Servant of Christ

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Greetings brothers and sisters,

I trust that you are all well and the new year has progressed satisfactorily. Know of my continued prayers for all of you and your vocation discernment.

Continuing our reflections on the new invocations present in the Litany of St. Joseph, we come to “Servant of Christ”. This invocation has been placed immediately after another relationship of Joseph to the Christ, namely, “Zealous Defender of Christ”. As we know from the Gospel of Matthew, Joseph was called upon by God through his angel to flee to Egypt in order to escape the menace of King Herod who was seeking to destroy the newborn King of the Jews. This was the first dramatic instance of Joseph being called upon to defend and serve the Christ child, but it was not the first.

From the very moment that Joseph is called by God to take Mary his wife into his home and to become father to her child, he is called to defend and protect both mother and child and in this way to serve them. He is motivated by love and the desire to do God’s will in all things. How he chooses to carry out this defense and service varies according to the circumstances and is always faithful and consistent.

His is not an easy task. After all, the Christ is the one anointed by God to bring salvation to all of humanity, to free us from our sins.  That is quite an order: Joseph is called to defend and serve the one who is going to bring all of creation back to God! What must have been going through his mind? What must have been his feelings and misgivings? Yet, he did not let this dissuade him from carrying out the task entrusted to him.

St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, has this to say about Joseph’s serving the Christ:

St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood…His fatherhood is expressed concretely “in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house. (#8)

Pope Francis explains how this service required some creativity on Joseph’s part:

Joseph was the man chosen by God to guide the beginnings of the history of redemption. He was the true “miracle” by which God saves the child and his mother. God acted by trusting in Joseph’s creative courage. Arriving in Bethlehem and finding no lodging where Mary could give birth, Joseph took a stable and, as best he could, turned it into a welcoming home for the Son of God come into the world (cf. Lk 2:6-7). (Patris Corde, 5)

Joseph was to serve the Christ and he was to do so by trusting in the talents and skills which God had given to him, inspired by the insights received in his dreams and prayers. His service was not all spelled out for him. He had to figure some things out on his own, so to speak, but never alone. God was always present and guiding him and Joseph was open to that guidance. This is vocation discernment.

We also are called by God to serve the Christ, to be at the service of salvation. Like Joseph, we do this primarily by being faithful to our vocation and he duties entrusted to us therein. Like Joseph, we need to be creative and courageous in this service, knowing that at times things will not be so clear and that even in this difficulty, God’s word is present. We, like Joseph, once we know the vocation to which we are called, have only to be open to listen and then faithfully respond to what we hear.

Fr. Brian, OSJ

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