing of Jesus did not include or necessitate his mortal body. He did not participate in the forming of this child in the womb. But he identified as this boy’s father.
Let me therefore invite you to consider this proposition. Fatherhood, as reflected in the life of Joseph as father to Jesus, is not necessarily specific to any biological sex. (segue to genealogy and that there were 4 women mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus—Ruth, Tamar, Rahab, Bathsheba)
Meaning, while Joseph took on a specific gender role (as dictated by the social constructs in his context), it wouldn’t have mattered if whether he was male or female-bodied. At least not when we view the accounts from a gender-lens. And not, at least during the that window in this timeline: pre-natal, pre-marriage leading up to the last trimester of Mary’s pregnancy. Unlike Mary who needed to have the reproductive organs to fulfill her mission, Joseph’s mission did not require this kind of physical qualification.
In other words, sisters and brothers in Christ, the Fatherhood of Joseph flows from a deeper source, he was qualified as father because of his: Godliness, Integrity, Obedience and his immense capacity to Love. None of his physical characteristics qualified him for fatherhood. Only his beautiful heart and his wonderful spirit did.
God wouldn’t have hand-picked him to be the “teacher” of Jesus during his formative years if he was not Godly. (talk about the possibility of Jesus’ politics as discussed while working on dining tables and arm chairs for clients)
His integrity, and his willingness to challenge tradition and to swallow his patriarchal pride (not divorcing Mary even if she was suddenly pregnant, tell story of how culturally shameful this was)
His obedience to God, he still took Mary to be his wife despite of, he took the boy Jesus and his mother to Egypt without any question, he gave the name Jesus because it was what was required of him. Never mind if it was a man’s pride to be able to name his “firstborn.” (what is up with ancient peoples and first borns?”)
And his Love. Oh his profound love for his wife, and his adoptive son. His profound Love for his God—this encompasses all of the Father-traits. To be able to Love without question. To be able to Love over and beyond what is culturally permissible. To be able to Love selflessly—denying tradition, not minding what other people may say. Loving still, even if the future seems so unclear.
Sisters and brothers in Christ, that is Joseph. The man God chose to be Father to his Son, Jesus. Learn from him. As parent, be more like him. As lovers, love as he loved. Fatherhood is not limited to one’s physical maleness. Fatherhood is deep within you. It is deep within all of us.
So the next time you think of Joseph, think of him with pride. He wasn’t just a carpenter, or a minor actor in the greatest story ever told, he wasn’t just a man in the background, He was Joseph, perhaps next to my dad (of course and feel free to disagree) the greatest Father who had ever lived on this earth.
Let us pray. Our Father in heaven, thank you for the life of Joseph, whom you raised to help form the human identity of our Jesus. Thank you for the wisdom that we have drawn from his humble life. Thank you for the insights and the wonderful life lessons that we have learned from his life. Seal all of these, Lord, in our hearts so we may live by this wisdom. Bless the remaining part of this worship service. May your name be glorified in everything that we do, think or say. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Good evening. ?