Gn 1.26-2.3; Ps 89; Col 3.14-15.17.23-24
1. Dear Brothers and Sisters,
May the Lord give you Peace!
We are in the year dedicated to Saint Joseph and on this first day of May, here in Bethlehem, we wish to look to him to teach us about the spirituality of work, as he taught it to the Incarnate Son of God. We would also like, on this occasion, to remember all the workers of whom Saint Joseph is the model, patron and intercessor.
Let us think about how important the dimension of work is in human life and how important the work of so many humble and simple people has been during this long pandemic that to date has not yet been resolved. People who turned out to be traveling companions in a time of suffering and who carried out a job that manifested itself as a daily way of giving life.
Pope Francis reminded us of this in the encyclical “Fratelli Tutti - Brothers all”, calling by name these categories of people who have risked and continue to risk their lives every day for the love of their brothers and sisters: “doctors, nurses, pharmacists, storekeepers and supermarket workers, cleaning personnel, caretakers, transport workers, men and women working to provide essential services and public safety, volunteers, priests and religious… “ (FT 54).
2. If we look at the figure of Joseph, as the Evangelist Matthew presents him to us, there are two apparently opposing characteristics that distinguish him.
These are two characteristics that illuminate our way of living our life, our vocation and also the work we are called to carry out: Joseph is endowed with concreteness and at the same time he is a man who knows how to dream.
3. First of all, Joseph is endowed with great concreteness and we see this in the active way in which he faces new problems and situations, both when he becomes aware of Mary's pregnancy and when it comes to find a place to deliver the child Jesus here in Bethlehem, and also when it is necessary to flee from here to Egypt and then return home.
Joseph's concreteness is certainly the result of his being a worker, a craftsman, a carpenter accustomed to taking measurements on objects and making them for what they will serve. Work is a great school of concreteness and for this reason it has a great educational value for each of us. But concreteness is not dry, or without of feeling.
In fact, measuring oneself with manual labour also means measuring oneself with effort and patience, so manual labour also becomes a school of love and perseverance. In fact, love is not given without commitment, without patience, without fidelity and constancy.
Joseph is also used to place this concreteness within the biblical spirituality, of which the “Book of Genesis” spoke to us, which sees in human work a reflection of the work of God Himself, a reflection of the fact that man is created in the image and likeness of a God who works for six days and rests on the seventh, then entrusting man with the care of all creation, portrayed as a garden to be cultivated.
The concreteness of Joseph is underlined in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke by the fact that no words spoken by him are reported to us, but always and only his actions.
This concreteness should also be a characteristic of our way of life, of our way of responding to a particular vocation, as well as of our way of working, whatever the work we do.
4. Then Joseph is one who knows how to dream. What does it mean to him knowing how to dream? It means being open to the profound meaning of life, it means being open to the mystery of God, it means knowing that being concrete does not mean being materialistic or even locked up in our only rational capacity. The dream indicates openness to a deeper sense of things than what appears at first sight, to a sense that comes from God; to a revelation that can surprise us just as a dream does; to a perspective that illuminates and makes us understand in a new way also what we already considered defined and established for our life. In biblical language, making room for dreams simply means making room for God who always goes beyond simple human calculation and also always beyond pure and simple human expectations and perspectives!
5. Consequently, precisely because he is open to dreams, Joseph also experiences the changes prompted by God through the circumstances of his life with trust and concreteness. This is how he welcomes Mary into his home and welcomes the Son of God whom she carries in her womb and accepts to give Him a name, which will be part of His identity, His vocation and His mission: “Jesus, Son of David”. This is the case when he accepts to become a refugee in Egypt and adapts to a precarious situation to which many workers have to adapt also to-day, in order to take care of their family, but also because there are inequities in the world and in history that make work precarious for most of the people who live and work to-day in our globalized world.
6. What, then, can we learn from Saint Joseph the carpenter? I would say that we can and must learn above all not to be frightened when new and unforeseen situations arise in the course of our life and also in our vocation; then to allow ourselves to be enlightened by the word of God which helps us to understand in a deeper way what our human intelligence would risk cataloging only as a problem to be solved; finally he teaches us to respond concretely to situations and also to difficulties, facing them one at a time with confidence.
7. It is a beautiful programme of life that is suggested to us by Saint Joseph and which is summarized and condensed in the opening prayer that we prayed before the readings and which I invite you to meditate upon during this day: “O God, you have called human person to cooperate with work of the design of your creation, ensure that through the example and intercession of St. Joseph we remain faithful to the tasks you entrust to us, and receive the reward you promise us” (Collect of St. Joseph the worker). Amen.