Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Patriarch and a Pope

"Saint Joseph, the Carpenter"
by Georges de la Tour (1640s)
To celebrate Saint Joseph is to celebrate the Mystery of the Incarnation. In fact, Joseph’s life and witness are so tied to the mystery of the Word-Made-Flesh that Joseph has come to hold a privileged place among the saints and in the life of the Church.

The Gospel passages related to Saint Joseph, including today’s account of Mary and Joseph finding the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-51a), remind us that, while Joseph’s relationship with the child entrusted to his care was unique, he loved Jesus with a father’s love. Joseph accepted the responsibility entrusted to him in a spirit of humility and silent submission and the Gospels praise this “Righteous Man” (Matthew 1:19) who acted in faith, doing what God asked of him. A tradesman (i.e. tekt┼Źn, cf. Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3), Joseph was Jesus’ first teacher and he would have trained him in his craft and in the ways of faith and life in the world:

Those who work with their hands “maintain the fabric of the world” (Sirach 38:34). Joseph’s work for daily bread taught the child the value of the effort to gain eternal life. Later on, Jesus remembered his work as a carpenter when he said in the synagogue at Capernaum, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life” (John 6:27). His work as a carpenter and as the Messiah has really maintained the fabric of the world. (Lucien Deiss, C.S.Sp., in Joseph, Mary, Jesus).
 Joseph’s goodness and love for Jesus ultimately enabled the boy to discover in his earthly abba (“daddy”) the image of the Father in heaven.

For centuries, this special relationship between Joseph and Jesus has inspired Christians to turn to Saint Joseph in times of need. For this reason, Blessed Pius IX, at a difficult time in the Church’s history, declared Saint Joseph to be the special patron and protector of the Church. Pope Leo XIII later reflected, “It is fitting and most worthy of Joseph’s dignity that, in the same way that he once kept unceasing holy watch over the family of Nazareth, so now does he protect and defend with his heavenly patronage the Church of Christ” (Quamquam Pluries [1889]).

As we celebrate the solemn inauguration of the pontificate of Pope Francis, we are especially aware of our need for the witness and prayers of the poor, silent man from Nazareth. As we, under Pope Francis’ pastoral guidance, confront the challenges facing our world and the Church today, let us pray that we will be blessed with the same spirit of faithfulness and purity of heart that inspired Joseph in serving the Incarnate Word (cf. Blessed John Paul II, Redemptoris Custos, 31).


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