With the heart of a father

Feast of St. Joseph

2Sam 7.4-5.12-14.16; Ps 88; Rom 4: 13.16-18.22; Mt 1: 16.18-21.24

  1. Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 May the Lord give you His peace!

This year, the celebration of to-day's solemnity has particular relevance, because last December 8, Pope Francis announced the year of St. Joseph to commemorate the 150th anniversary of his proclamation as patron of the universal Church. Here in Nazareth, we therefore wish to celebrate this feast in a particularly solemn way and throughout the year we will propose special prayer initiatives, here and also in Bethlehem, to be inspired by the way in which the humble carpenter of Nazareth accepted the call of the Lord to take Mary with him as his bride and to welcome and educate the Son of God, Jesus, introducing Him into the house or lineage of David.

  1. Pope Francis wrote to the whole Church and therefore to each of us a very beautiful letter, entitled "Patris corde", which means "with the heart of a father" but it can also mean "with the heart of the Father". I invite you to read it personally because he proposes a profound meditation on Saint Joseph and presents him to us as a special figure to understand human fatherhood as a reflection and image of the divine fatherhood. In fact, as St. Paul says to the Ephesians, it is from the fatherhood of God that "all fatherhood in heaven and on earth has its origin" (Eph 3:15). And the passage from the Letter to the Romans, which we read as a second reading, reminds us that there is not only natural paternity but also a paternity that derives from knowing how to trust God, from knowing how to obey His call, from knowing how to seek the justice that derives from faith, that is, the justice that derives from always seeking God's will rather than affirming ourselves.

Looking at how Joseph lived his vocation we can therefore understand something of the Fatherhood of God and at the same time something of the fatherhood to which we too are called.

  1. Saint Joseph, in fact, is an authentic model of fatherhood for each of us, both for those who live a natural fatherhood within their families, and for those who live a form of spiritual fatherhood within the Christian community.

In fact, to be fathers, the physical act of generating is not enough, but something much deeper and more demanding is needed. A moment is enough to physically generate, but to generate in an authentically human sense it takes a whole life. It is necessary to know how to arouse, promote, guard and accompany the life and growth of the persons that God gives us and entrusts to us, until in turn the persons who have been entrusted to us will be able to open themselves to the will of God, to HIS call.

In this Saint Joseph is truly exemplary, in fact, he knows how to express the humility of the service to life and the gratuitous love for life. Joseph welcomes the nascent life of the Son of God who becomes flesh in Mary through the work of the Holy Spirit not with the pride of those who want to see their lineage continue or of those who want to plan a successful future for their children, but with the availability of those who open the doors of their home to the Son of God and certainly also the genealogical line of their lineage so that the Son of God can enter our history, become man, receive a name and offer us the salvation that He bears in His name.

Joseph accompanies Jesus, the Son of God incarnate, in His growth. He takes care of Him when His life is in danger. He takes care of Him as a migrant and refugee in Egypt. He teaches Him how to be obedient and how to work, to pray, to read the Word of God and to go on pilgrimage, and how to be attentive to the poor and the sick.

In the end Joseph disappears and Jesus takes on His own vocation and begins His own mission and yet everyone still recognizes Him as the Son of Joseph the carpenter, a sign that the education He received left an indelible mark on the humanity of Jesus.

  1. Joseph knows how to educate because he knows the need for firmness but also the need for tenderness. He knows how to educate in a particular way that of obedience because he practices it with confidence. In this Joseph is a model of educational paternity precisely because he is a just man, that is, always in search of the will of God, even when he does not fully understand through which paths this will direct him to pass.

Joseph is not someone who tries to affirm himself and his own projects, on the contrary, he is one who is willing to put aside himself and his own projects as long as God's will is fulfilled, as long as the history of salvation proceeds, as long as God enters into this world of ours, a world so in need of Him and yet at the same time unable to welcome Him.

  1. Joseph also sets an example for us by teaching us not to be overwhelmed by concrete problems, whether small or large, but to face them with faith and courage. Faced with Mary's unexpected pregnancy, whose honesty he knows and from which he surely learns that the Son whom she is expecting is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Joseph does not ask himself how to leave Mary but how not to harm Mary and the child she is carrying. He allows himself be enlightened by the mysterious action of God, who speaks to him in a dream. He is not worried about himself but about Mary and the newly conceived child. So when the Lord enlightens him and makes him understand his place and his vocation in the plan of salvation, he welcomes them both into his life and into his home. When he goes to Bethlehem with Mary, we are told what Mary does but not what Joseph does. Yet, Joseph's role was certainly active and attentive in finding a suitable place for the birth of the Son of God. When there is danger, Joseph does not hesitate to choose the path of exile and become a refugee, in order to protect Mary and Jesus and we imagine him looking for a job in the land of Egypt, to guarantee a dignified life for the Holy Family. So it is when the time comes to return to Nazareth and to teach the child Jesus the discipline of work and to introduce him into the faith and religious tradition of his people.

Joseph - according to the Gospels of Luke and Matthew - does not complain about the problems and difficulties of life, he simply faces them one by one with confidence and courage, with love for the dearest people who are entrusted to him.

  1. Finally, Joseph is particularly relevant to us with his commitment to silently hiding ourselves rather than looking for the limelight because he helps us to overcome the narcissistic culture in which we are immersed and also guards us from every form of unnecessary ambition.

Joseph teaches us that it is not important to have millions of followers and likes on Facebook, indeed no, what is important is that we learn to be followers of God's Will, and the only important desire in our life is to please God and to find our pleasure in God.

  1. May I conclude by making my own, the prayer that Pope Francis addresses to Saint Joseph at the end of his letter, it is a prayer that I invite you to recite also personally:

 

Hail, Guardian of the Redeemer,

Spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

To you God entrusted his only Son;

in you Mary placed her trust;

with you Christ became man.

 

Blessed Joseph, to us too,

show yourself a father

and guide us in the path of life.

Obtain for us grace, mercy and courage,

and defend us from every evil. Amen.

 

And may the Lord, through the intercession of Saint Joseph, bless us and keep us all!