The second of the new invocations to Saint Joseph is Servant of Christ. This is an interesting invocation because, given life in first-century Israel, Jesus would have served Joseph instead of Joseph serving Jesus. Because of that, we need to look for a deeper meaning of the word servant.
Clearly, it can’t mean that Jesus sat around ordering Joseph to wait on him, which is what we often think of when we hear the term servant. In the broader sense, a servant is someone who performs actions on behalf of someone who is his or her superior, which is undoubtedly why this invocation uses the word Christ and not Jesus. Joseph was not the servant of the person who was seen by the community as his son. He was the servant of the Christ, the Anointed One, the Chosen One.
Joseph lived his life, whether he was consciously aware of it or not, in a way that enabled Jesus to become the Christ. He protected him, cared for him materially, and educated him. In short, by being a good parent, Joseph became the servant of Christ.
Similarly, any good parent becomes the servant of the adult their child must become. Parents must serve in a way that allows a child to assume his or her own destiny. Parents cannot live their child’s life; they can only be there to support the child as he or she grows. As Kahlil Gibran writes, “For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
In the case of the child Jesus, his “house of tomorrow” was to become “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
“When fathers refuse to live the lives of their children for them, new and unexpected vistas open up. Every child is the bearer of a unique mystery that can only be brought to light with the help of a father who respects that child’s freedom. A father who realizes that he is most a father and educator at the point when he becomes ‘useless,’ when he sees that his child has become independent and can walk the paths of life unaccompanied.” –Pope Francis
Saint Joseph, help me to always respect the autonomy of the children in my life. Amen.
Image credit: Corinne SIMON/CIRIC