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Day 16: Monday of the 3rd Week of Ordinary Time

As a father, what did Joseph teach Jesus when Jesus was a teenager?


Our third week of Nazareth focuses on Jesus as a teenager as we unpack Luke 2:52, “And Jesus advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” Today we ask: “As a father, what did Joseph teach Jesus when Jesus was a teenager?”

On day 10 we were reminded that a father has a God-given role in a person’s life. His role is intentional and critical. Pope John Paul II reminded us: “In this family, 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.” (25) Blessed John Paul II continues: “The growth of Jesus ‘in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man’ (Luke 2:52) took place within the Holy Family under the eyes of Joseph, who 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.” (26)

What are the “duties of a father” that Pope John Paul II speaks of? Certainly Joseph would have provided the Holy Family with “feeding [and] clothing”. However, St. Joseph was charged with “educating him in the Law” and teaching Jesus “a trade”. Essentially St. Joseph mentored Jesus when Jesus was a teenager.

During his teenage years, a son transitions from being a boy to being a man. To become a man, a boy must learn how to “put aside childish things” (1st Corinthians 13:11). A boy must lay aside his vices and choose to grow in virtue; he must choose to leave the self-centered world of childhood and choose to start living for others as men do; he must learn how to integrate his sexuality and all that puberty brings; he must learn how to defend himself, provide, and discern the good. Thus, a father’s role is very different during the teenage life of a boy as it is in the teenage life of a girl. Under God’s design, a father is the guide during these essential years for a son. A father serves as a seasoned source of wisdom, mirroring for the boy that which he strives for and mentoring the boy as he grows in these essential qualities.

Jesus didn’t have to figure it out on his own. He saw these things in Joseph. Joseph imaged true manhood for the teenage Jesus. If you want to know what St. Joseph was like, look at Jesus as a man. There’s a lot of St. Joseph in Jesus.

If a son doesn’t have a father to show him the way then a boy will either look elsewhere or try to figure it out himself. If he looks elsewhere he may find a father figure who can do what his father was supposed to do. However, far too often these examples are lacking. Thus, most fatherless sons are raised more by the culture than they are by God. Further still, if boys try to figure it out on their own, there’s no guarantee that their own determinations will bear the real fruit of authentic manhood. Teenage boys are supposed to have an image to look to. And, of course, teenage girls are supposed to have an image to look to.

Who taught you how to be a man or a woman? Did the right someone really mentor you? Was there someone to look to? How much did you learn from the culture; how much did you try to figure out on your own? The good news is 2nd Corinthians 6:18 reminds us: “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” God can still father you if you allow him. St. Joseph can still teach you if you allow him. Mary can still teach you if you allow her. Spend some time with Joseph and Mary and let them be an image for you.


Jesus would have grown to be very, very familiar with the rich tradition of the Old Testament. Imagine Jesus looking at St. Joseph and seeing in St. Joseph Exodus 20:12,Proverbs 23:22, and Psalm 1:2-3. Imagine St. Joseph looking at Jesus and seeing in JesusPsalms 127:3-5Proverbs 22:6, and Proverbs 23:24. Now, once again today read Psalm 37:1-7. Read it a few times. Pay attention to what words or phrases “tug” at your heart. Pay attention to all of your thoughts, feelings, and desires as you slowly read the text. Ask yourself, what do you really desire?

Now, prayerfully imagine the “hidden scenes” of Nazareth: Joseph teaching Jesus, “educating him in the Law” as Pope John Paul II says; Joseph teaching Jesus, “a trade” as Pope John Paul II says. Imagine St. Joseph mentoring Jesus how to be man. Be there. Bewith them. As you are with them, they turn to you. They ask you: ”What’s on your heart today?” What do you want to tell them? Listen to what they say in reply.

Today’s Prayer: “Jesus, I desire to know you in a deeply personal way. Help me to grow in my relationship with you by desiring to be a man like St. Joseph or a woman like the Blessed Mother.”

(25) Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, no. 21
(26) Ibid., no. 16

© Fr. Mark Toups, 2012. Expressed written permission required for duplication.

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