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Your Parent or Guardian

Your Parent or Guardian

Monday, March 19, 2014 – Feast of St. Joseph

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today’s scripture readings.]

Today’s Readings for the Daily Office:

Psalms 132 (morning) // 34 (evening)

Isaiah 63:7-16

Matthew 1:18-25

Not every primary caregiver of a child fits the limited definition of “parent”. I was raised by both of my biological parents, but I remember many permission slips from school that had to be signed by a “parent or guardian.” Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Joseph and all those entrusted with the care of children—those “guardians” and others who fulfill a parental mission, whether they meet the technical criteria or not.

One major narrative arc and line of character development in our Scriptures is the slow realization that fatherhood is not what God, or we, expect. Our first reading from Isaiah describes the naiveté of God toward his people: “For he said, ‘Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely’; and he became their savior in all their distress.” God believed that his children would know and trust him, and he did whatever it took to intervene in all their troubles.

However, God’s people “rebelled and grieved his holy spirit,” and soon Father and children treated one another as enemies. Only after a period of suffering do the Father and children seek reconciliation and return. Finally, the people acknowledge, “you, O Lord, are our father,” whom they turn to for life and liberation.

Just as God learns to be a life-giving and liberating father to all the world’s people, St. Joseph learns to claim a rejected child as his own. In our gospel reading, Joseph has just discovered that his fiancée is pregnant. He has enough tact to keep the scandal hushed up, but he does plan to break his engagement. However, an angel visits Joseph and tells him, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In other words, the child may not be biologically his, but the child is certainly God’s. And so Joseph marries his mother and raises Jesus as his own.

Today, we give thanks for all people who have claimed God’s many children as their own, and who have let go of their expectations along their path to faithful parenthood. It takes a lot of risk, reflection, and reconciliation to abandon expectations and the constraints of technical definitions of who is and is not a “parent”.

As God our Father discovered in the garden of Eden and ever since, children can’t be saved from their every distress, and they rebel against their providers. And as Joseph, the earthly father of Jesus, learned, parenting has much less to do with genetics than with recognizing someone else as a child of God, and then claiming them as our life’s charge. For all of the life-givers and liberators who are guardians of God’s children, we give thanks today.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul’s in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

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