My uncle whom we fondly call Daddy Toto passed away recently. Diagnosed with a second stage liver cancer last October, it became so malignant and uncontrollable that by January he was a terminal case. At past one o’clock in the morning of February 22, I gave him the last sacrament. By past three o’clock he was gone.
All his life he loved his wife and his children. But he was not showy about it. He was a typical dad: disciplinarian, strict and rarely shows affection. He believed in tough love. Being a policeman, he trained his children also to be tough and strong. Seldom did he show signs of weakness. Men are not supposed to cry. But I saw him cry in his last days. He too had a soft side and gentle heart he would never reveal in public.
During his wake, her only daughter disclosed that his dad specifically instructed her to be strong “for the sake of her mom.” Not only was she close to her dad, she also inherited his character and his toughness. She revealed she cried so much in secret but showed a façade of strength and courage because her dad told her so. But deep in her heart, she was convinced of his love. Her dad had feelings too.
This loss reminded me of my dad’s demise almost two years ago. When Holy Week comes around it gives me a heavy heart. My dad breathed his last past six o’clock on a Holy Thursday, March 24. While the priests in all different churches stooped down to silently wash the feet of the disciples to remember Jesus, my dad silently returned to his creator. He brought to heaven our pledges of love I and my mom gave him at his final hour. I fervently hope God had been merciful to him and give him now eternal bliss.
The Church honors Jesus’ Dad – St. Joseph, on March 19. Though Jesus must have been a “Mama’s boy” because of the length of their togetherness. He equally loved his foster dad who adopted him like his own child. Legally, Jesus was Joseph’s son since he was married to Mary. Scripture is silent about St. Joseph. He uttered no word but his silence speaks volumes. He too had a tremendous role in the history of salvation like Mary.
John Paul II in 1989 wrote an apostolic exhortation on St. Joseph “Redemptoris custos” (Guardian of the Redeemer). The Pope masterfully explains the person and vocation of Joseph presenting him as a model of a loving father. Even Pope Francis is a great admirer of this saint by incorporating in his coat of arms a flower used to symbolize St. Joseph. He even chose March 19 as the date of his Papal inaugural Mass. Many are named after him among them the Archbishop of Cebu, Jose S. Palma, DD who will celebrated his birthday on March 19.
Among the many qualities we can learn from him are three things: his work, his prayer and his focus on his family. These are practical things any father today can imitate from Jesus’ Dad.
He was a working man. Being entrusted with God’s precious treasures did not mean waiting lazily from God’s providence. Instead, he provided his family from the sweat of his brow. His honest work as a carpenter made him an asset to the community. He valued work and even trained Jesus in this craft though he would be more than a carpenter. Work became his expression of his love.
He was a prayerful man. It was his relationship with God that defined him. Joseph gave importance to his interior life. His work was evident and observable. But his inner life went deep and profound. Because he was in daily contact with the mystery who dwelt upon his roof, he was in constant contemplation. This prayerfulness nourished his submission to God in obedience and his readiness to dedicate his life for God’s purpose.
He was a family man. He loved Mary more than his life and accepted Jesus as his own son. He was a father and a husband whose only thought was to serve Jesus and Mary. He gave his life to love, provide and protect his family. He lived only for them.
Though Joseph was a man with few words, his witness was amazingly loud. His courageous faith was constant and his selfless love was shown by embracing his vocation unconditionally. Just as the seed that falls to the ground and dies, his life was a continuous silent sacrifice for God and his family.
(This Article also appears in my Column “Sharing the Word,” Cebu Daily News, March 8, 2018)