Solemnity of Saint Joseph – March 19, 2021
We come together today in faith to honor and pray to a simple, quiet, humble man who listened carefully to the voice of God – a man who trusted in the power of God to save – a man of deep faith who cooperated with the plan of God entrusted to him: Saint Joseph. It is not at all by coincidence that while we in the Church of Scranton have dedicated this past to Joseph, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, on behalf of the universal Church, dedicated a year to him as well, beginning this past December 8th, the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal Church.
Why wouldn’t there be such focus on this treasured saint to whose care the child Jesus and his mother Mary were entrusted by God Himself? In the quiet simplicity of his life, Joseph speaks to our lives in more ways than we can imagine.
Saint Matthew, in the opening chapter of his gospel, lays groundwork for the birth of Jesus. He reminds us that when Mary was engaged to Joseph – but before they lived together – she was found with child through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph was rightly confused about this and wanted to divorce her quietly, when suddenly an angel appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife.”
These are key words in the life of Joseph. “Do not fear to take Mary as your wife.” With these words, God entrusts to Joseph – the carpenter of Nazareth – the mystery of salvation. … That mystery was given first to Mary, when she was chosen to be the mother of the savior. But Joseph too, became a unique participant in the same mystery of God. God’s plan for his creation was revealed to a virgin … and then to a carpenter.
Some time ago, Pope Francis reflected upon the same gospel passage proclaimed today at Mass. “The gospels recount Mary saying yes” to God’s invitation that she would give birth to the Savior, “but with Joseph, the story simply says that ‘he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him.’” … “In other words,” the Pope went on to say, “Joseph was a man of dreams, but not a dreamer.” … “He wasn’t abstract and did not have his head in the clouds.” … “Joseph had his feet on the ground. But he was open to God.”
And what was the result of that openness on Joseph’s part? … First, that openness enabled Joseph to grow as a man of faith. He trusted in God more than in himself. … Second, Joseph’s openness to God found him committed to his vocation. He risked everything to be faithful to that God’s plan. … Finally, Joseph’s relationship with God found him working hard in a harsh land during a difficult time in history. He not only cooperated with God but he served the people God placed in his care.
Saint Joseph teaches us so very much about our lives in relationship to God – doesn’t he – despite the fact that not a single word spoken by this great saint in recorded in the scriptures. … He speaks eloquently through the example of his life – his faith in God – his generous embrace of his vocation as husband and father – and his care for the lives entrusted to him by God. … And he reminds us of all that is possible when we seek to walk by faith as disciples of the Lord – particularly as we have sought to do so during this past, most difficult year.
In his Apostolic Letter announcing the Year of Saint Joseph, Patris corde – “With a Father’s heart” – Pope Francis reflected upon the current pandemic and how Joseph speaks to all that we have been experiencing during these most challenging and unsettling days. As a quiet, faithful man, living in the shadows of the Holy Family, the Holy Father states that Joseph reminds us of “how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines, or on the latest television show, yet in these very days are surely shaping the decisive events of our history.” From “doctors, nurses, storekeepers and supermarket workers” to “men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests, men and women religious, and so very many others. They understood that no one is saved alone.” Pope Francis goes on, “How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope. … How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all.”
Pope Francis concludes, “Each of us can discover in Joseph – the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence – an intercessor, a support, a guide in times of trouble. Saint Joseph reminds us that those who appear hidden or in the shadows can play an incomparable role in the history of salvation.”
As we bring our local celebration of the Year of Saint Joseph to a close – and as we continue to celebrate his place in salvation history with the universal Church – may we simply give thanks: thanks for the example of his life – his faith – his trust in God’s plan – and his prayers on our behalf. Saint Joseph, pray for us!