In honor of the feast of St. Joseph on March 19, we share this reflection on how Joseph may have influenced Jesus’ teaching example in Matthew 11:28–30.
Jesus and I played together as boys in the streets of Nazareth. I liked to run to the carpenter’s shop to watch his dad skillfully construct all kinds of things out of wood.
Joseph mastered the yoke so necessary to guide oxen in the fields. They fit each animal perfectly. Joseph would custom-design a yoke for a farmer’s specific animals. Joseph measured height and shoulder width so that the yokes allowed oxen to work comfortably together. Under a well-constructed yoke, they could work easily as a team. People from all over came to Joseph for the best yokes.
That was the skill that Jesus and I watched between games and scuffles long ago.
I now live in Capernaum. Everything seems to be going wrong for me lately. Why? The law feels like a burden. How can I pray when all I see are troubles? We are barely making it; our savings are gone.
I went to the village to find some solutions, and there was my childhood friend, preaching. I paused and melted into the crowd, listening as he praised God his Father. He talked about how God hid things from the learned and wise but revealed them to childlike souls.
Jesus made eye contact with me, the corners of his mouth turning up just slightly, and I felt as if our childhood days suddenly came to mind, inspiring him.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens,” he said, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me.”
I could almost smell the sawdust and hear the sandpaper swooshing across the wood as his father silently coaxed it into shape. I suddenly remembered Jesus’ mother coming out to us in the carpentry shop, bringing a pitcher of water and offering each of us a drink. Joseph would pause, wiping the sweat from his face with his sleeve, and lovingly peck Mary on the cheek before downing the water in one gulp.
There was an intangible something special about this family. Still it was hard for me to accept the rumors circulating that Jesus was the Messiah.
His words riveted me to the spot. “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light,” Jesus said, looking at me again. It was as if he could see my inner struggles, my overwhelmed life. My hunched shoulders suddenly lifted.
Of course, Jesus learned how to make a yoke from his father. Now he was preaching about a light yoke. Could my old playmate really carry off my concerns? Could he really be God’s anointed one?
Hearing Jesus gave me courage. My mind remembered inspiring words from the Torah. Yes, God can get me through these difficulties. I felt renewed hope.
I went to the village looking for temporary solutions to temporal problems. I came home with a longer-term solution: reliance on the providence of God.