Solemnity of Saint Joseph – March 19, 2022
Since November, Pope Francis has been reflecting upon Saint Joseph during his traditional Wednesday audiences with faithful gathered in Rome. He concluded those reflections just a few weeks ago in February, focusing on Saint Joseph in his role as patron of the universal Church.
“What does it mean that Saint Joseph is ‘patron of the Church’?” the Holy Father asked, as he went on to answer the question. “The Gospels provide us with the most correct key to interpretation. At the end of every story in which Joseph is the protagonist – the central character – the Gospel notes that he takes the Child and His mother with him and does what God has ordered him to do (cf. Mt 1:24; 2:14, 21).”
When Joseph was told that Mary was with child through the power of the Holy Spirit, but before they lived together, he did as the Lord had commanded and took Mary into his home. … When Joseph was told in a dream to take Jesus and his mother to Egypt to escape King Herod’s desire to destroy the child, he again did as the Lord had commanded. … And finally, when told by the Lord that the family’s safety was assured, Joseph took Jesus and Mary and returned to the land of Israel.
“Joseph’s task,” Pope Francis went on, “is to protect Jesus and Mary. He is their principal guardian: ‘Jesus and Mary His Mother are the most precious treasure of our faith.’ And this treasure is safeguarded by Saint Joseph.”
The Holy Father concluded his remarks by reflecting upon the vocation of Saint Joseph “to safeguard” the presence of God in Jesus. “Every Christian – we could say – is like Saint Joseph: we must safeguard. To be a Christian is not only to receive the faith, to confess the faith, but to safeguard life, one’s own life, the life of others, the life of the Church.”
Saint Joseph, then, is for us not only the patron of our Church, but an example of how we are to live our lives as followers of Jesus. And I would suggest that what we know about Joseph, even from the few scriptural references that were shared today, allow that example to speak more powerfully to our lives than we might imagine.
During my annual retreat with the bishops of Pennsylvania and New Jersey in January that was ironically conducted by the Ukrainian Archbishop of Philadelphia, Borys Gudziak, the Archbishop reflected for quite some time on Saint Joseph and how his life resonates so significantly with our own.
You see, Saint Joseph experienced a world that in so many respects was not unlike our own. … He knew poverty and the concerns that associated with sustaining and caring for a family. … He, Mary, and Jesus became refugees, immigrants in a foreign land for a time when they fled to Egypt. … Like so many in our world today – especially our suffering brothers and sisters in Ukraine, Joseph lived with the threat of terror every day, wondering if he and especially his wife and her son would be safe from harm. … He worried. … While he was a part of a family, so much of what he was forced to confront found him very much alone. … He didn’t always understand what to do, much less what God wanted from him. … He’s tempted to act in ways that are not necessarily the ways of God. … And at times, he’s afraid – afraid for himself and afraid for the lives he’s called by God to safeguard.
And yet, despite all of the obstacles that confront Saint Joseph, he fulfills God’s will and God’s plan, not only for his own life but for that of Jesus and Mary and for the salvation of our world.
Brothers and sisters, we bring our own stories of life and faith to this time of prayer, don’t we? Some of those stories are heroic. And some of our stories acknowledge our brokenness, our struggles, our fears and our desperate need for God’s presence in our lives. Yet, despite whatever it is that we bring to the Lord today, like Saint Joseph, God has given us all a place in the building of his kingdom and in his plan to bring life, mercy and love to our corner of the world.
I’m sure Saint Joseph never imagined for a moment the role that he was given in God’s plan for salvation. I doubt that any of us would either.
Today, let’s pray for his intercession on our behalf that just the words of the angel spoken to Joseph in today’s gospel banished his fears, eased his anxiety and enabled him to safeguard the life of the Savior, those same words will change lives and lead us to peace. … “Do not be afraid,” for God is with us.