Mind Matters

by Rev. Robert H. Tucker

Number 274
December 15, 1997

No Longer Plaster Saints


No longer are Joseph and Mary plaster saints. That change took place because of the race back to the city park in northern Italy to find our young daughter, whom we had inadvertently left behind. Two vans with two families and seven kids floating in and out of each in ever-changing combinations made it easy for a child to get lost. That situation also makes it easy for me to understand how, in a caravan of families returning to Nazareth following a visit to Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph did not realize their twelve year old son was missing. I now shared with them that heart-pounding anxiety and fear-laden premonition while speedily returning to find one's missing child. Our daughter was missing for a half hour, their son for three days. Mary is recorded as saying, "All generations will call me blessed," but for Protestants, who cling so tightly to the Bible as the "very Word of God," Mary's assertion was never really followed. Not so for Roman Catholics. The Madonna is central both to devotion and to theology (her bodily assumption into heaven was made dogma in 1950, and it was then assumed that it was only a matter of time until she became co-redeemer [along with Jesus] of the human race). But since we humans often define ourselves over against our 'enemies,' we Protestants seldom mentioned Joseph and Mary, except in Christmas carols.

I began to read their story in light of the travails common to us humans: an out-of-wedlock pregnancy; a man willing to overlook the scandal and adopt the child; living with the threat of the infant's death and the reality of his early adult death; bringing disgrace on the family by his making a public spectacle of himself; and that awful, fearsome anguish of a child lost. Flesh and blood, anguish and yearning replaced the plaster.

What connects us humans, at the deepest level, is not our talents and successes, but our needs and failures. Hearing a person tell of the latest accomplishment of a child, competency on the golf course, professional prowess, or good deeds leaves the listener defensive or hostile.

But to sit with another and to mutually share anxieties and failures builds the bridges of our common humanity. For that reason, 12-step programs and group therapy are so effective. For that reason, we need people with whom we can take off our masks and begin to meet each other as individuals. For that reason, I now honor Joseph and Mary who, in the midst of life's travails, endured, and helped give the world a God we address in family terms.

--Robert H. Tucker
15 December 1997

© Robert H. Tucker, 1997.
Go to Mind Matters Table of Contents Page.
Go to Bob and Maggi Tucker's Homepage.