Over the past 48 hours I have had the opportunity to spend time with two women whose fathers died this past summer. Last night my own father appeared in a dream which I only remember for his passing presence and the appearance of his wedding ring – not on his hand but clearly his – a strong symbol in his life and the lives of our family.
Curiously two very different gospels appear in the lectionary today. The first is the beginning of Mark’s gospel that speaks of John the Baptist’s proclamation of Jesus and then the appearance of Jesus at his baptism – the beginning of his public life – where the voice of God was heard to say, You are my beloved Son; with you I am well-pleased. The second choice for the gospel reading begins by noting that Jesus began his ministry at about thirty years of age and then goes on to relate his ancestry, not in the manner of the more familiar text from Matthew but backward from Joseph all the way to Adam, son of God. I must have been somewhat inattentive to my reading because I started to reach for some other text for inspiration when something inside said, “Read them again.”
Being a Sister of St. Joseph, I am usually eager to comment when Joseph shows up in gospel stories. Today, it took two readings to make the connection of the importance of the role of fathers in the lives of their sons – and daughters. I am one of the “lucky ones” to have had a father who shone with the love of God and showered that kind of love on others throughout his life. We don’t have too much evidence from the words of Scripture of the man Joseph was but it’s easy to extrapolate his character from the few scenes in which he appears. His care for his family, his trust in God and his willingness to participate in the plan of God regardless of the cost are easily seen without a single word from him.
Today, then, I am grateful for the nudge to reflect on fatherhood and the three great fathers who have mirrored Joseph to me in the lives and gratitude of their daughters. In addition, I pray that all children will somehow have a father figure in their lives who will teach them and love them in the way God loves all of us – into the fullness of life.