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The Year of St. Joseph - A Working Father

Matthew 13:55 says of Jesus: “Is this not the carpenter’s son?” The work translated as carpenter is tekton in Greek, which can designate various kinds of skilled craftsmen. (Our English terms like “technician” and “technology” come from the same root.) A tekton can work in wood, metal, or stone. Long tradition back to at least St. Justin Martyr (d. 165) associates Joseph with woodcraft.

As such, Joseph was not simply a laborer; he may have operated a shop with several employees and likely had rather wealthy clients. In any case, it is likely that Jesus would have helped in this work, learning his father’s trade as well as the business side of the work. There is an intriguing hint of this in John 5:19, where Jesus answers his critics after the healing on the sabbath: “ … a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also.” In John’s typical fashion, there is both an earthly and heavenly reference here: Jesus speaks of His years watching Joseph, and also of His eternal life with the Father.

Whatever Joseph’s situation, we all know the reality of work – labor that is physical, intellectual, spiritual, relational. While Genesis implies that labor became burdensome toil as a consequence of the Fall, our work is itself redeemed by Christ’s death and resurrection to become again a share in God’s care for creation – what we mean by the term “stewardship.” Joseph the father, working alongside the eternal Son of God, no doubt experienced this transformation of work: not simply toil to provide daily bread, but cooperating with the Word through Whom all things were made. In that tekton’s shop, work was returned to an intimate partnership with God.

When have you experienced your work as a share in God’s care for what He has created in love?

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