Mark and I often reflect on what a diverse family our two grandchildren George and Sofia have been born into. They live with their mummy as a tight knit unit of three, but their family is wonderfully so much more than that. They have us as two gay granddads for a start plus another granddad from Fiji and there are many more people besides! Now two of the three granddads are I suppose what one ought to call ‘Step’ grandparents but to the children they are just trusted men with whom there is mutual adoration and unconditional love.
Blood is certainly not thicker than water in this family. There is not one member of it that would not sacrifice everything for these two children, and I can’t help thinking that there are parallels with our situation and the relationship between Jesus and Joseph.
We read in St Matthew’s Gospel that Joseph, the betrothed of Mary, was intending to dismiss her quietly when he learned of her pregnancy, but decided to stick with it when, in a dream, an angel of the Lord told him it was all meant to be. It would all be okay! We don’t hear much at all about Joseph after that, but it is easy to get a picture of him as a strong but gentle man who does all he can to protect his family and he has become a pretty significant part of our Christian narrative.
There is no doubt in my mind that Joseph would have had an unconditional love for Jesus which was reciprocal. He will have played a huge part in the Jesus’ upbringing, influencing his personality and values, helping him to learn new skills, celebrating in his successes, consoling him when things didn’t go to plan and of course being there to guide him when he went astray; after all, children will be children, even Jesus!
Whether we are parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, godparents, teachers or friends, the children in our lives are a gift, a sign of God’s grace. They often see in us things we have never recognised ourselves and it seems to me that they possess a uniquely childlike honesty and intuition that is lost as we grow older and apparently wiser.
It is true, parenting in whatever capacity is sometimes frustrating and often pretty exhausting but mostly it is rewarding beyond measure. George’s speech is developing quickly and each time he is with us he has something new to say; recently, out of the blue I heard him say “Grandpa, what’re doing?” a very simple thing but I thought my heart would burst, that is God’s grace.
So, to return to my original point; blood isn’t thicker than water because at the end of the day we all belong to one family. And remember we have so much to learn from the children in our lives; as Jesus himself said “Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17); surely there is something in that for all of us.
Thank you to Paul Pritchard for this reflection in our St Joseph Novena, and indeed to all who have contributed.
Pray: For all, who like Joseph, nurture and care for children, whatever their relationships.
After a period of silence you may like to pray about any person or concern currently on your heart. And say our Novena Prayer.
Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,
Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
To you God entrusted his only Son;
in you Mary placed her trust;
with you Christ became man.
Blessed Joseph, to us too,
show yourself a father
and guide us in the path of life.
Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,
and defend us from every evil.
St Joseph, pray for us