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  • Writer's picturePhil


being good parents

Within a year of being published, "The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care" by Doctor Benjamin Spock sold 750,000 copies. It was the most-influential manual of its time in in the post-war period. Spock acknowledged how tiresome child care can be. He recognised that every baby is different, and encouraged parents to trust their own instincts and common sense.

In an age of increasing household appliances and disposable nappies, he advised that parents would have more time to spend in cuddling their babies. Many Baby-boomers were brought up according to the Gospel of Spock; I am a “Spock” Baby – so need I say more as to its success?

By the late 1960s however, Spock faced criticism for condoning an overly-permissive parenting style; and the blame was laid at his door for the counterculture of the 1960s.

Manuals and parenting gurus are all very well, but the reality is that no-one can prepare you for what it’s going to be like to be a parent. No one child is ever the same as another. Each takes unique handling; each needs a different sort of care.

The Child chosen by God for Mary and Joseph to parent

was and is a “one off”!

I guess that parenting this Child was especially tricky for Joseph.

Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus,

nevertheless he took Jesus into his life and home.

It is through Joseph that Matthew traces Jesus’ heritage

all the way back to David.

With courage Joseph took Mary to be his wife;

and Joseph was the one who named Jesus

according to the instruction of the angel, says Matthew (chapter 1).

Joseph was the first human face

to which Jesus would have said, “Abba”, “Daddy”;

and Jesus’s understanding of His Heavenly Father

came to Him as He observed the way in which Joseph cared for Him.

Joseph would have taught Jesus how to recite the “Shema, Israel” (Deut. 8);

Joseph was the one who taught Him to pray,

who took Him to the Synagogue at Nazareth,

the same Synagogue where the mature Jesus,

at the beginning of His Ministry,

told those who had known Him only as “The Carpenter’s Son”

that He was The One to fulfil Isaiah's prophecy (Isaiah 61 / Luke 4).

Joseph taught Jesus his trade of carpentry, working with wood.

Jesus was later to develop his wood-skills

in fashioning our salvation in the wood of the Cross.

Joseph’s faith and his righteousness was the role-model

that helped to fashion God’s Son, Jesus;

Jesus’s humanity from Mary AND Joseph.

ON THE FEAST OF THE PRESENTATION OF JESUS we glimpse Mary and Joseph doing what all Jewish parents would have done, presenting their Son in the Temple, offering their Baby prayerfully to God.

Mikveh on the Temple Mount, Jerusalem.

The Book of Common Prayer entitles this feast "The Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary" - and the Gospel reading opens with "When the days of her purification , according to the law of Moses, were accomplished...." so presumably before they went into the Temple, Mary would have ritually-bathed in the Mikveh, as required of her as a new Jewish Mother in Leviticus 12. Then she and Joseph would have made the customary offering of those who were not able to afford to offer a lamb, that of two doves or two pigeons.

What was an ordinary practice turned extra-ordinary. Suddenly two strangers declare “This is no ordinary Child” say both Simeon and Anna. “A Sword will pierce your heart also….” promises Simeon to Mary. Fulfilment was to come when, at the foot of the Cross, Our Lady of Sorrows was received into the care of Saint John. “Mother, behold your Son” - “Son, behold your Mother”.

Mary was the first to show Jesus to the World. If we are to follow the example of this first Christian, we too must act as parent rather than as child in our proclamation of Jesus.

Mary, being a parent, would do anything for her Child;

we too are called to have that kind of parental devotion for Christ.

Mary, being a parent, did everything she could to make sure her Child grew and flourished; we too are called to do everything we can to ensure that Christ flourishes in our time.

Joseph, being a parent, took Jesus into his life and home. We too are called to have that same care of Christ, and to receive Him into our hearts and homes.

We are called, not just to be children of God, but to take the responsibility of parenthood in our care and nurture of Jesus.

We in Christ’s Hands,

but Christ is in our hands too.

May He be born in us today and every day;

and may we present Jesus as proudly

as did Mary and Joseph.

Hail Joseph, passed over among men,

Generations shall rise and say: ‘Who’s he?’

But listen – I have a history, a family, a name,

All I wanted, is what most men want,

to take my place, to play my part …

Not such a vanity, I don’t think,

just what any man might ask, that my children would recite my name in the genealogy,

that when they told the story they would tell my part,

when they gave thanks – it would also be for me!

Hail Joseph, blessed among men.

I hardly knew Mary, she was young and I was older

The way things were we didn’t mix much;

She was shy at the ceremony – shy and veiled.

When they told me, I didn’t shout and scream,

I didn’t want to kick the dust up into a great cloud of shame,

It just wasn’t what I felt,

I felt only that tremendous weariness a man feels

when something good has been lost, a sadness too deep for tears,

a wound too deep for words;

I felt a need to turn within myself, a need to hide,

I longed for the nights and the soft, sweet oblivion of sleep.

Hail Joseph, blessed among men.

It was at night, the angel spoke to me,

All fire and feathers, like an angel should be,

beautiful and wild, and strong

The Angel said: "Joseph, the child is God’s,

don’t be afraid, Joseph, the child is a Holy Ghost child;

don’t be ashamed, don’t be afraid!"

Hail Joseph, blessed among men.

Should I not stand with childless Abraham

and with all these fathers of the nation,

and all of whom were impotent to kindle life sometimes

But unlike them, the power of the promise didn’t flow out

through my veins, or through my sex.

I am the man God set aside,

the man God did not need to light this light,

the man God could not use to fire this fuse.

(I didn’t even get to choose the name)

I lost all this, I lost my place in time and this instead,

this unsought gift which comes not through my loins,

but through my hands and heart and head.

This comes instead – the power to care

and raise this boy-child up to be a different kind of man …

And to be a different man myself …

Hail Joseph, blessed among men.

Let this same mind be in you which was also in Joseph,

Who did not think equality with God something to be snatched at,

But humbled himself, taking the form of a carer,

He was obedient before the gift of life,

Even life given without the help of a man….

Hail Joseph, Godfather of God.

(I cannot find the source of this piece - if anybody can enlighten me I would be glad to hear)

“Have you no pride?”, said the voice in his head,

“make her pay the price.

She’s shown you up as a silly old fool,

it doesn’t pay to be nice.”

The Mary he knew was not like that,

he couldn’t understand,

he wouldn’t purge her with the law

nor put her in the judge’s hands. John Morgan

Lord Jesus Christ,

we journey with you in prayer…...

Son of Mary: consecrate our homes.

Son of David: cleanse our politics.

Son of God: grant us eternal life.

Jesus the Carpenter: hallow our daily work.

Jesus the Saviour: save us from ourselves.

Jesus the Life-giver: renew your Church.

Jesus the Crucified: reveal your love and power to all who suffer.

Jesus the King: raise us to live and reign with you for ever.

Jesus the Word of God: perfect your creation

and bring the world to the knowledge of your love.

Jesus – be our companion and our guide. Amen.

God our Father, who from the family of your servant David raised up Joseph the carpenter to be the guardian of your incarnate Son and husband of the Blessèd Virgin Mary: give us grace to follow him in faithful obedience to your commands; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Mikvah photo - Mike Mason:

Icons - Michael D.O'Brien, Canadian author and artist;

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