By Albert Thyrniang
Last weekend, the Catholic Church, the Orthodox Churches, the Anglican Church and some members of the Lutheran Church venerated Saint Joseph, the legal husband of Mary and the adoptive father of Jesus. Information about the first-century Jewish saint is drawn from the First Gospel (Matthew), Third Gospel (Luke), patristic writings, and “not entirely reliable” apocryphal literature. The encyclical letters of the Popes and the official document of the Church are also a source of reflection. Considering the makeup of the state’s population, the appearance of “Yosef” (in Hebrew) might be appropriate.
Joseph’s first virtue is to be a “just man”. This is the implicit quality set forth by Scripture. After the wedding, which presumably took place in Nazareth, before their union, Mary already had a child. In shock, “Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wishing to shame her, resolved to put her away quietly” (Matthew 1:19).
“Just” means “just”, “right”, “virtuous” or simply “good”. Through his kindness, he spared Mary shame and saved her from stoning, according to the custom of the time, for having an “affair” outside of marriage. Many of us Church leaders were in the pulpit last March 19, the feast day referred to, the significance of which supersedes the sobriety of the season of Lent, and perhaps we even pronounced thoughtful sermons on the implications. Perhaps, for listeners too, the impact of the “protector of the universal Church” comes to an end once they pass through the doors of the Church. Do we deserve to be called ‘righteous’, ‘righteous’, ‘righteous’ and ‘virtuous’?
To be ‘fair’ also means to be ‘honest’. The most visible challenge to honesty concerns financial matters. Undoubtedly, there is secrecy and non-transparency in its treatment. The money, much of which is cash, is managed by pastoralists, in many cases individually. Responsibility is obscure. This is not a wild sighting. Feedback comes from the public. Many worried members are wondering what to do with this anomaly. Should they choose to be whistleblowers or should they continue to be silent, repressing their conscience? I was told that during a discussion on the “Synodality of the Church”, lay people asked: “Why are we asked to be good? Look at the priests! Are they there to do business?
In the classical language, the Latin “to be just” is “suum cuique” which means “to each his own” or “that all get their due”. Joseph did justice to his work. He fulfilled his responsibilities to protect Mary and Jesus and provide for them. At the same meeting, participants observed that “priests and nuns are mainly in schools. They no longer visit villages and homes. They even refuse to administer to the sick and dying. Being in schools is lucrative. They do not do justice to their vocation.
We have witnessed the exodus of 12 deputies from Congress. The five remaining congressional lawmakers moved to the ruling camp in defiance of their party’s diktat. It is an acknowledgment of their inability to deliver justice as representatives of the opposition. They claim that once they supported the MDA government, their constituents benefited. This means that the government is unfair to the opposition. But should it be so? If the opposition does not point out this injustice, then who will? Why were they a mother for four years? For their inability to do justice to their role, they chose the easy way out.
In a video, Ampareen Lyngdoh was heard saying, “We are now (after joining the MDA government) in a better place. Civil servants (bureaucrats) look at us differently”, which implies that more projects and projects for their constituencies are allocated and approved in the offices. It’s quite disturbing. Why should bureaucrats favor only MPs from governing parties? Bureaucrats are expected to implement programs across the state, whether the area falls under the jurisdiction of a ruling or opposition party deputy. Also, if bureaucrats are indifferent to opposition MPs, what about ordinary citizens? Bureaucrats cannot be dictated by politics. They must serve ordinary people. If bureaucrats only help the most powerful and influential individuals, then it is the duty of the opposition to press charges.
These days we are witnessing the most egregious form of dishonesty – hypocrisy. The United States proclaims that it is against Russia for invading Ukraine. But it was the United States that pushed Russia and Ukraine into war. The most powerful nation brought NATO to the doorstep of the geographically largest country. Should the Russian leader watch as the West threatens his safety and security? More importantly, the United States has earned tons of dollars from the destruction in Ukraine. Even as Ukrainian children and citizens die, US defense stocks have soared in the market. Public and private defense companies – manufacturing weapons and bombs – will make windfall profits from the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. Who said that the United States and the West wanted peace? War is good business.
