Saturday, December 22, 2007

Guardian of the Redeemer

I would not normally post something like the below - as it does not meet my usual and customary, rigorous approval standards - but because it is the product of a friend, some compromises must be made. Do not be afraid to leave comments to help him improve.

The Redeemer’s Guardian – and Ours

If ever there was a child who could take care of himself and had no need of a human guardian, it was certainly the baby Jesus. The almighty Son of God, through whom the world was created, at whose word demons would take flight and storms cease, surely could have defended himself even as an infant. After all, he was just as divine and omnipotent as an infant as when he was a grown man. At the very least he could have commanded his angels to keep him safe. But he did not. Instead, he entrusted himself to the care of a mere man, St. Joseph, whom the Church has traditionally called the Guardian of the Redeemer.

As such, when the baby Jesus’ life was threatened, it fell to Joseph – not by necessity but by divine humility – to keep him safe. Granted, Joseph had some assistance: “the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him’” (Mt 2:13). But, far from trivializing Joseph’s task, this commission only emphasizes that he was the man divinely chosen to protect the newborn king.

The infant Christ’s dependence on St. Joseph brings out certain truths of our faith. First, it shows the humility of Christ – that he made himself defenseless in the Incarnation, entirely dependent on Mary and Joseph. The Son of God was not just play-acting when he was born of the Virgin Mary. He truly took on our human nature, with all its limitations and weaknesses. At every moment, the Second Person of the Trinity was choosing to experience our human frailty. This divine humility, already in evidence in Bethlehem, he reveals fully on Calvary.

Second, Christ’s reliance on St. Joseph reveals a father’s essential duty: to protect his family. In protecting our Lord, Joseph did more than just perform a function. He acted on a good fatherly instinct. He protected our Lord, not as a hired hand or a mere guardian, but as a father. Clearly, the reality of the threat was beyond his ken. But once he learned of it, no more was needed. At that point his fatherly heart prompted swift action in the child’s defense: “Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt” (Mt 2:14).

In this regard, St. Joseph has tremendous importance for our culture. Any honest sociologist, psychologist, or parish priest knows the dangers that beset children without strong fathers. The father has an indispensable role: to protect, guard, teach, form, and guide. Granted, today’s father does not have to worry about a king sending soldiers to execute his children. But the poison flowing from the media and the “culture of death” comprises a threat as real as Herod’s soldiers – and even deadlier. The soldiers could only take physical life, but the dangers in our culture threaten the soul.

Further, unlike St. Joseph, today’s father cannot expect an angelic visitor to give him advanced notice. He must take the trouble to make himself aware of the dangers and remain vigilant against them. And the best defense is a good offense – meaning that a father best guards his children by forming good character within them. The disconnected father, who shirks the duty to form his children’s character, will find that many forces in our culture – the news media, entertainment industry, internet, misguided peers, etc. – will happily take his place. A child’s best protection against the lies of the world is a father who forms him in the truth.

Finally, St. Joseph is more than just an example. He continues to guard the Redeemer – but now in Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church. We invoke him not only as Guardian of the Redeemer but also as Protector of the Universal Church. Thus as our Lord took Joseph as his guardian, we also should invoke him as ours, asking him to protect Christ’s life within us from the culture’s many Herods. And as Joseph once spirited our Lord to safety and back again to Galilee, so may he now to protect the graces placed within us and help bring them to full maturity.

- Rev. Paul Scalia

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The worst part about this post is the picture of St. Joseph. Who in the world found such a ridiculous depiction of Joseph as an old fogey? Lots of help he would be on the way to Egypt. More likely the Christ child would have to care of Joseph!