20 March 2017

Work? What Work?


Today's Readings:


Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. 
Joseph, fili David, noli timere accipere Mariam conjugem tuam.
Matthew 1:20

You'll admit that Joseph was brave.
What would people say?
And goodness knows that Jesus would never look like him.
Genetics just don't work that way.
But God does.

Is it conceivable, pardon the pun, that God would craft it so that Jesus looks like Joseph's son, so that he blends in with the sons and daughters of Joseph? Why would you say no to that? Why would God say no to that?The (otherwise excellent) TV show, "Jesus of Nazareth" has a blond boy child being raised by to really rather Jewish looking parents. No, I think not: standing out like that makes no sense at all. I bet God would fix it.

Jesus was also left by his Father under this man's tutelage. Jesus was God in the Flesh, knowing all things and having all wisdom, but his flesh went through all the stages of development you and I - and all humans - did. His brain was void and formless, and although he may have had that eternal connection to God the Father always present, it was the schooling of Joseph that gave it shape, that taught it words, that gave sense to "Father". Joseph was "Daddy" (Abba) to the unschooled, developing brain of Jesus.

And so this man, Joseph the Just, Joseph the Most Chaste, Joseph the most loyal, the most devoted, the most patient, the most faithful: this man shows Jesus, first, what "God the Father" really means.

This man is the Patron and Protector of the Universal Church, why? because the Church is the Body of Christ, brought forth from the womb of the Virgin Mary, but fed, housed, clothed, protected, educated, and trained up in manhood by this man, this mortal.

It is a lame joke to point out that between Jesus the Son of God and Mary, the most Immaculate Virgin, if something was wrong in that house it was Joseph's fault. But he was there, and he still prays for us.

Since leaving the Monastery, I've discovered a great devotion to this man, not least in my work, itself. Joseph is, to me, the model of devoting my work to God: because as he did his work, manfully, devotedly, fully, so he was protecting God, himself, on earth. Carpentry is not sacred, per se, but Joseph made his carpentry a sacrifice to God.

And so how can we do the same?

I wrestle with this because I don't work. In fact, no one I know works except a few friends in Buffalo. Work means labor, moving stuff. Work is measured best in "Horsepower": how many horses moving how much weight in how much time? That's not typing, writing, or, let's be honest, moving papers. Most of us reading this would be lost if we had to lift stuff.

Jesus "hired" fishermen and he told them they'd be "fishers of men". Paul was a tentmaker up until he got arrested. The only people Jesus ever freed from their work (to do better things) were people who didn't do actual work: tax collectors, rabbis, and prostitutes. I think this is important. What work would I be doing if I actually had to, you know, work? Even St Benedict had his entirely contemplative monks do work. The motto of his order is, after all, Ora et Labora: "Prayer and work".  Can a Christian who doesn't work (ie, do actual manual labor) be devoting his work to his salvation and the salvation of the world? How?