His life was both ordinary and exceptional -- an ideal example for all men.
Although St. Joseph’s story is quite exceptional, he can rightly be taken as a model by all fathers. In the Holy Family, in fact, “Joseph is the father: his fatherhood is not one that derives from begetting offspring; but neither is it an ‘apparent’ or merely ‘substitute’ fatherhood. Rather, it is one that fully shares in authentic human fatherhood and the mission of a father in the family” (Apostolic Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, St. John Paul II, August 15, 1989, § 21).
Joseph is a true father: Even if Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, and not of a conjugal union with Mary, the fact remains that Joseph is not a semblance of a father, an appearance of a father.
St. John Paul II goes on to say that this very real fatherhood is “a consequence of the hypostatic union: humanity taken up into the unity of the Divine Person of the Word-Son, Jesus Christ. Together with human nature, all that is human, and especially the family—as the first dimension of man’s existence in the world—is also taken up in Christ. Within this context, Joseph’s human fatherhood was also ‘taken up’ in the mystery of Christ’s Incarnation.”
Moreover, Mary herself, who knows better than anyone else that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit, speaks of Joseph by saying: “Your father” (Luke 2:48).Notes St. John Paul II, “This is no conventional phrase: Mary’s words to Jesus show the complete reality of the Incarnation present in the mystery of the Family of Nazareth.”
Joseph fully exercised his mission as educator with Jesus. He “had the important task of ‘raising’ Jesus, that is, feeding, clothing and educating him in the Law and in a trade, in keeping with the duties of a father,” St. John Paul II adds.
Here again, this is a very important aspect of the mystery of the Incarnation: fully God, Jesus did not ‘pretend’ to be a man. He really had to go through the stages of growth of every human being: He really grew “in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and people” (Luke 2:52).
Joseph is open to God’s will
Father of an exceptional child, St. Joseph did not believe that he was exempt from his educational mission. He was open to God’s will: whether it was to take Mary, who was pregnant, as his wife, into his home to face the birth of Jesus in conditions that were uncomfortable to say the least, or fleeing from Herod’s murderous madness, St. Joseph welcomed the unexpected, even the incomprehensible, with a peaceful heart.
He is a reminder to all fathers that, while it is important to plan, organize, and manage one’s affairs “as a good father,” one must know how to renounce all these beautiful projects in order to follow God’s will, however confusing it may be. And never worry because God knows better than anyone what each family needs.
Joseph shows that work is an expression of love
Joseph is a worker: He shows us that work is (or should be) an expression of love. Among everything that Joseph taught Jesus, “the virtue of industriousness played a notable role,” explains St. John Paul II. St. Joseph, more than any other, sanctified work. He reminds us that the value of work is not measured by the money it brings but by the love that is put into it.
And there is no doubt that he, who had the joy of exercising a profession and the pride of teaching it to his son, is particularly close to the distress of fathers without work, who feel the humiliation of unemployment and the anguish of an uncertain future.
Joseph reminds us that it is enough to do one’s duty by relying totally on God
Joseph is humble: He does not take pride in having been chosen to be the father of the Son of God, but neither does he take refuge behind an alleged “unworthiness.” He could have felt crushed by the task at hand, refusing it claiming, “I can’t do it.” But Joseph is not centered on himself, he does not rely on his own strength: he expects everything from God.
He does what God asks of him, in all confidence. He has no “complexes” about Jesus: he takes his place as a father, with authority, because it is his place. He reminds us that it is enough to do one’s duty, very humbly, very simply, every day, without worrying about one’s own limits, and instead relying totally on God. He invites fathers to take their place as fathers, without shyness, without any qualms, because this is the place God has entrusted to them.