A Beloved Father

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Greetings my brother and sisters,

I hope that the first month of 2021 went well…or as well as can be expected given the particular moment in history through which we are living. One thing is certain: we will be able to make it through and be better because of all that we make it through, if we make it through with Jesus!

In last month’s message, I had shared with you the joyful news of the Year of St. Joseph proclaimed by Pope Francis. Praise God for this gift! I also started to share about the Pope’s Apostolic Letter, Patris Corde, issued on this occasion. We will given this reflection by looking at the first numbered section of the letter which bears the title “Beloved Father”

The title alone is significant, since by it Pope Francis is recognizing that Joseph is a father, and a beloved father, not a “foster” father or a “supposed” father. These were expressions often used to describe Joseph’s relationship to Jesus in order not to give the impression that Joseph was really the father of Jesus! Well, Pope Francis is letting us know by the title of the letter itself and all the numbered sections (which all have “father” in them) that we no longer put any sort of “disclaimer” before the word father when describing St. Joseph. He is father to Jesus and a beloved father, by God’s will.

The greatness of Saint Joseph is that he was the spouse of Mary and the father of Jesus. In this way, he placed himself, in the words of Saint John Chrysostom, “at the service of the entire plan of salvation”. The section begins with these words and give the reason that Joseph is father: because he is spouse of Mary, Jesus’ mother. And both of them, Joseph and Mary, are “at the service of the plan of salvation” at God’s invitation. They are the first “guardians of the mystery of salvation” which is how St. John Paul II puts it in his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos (n.5). And this service Joseph carries out by being father to Jesus, as Mary does being his mother. Certainly, Mary is mother in all ways, having conceived and carried Jesus in her womb, while Joseph was not involved in the conception of the child. However, by God’s invitation, “Joseph concretely expressed his fatherhood “by making his life a sacrificial service to the mystery of the incarnation and its redemptive purpose. He employed his legal authority over the Holy Family to devote himself completely to them in his life and work. He turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of himself, his heart and all his abilities, a love placed at the service of the Messiah who was growing to maturity in his home.”  

So, Joseph served God and his plan of salvation by being a faithful husband and father, day by day, week by week, month by month. In his ordinary tasks from his “human vocation to domestic love” were the means by which he made a “superhuman oblation of himself”. And this is available to all of you as well! No matter what our state in life, we all have daily chores and responsibilities. By being faithful to these and carrying them out to best of our ability, we help to continue God’s plan of salvation in the world, so much in need of redemption and healing. At the same time, we open ourselves up to hear with greater clarity the call of God to whichever vocation we are called and we show our willingness to continue to serve God in that vocation.

Pope Francis points out that Joseph’s faithfulness to his service of fatherhood has led the Church to put great trust in his protection and intercession. The expression used of the Old Testament Joseph, Go to Joseph (Ite ad Joseph) is applied to Joseph of Nazareth and we do well to heed such advice. After all, God himself turned to Joseph and entrusted to him all that was dear to him, Jesus and Mary. Let us entrust ourselves to him as well.

Fr. Brian, OSJ
Vocation Director

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