Father’s day is celebrated on the 19th of June in many countries, but not all of them. There are actually five different possible dates, depending on the country you live in. In many Catholic countries it is celebrated on the day of Saint Joseph (19th of March), with a clear reference to the father of Jesus.
I’ve always been amazed by how little it is said about Joseph. We don’t know when he died, but it must have been between Jesus’ teenage years (he is last mentioned in Luke chapter 2 when Jesus is twelve), and his adulthood when Mary is apparently a widower (Jn.19:2-27). Yet, we know how important the figure of the father is, during those early years, which brings us to the question, “What kind of example did Jesus receive from him?”.
Even if we know very little about Joseph’s life, we know a few important things about his character.
For one thing, he was a man of honor, not wanting to “expose her to public disgrace” (Mt.1:19). He knew what it would have meant for Mary to be ashamed in public and he decided to protect her.
Then he was a man of faith, as he believed the angel telling him to marry Mary, because she was pregnant of the Holy spirit (Mt.1:20-24). How many of us would have accepted that with no reply?
He was obedient, when he heard another word from the angel telling him to escape to Egypt with his family, and later to come back when Herod died (Mt.2:13,19).
He was able to govern a large family of at least 7 children (we are told Jesus had 4 brothers and of his “sisters” in Mk.6:3)
He was caring. We know this because he and Mary were worried when they couldn’t find Jesus (Lk.2:48), and because Jesus came to know how a good father should act (Mt.7:9).
We know very well that Jesus’ actual father is spiritual, but Jesus is often called “the son of Joseph” in several passages of the scripture, hinting to the fact that his earthly dad was recognized and even appreciated by his contemporaries.
As a father, I feel I am in a similar position to Joseph’s. Sure, my children are biologically derived by me, but there is no doubt that they do not actually belong to me, and they actually have a spiritual heavenly Father much greater and much more loving than myself.
What I am called to be as an earthy father, is what Joseph was: a man of honor and faith. A man that obeys God’s voice and protects his family. A man who cares for his children, and accepts his temporary role of guidance, knowing well that there is an ultimate, “actual” father that can do all these things much better than me.