“Ask a Priest: Are Mary and Joseph Considered Perfect?”

Q: I have some questions about Jesus in relation to his biological family here on Earth. If Jesus has been the only perfect person to exist in history, then what does the Church say about Mary and Joseph? I mean, Mary was chaste and Joseph helped to raise Jesus; then shouldn’t they be considered perfect, too? If not, was there anything wrong that Mary and Joseph did that Jesus did not do? How come the Bible does not go on to mention too much about Jesus’ early life? I do remember the story of him being found in the temple. There are also some other stories, but very little is known about Jesus’ early life, like his teenage and younger child years. Thank you for all your help. -P.S.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: Jesus is true God and true man. As God he is perfect in an infinite way. As man he is perfect in a human – and in a sense, limited — way. He didn’t travel to every corner of the world in order to heal people, for instance. His healing ministry was limited, but sufficient for his plans.

Mary is perfect in a human way, in that she was spared from original sin and never committed actual sin. Her perfection, great as it is, is still small compared with her divine Son’s. Humans can reflect God’s greatness in only a limited way.

Joseph wasn’t held to be perfect in the sense that he was sinless. He had original sin, for he wasn’t conceived immaculately as was Mary. We can only guess at Joseph’s actual sins, though he probably had them.

Scripture is relatively silent on Jesus’ childhood because, simply, that is the way God wanted it.

God inspired Scripture, which means he directed things so that only what he wanted in Scripture was put in. From the standpoint of faith, this means we don’t need to know many details about Jesus’ childhood in order to reach salvation. But what we do know – his birth in Bethlehem and his finding in the temple – are among the incidents that help us understand the humility of God-made-man.

You are asking good questions about your faith, by the way. It could be that the Holy Spirit is sparking in your soul a deeper interest in God’s plan for your life.

You might find it useful in this case to read more about Jesus, Mary and Joseph. A great place to start is Fulton Sheen’s classic “Life of Christ”. I hope this helps.

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