Productive Obscurity

No matter the occupation, most workers have one thing in common; they spend their workdays in obThe Youth of Our Lord John Herbertscurity.  The plumber, the trash hauler, the cable installer and the short-order cook, are rarely the subject of news headlines. To be sure when our sewer is backed up, when the internet and television stop working, when the trash piles up or we are ravenously hungry, then we are keenly aware of their contributions. But otherwise, their day to day efforts do not rate notice as opposed to the professional athlete, Hollywood celebrity or even a powerful politician whose every move is considered noteworthy.

Today, May 1st is the Feast of Saint Joseph the Worker. Joseph spent his days in his workshop quietly doing the work of a Tekton (often translated as a Carpenter). A Tekton worked in any hard material, wood, stone or metal. Tradition (small “t”) speaks of his skill as a craftsman, a skill he handed on to his (foster)son Jesus.

But beyond being a skilled craftsman, Joseph’s life was, for the most part, lived in obscurity. He was among the working poor, that class of people who live their lives unnoticed by the rich and powerful. But there was a reason for this obscurity, an important, vital purpose whose success had eternal ramifications for all of all us.

Joseph’s plainness provided the perfect camouflage for God’s Plan of Salvation. A virgin shall give birth to the Messiah!

Mary’s pregnancy would have drawn notice, and people have always liked to talk. Herod sought to kill the King of Kings and word would have eventually got back to him. But Joseph took her into his home, they were after all espoused, this concealed the Divine Incarnation from prying eyes. They fled to Egypt but even upon their return years later, Joseph’s simple work life concealed the God-Man from His enemies, both the mortal and the demonic.

The obscurity afforded by honest hard work kept Jesus hidden until it was time for Him to reveal Himself. It provided for the necessities of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph and helped foster the Father’s Plan.

The quiet dignity of simple work proved to be the most powerful solution to the machinations of the mightiest powers of Earth and Hell. This truth we should keep in mind as we too go about our labors. If we offer our efforts up to God, we too may play a part in bringing about some small part of God’s Plan.

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