St. Joseph: Father to Jesus

by Archbishop Donald Wuerl

While the birth of Jesus is entirely unique in all human history, the responsibilities of Joseph remained rooted in his marriage to Mary and his relationship therefore to Jesus. The Gospels clearly describe the responsibilities of Joseph toward Jesus.

In Redemptoris Custos the pope reminds us how these duties were discharged, beginning with the journey to Bethlehem and the protection and care of Mary at the birth of Jesus where Joseph was an eyewitness.

The pope goes on to note that Joseph discharged his first religious obligation as a father with his son’s circumcision and the conferral of the name Jesus. The presentation of Jesus in the temple, the flight into Egypt and the finding of the child Jesus in the temple are all examples in Scripture of Joseph’s care for and nurture of Jesus.

From one perspective, the most telling line in Scripture relative to Joseph’s relationship to Jesus is found in Luke’s Gospel:

Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth with Jesus where he grew “in wisdom and age and favor before God and man” (Lk 2:52). Here, one’s imagination can depict the daily routine of the adolescent Jesus growing up and coming to know the faith and values of his family, his obligation to God, and his place in the affection of his parents.

It is sometimes difficult to realize that Jesus had to learn to speak, to read and to write. He had to be taught manners and how to relate to others. He had to learn his prayers. He had chores and obligations to help keep family life running smoothly.

In all of this we can envision the role of Joseph. At the same time Jesus was becoming more fully aware of his deepest inner identity and his mission as redeemer of the world.

Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., has written numerous books of the Catholic faith. This article was excerpted from the June 2002 issue of Columbia, the monthly magazine of the Knights of Columbus.

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