Our culture is in somewhat of a crisis these days regarding our concept of what makes a man. And, I’m not talking about who can use which bathroom, or what an individual “identifies” as, but about what makes a man truly manly.
There was a campaign on Facebook a few years ago called “Real Men Don’t Buy Girls.” There are memes of celebrities (a lot of them men) making statements about treating women with dignity. There is a real, felt push-back against the way women are objectified—in the media, our president, in the horrors of human trafficking and prostitution, and in everyday lives like our own. Now, I will own that some of the progress the world has made in seeing women as human beings with intelligence, ability, dignity, grace and value are continually undermined by women offering themselves as objects for ogling and devaluing. But, still…it’s 2017 and the world apparently needs celebrities to us that we shouldn’t purchase other human beings.
Today is the Feast of St. Joseph. After reading today’s Gospel, I’m having a serious case of respect for this guy and his response to God’s call to protect the dignity of his bride and the safety of her son—not his son—hers. When he found out that the girl he was set to marry was already pregnant, and he knew it wasn’t his kid, he had every right to expose her to shame and even to the possibility of stoning. He could have ruined or even taken her life and the life of her child. But, he didn’t. He trusted that what he was told to him in a dream was true—that this was God’s doing and that he had been chosen to protect and care for these two. And he said “Yes.”
Who does that? People go on “reality” TV shows and publicly humiliate and destroy those that they claim to love and yet have no confidence in their ability to be faithful to them. It’s a freak show out there. And, while there was no TV in Jesus’ time, Joseph could have done the equivalent. But, he didn’t.
The model Joseph gives to men of gentleness, faithfulness, trust and responsibility is as much needed now as it was back then. He loved and honored Mary and Jesus. He worked hard to support her and Jesus as best he could (which did not bring them gobs of money or any real material comfort, but he didn’t just sit on his butt and do nothing because the pay scale was beneath him). And the sacrifices that he made for his family echoed out in our Salvation, as well as continuing to be an example for us today. Joseph should be held up by men and women alike: men for a model of how to live respect and uphold the dignity of others (specifically women and children) and women for how they should expect to be treated (not forgetting, of course, that we have our own model in Mary of devotion, gentleness, personal dignity and great love). You can have all the muscles, good looks and stuff in the world–and those things are not bad–but to be honorable, respectful, kind and dignified; that’s truly manly.
I’m just saying…if we looked to Joseph (as an average, run of the mill dude) for how to treat one another, maybe we wouldn’t need celebrities to tell us not to buy girls.