The United States and Western countries condemn Russia for the atrocities in Ukraine, but they themselves have perpetrated far greater atrocities in Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq and elsewhere. FIFA and UEFA banned all Russian sports. Why did the associations not exercise their authority against the serial invader and perpetrator of atrocities, the United States? The same goes for economic sanctions.
Saint Joseph is a model for workers. He was a tekton, that is to say a mechanic in general or a carpenter in particular. Saint Justin chose this last interpretation which was accepted by the Church. This is why Jesus is called the “carpenter’s son” in the Gospels. The holy craftsman born in Bethlehem earned his living in the city of David through his profession. He supported his family when he later moved to Nazareth, Egypt, and eventually back to Nazareth, along with his business. In 1955, in response to Communist-sponsored “May Day” celebrations for workers, the Church instituted the feast of St. Joseph to emphasize the dignity of human labor and to teach that “work is to develop our talents and our abilities, to put at the service of society… and of the family.
Saint Joseph was a skilled carpenter. He passed on his skills to his son, Jesus. The need today is the acquisition of skills. Unemployment is now aggravated by the lack of skills among young people. Many educated unemployed people are probably unskilled and untrained. They can be graduates or post-graduates in general disciplines holding a BA, B.Com, B.Sc, MA, M.Com, M.Sc but unemployed. Jobs for these categories are saturated. Even professionals who have earned an MBA, MBBS, or nursing courses are struggling. Today, therefore, there is no other way than to switch to competence-based education.
We could also ask unemployed BA, B.Com, B.Sc, MA, M.Com, M.Sc passers-by if they are sufficiently proficient in general language and arithmetic skills, i.e. speaking, reading, writing and calculate. In my limited experience, during interviews for teaching positions and other interactions, these basic skills are sorely lacking. If young people have these necessary skills, I believe there is no shortage of jobs. Of course, I’m not talking about government jobs. The government cannot provide jobs for all of its citizens. Even if the booking policy is overhauled, little difference will be felt. Private companies, corporations, online jobs, social media jobs make more money than government jobs.
Speaking of communication skills, we were embarrassed by some ministers during the budget session. Urban Affairs Minister Sniawbhalang Dhar did not seem to understand the questions posed by Umroi MP George Lyngdoh and kept repeating the same answer over and over again. Worse still was the response from Sports Minister Banteidor Lyngdoh: “The National Games are not going anywhere in our state. If not this year, maybe next year or maybe next year, but the state will definitely host the National Games. It was a comedy! The minister also had no idea what would happen to the infrastructure (still to be built) after the games were over. Obviously, some ministers do not have the knowledge and skills to fill this position. But we are helpless. Political pre-requisite no particular skill. It’s not a job.
St. Joseph was supposed to be much older than Mary when they got married. Unreliable sources suggest Joseph was in his 80s or even 90s when Mary was around 15. The Catholic Church teaches that the two had a chaste marriage. Marie had sworn to be a virgin. Joseph never raped her. He respected his dignity.
Rape, abuse and exploitation today question the mentality towards women. Women are seen as sex objects. Abominable abuses are also committed by men of the Church against women and children. One of the current trends worldwide is Sugar-Daddy-Sugar-Baby relationships/services. Websites are available. Older, wealthy men pay for young women’s college and university expenses in exchange for sexual favors. Recently, a university principal told an assembly that there were a lot of sugar daddies in the city of Guwahati. The situation at Shillong is unknown. A few years ago some young girls came to Shillong at the behest of politicians. Although women are capable of achieving their goals, sugar daddy and sugar baby activities are a form of sexual exploitation.
Joseph can provide a lot of inspiration but space constraint forces me to rest my case here today.