Greetings my brothers and sisters,
On March 2, we celebrate Ash Wednesday and begin again the Season of Lent, preparing our hearts, minds and bodies for the celebration of our Lord’s wondrous resurrection. May it truly be a time to grow in faith, hope and charity by our practice of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.
The month of March is also the month of St. Joseph and a time for us to give thanks to God for our wonderful patron and the wonderful example of simplicity and humility he has set for us. Let us ask St. Joseph to help us grow in these virtues, so necessary in discerning our vocation to be a faithful child of God and disciple of Jesus Christ.
My monthly articles this year have been focusing on the new invocations placed in the Litany of our Holy Patron by Pope Francis. The invocation to be considered this month, “Minister of Salvation”, is actually very much connected with the invocation, “Servant of Christ” which we considered last month. As a reminder, we used quotation from the Apostolic Exhortation, Redemptoris Custos, by St. John Paul II, from paragraph 8, which spoke of his service of Christ being linked to his fatherhood. In that context, John Paul II also states:
“It is precisely in this way (by his fatherhood) that, as the Church’s Liturgy teaches, he “cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation” and is truly a “minister of salvation.”
Joseph is a minister of salvation because he is father to the one who brings salvation, Jesus the Savior. One who ministers, administers or provides something to another; normally something that does not originate in the minister him/herself but precedes the minister. In this case, Joseph is not the one who saves but is one through whom the salvation brought by Jesus is made available. Of course, the first minister of salvation is Mary and only by his relation to Mary as husband is Joseph then father to Jesus and so with Mary is minister of salvation.
Together with Mary, Joseph is the first guardian of this divine mystery. Together with Mary, and In relation to Mary, he shares in this final phase of God’s self-revelation in Christ and he does so from the very beginning.
Joseph can be invoked as Minister of Salvation, because he is invoked firstly as “Spouse of the Mother of God” and then as “Servant of Christ”. They follow on one another. So, Joseph is minister of salvation because he serves the Savior and this service he provides mostly by being husband to Mary and father on earth to Jesus and then continuing that service as Protector of the Church.
The invocation that comes after in the litany, “Head of the Holy Family”, follows from this reality and helps us to understand in what way Joseph was head of his family. He was “head” as one who serves and not as one who is served. He did not “lord” it over Jesus and Mary, but instead recognized Jesus as the true “Lord” and placed himself humbly at his service. Certainly, this service included guiding and educating Jesus and this was also done with great humility and no doubt in great awe and wonder that God’s son should be subject to him as his son. What must have been the fear that accompanied such a task? Yet, this fear was not one that paralyzed but instead one that motivated Joseph to trust even more in the power and wisdom of God in order to be a faithful servant, a faithful minister.
Those of us called to be ministers, whether in our families or in our communities, would do well to follow this example. Through the intercession and inspiration of our Great Patron, let it be so.
Fr. Brian, OSJ