Pope Francis dedicated the year 2021 to St. Joseph, Patron of the Universal Church that we the people of God may discover “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” as a source of spiritual guidance and support in our daily. Today we begin also our novena of nine days of Masses and prayers for gift of life.
I would like to use St. Joseph as our theme for our reflection on the gift of life. Pope Francis said, “I see St. Joseph as a ‘beloved,’ ‘tender and loving,’ ‘obedient,’ ‘accepting, ’ ‘creatively courageous,’ and ‘working’ father, as well as a father ‘in the shadows’. St. Joseph faced many challenges, difficulties and fears -like today- fathers and families are facing many difficulties and fears. (This morning I heard from a family I have known for many years who just lost their youngest son to COVID-19). But Pope Francis tells us, “Jesus saw the tender love of God,” the one that helps us accept our weakness, because “it is through” and despite “our fears, our frailties, and our weakness” that most divine designs are realized…that amid the tempests of life, we must never be afraid to let the Lord steer our course. At times, we want to be in complete control, yet God always sees the bigger picture.”
Francis gives us Joseph’s example of “nobility”, “what he learned from the law he made dependent on charity.” We hear in Matthew’s Gospel 1:19 – “Joseph her husband, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law.” Pope Francis said in contrast, “Today, in our world where psychological, verbal and physical violence towards women is so evident, Joseph appears as the figure of a respectful and sensitive man. Even though he does not understand the bigger picture, he makes a decision to protect Mary’s good name, her dignity and her life.” Joseph is also a father in obedience to God: with his “fiat” he protects Mary and Jesus and teaches his Son to “do the will of the Father.” What can we learn from St. Joseph about life – its “disappointment and rebellion”? Joseph is “an accepting Father,” because he “accepted Mary unconditionally” — an important gesture even today! Joseph listened and the Lord spoke to his heart. Pope Francis tells us, “Unless we are reconciled with our own history, we will be unable to take a single step forward, for we will always remain hostage to our expectations and the disappointments that follow.” We cannot fill our hearts with anger and disappointments. “We need to set aside all anger and disappointment, and to embrace the way things are, even when they do not turn out as we wish. Not with mere resignation, but with hope and courage.”
Joseph’s spiritual path “is not one that explains, but accepts” — which does not mean that he is “resigned.” Instead, he is “courageously and firmly proactive,” because with the “Holy Spirit’s gift of fortitude,” and full of hope, he is able “to accept life as it is, with all its contradictions.
“How many people daily exercise patience and offer hope, taking care to spread not panic, but shared responsibility? How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead and encouraging the practice of prayer?
As we begin these nine days of prayer, let St. Joseph, “the man who goes unnoticed, a daily, discreet and hidden presence,” become our intercessor and source of support and guidance. Like St. Joseph, “our lives can be miraculously reborn if we find the courage to live them in accordance with the Gospel. It does not matter if everything seems to have gone wrong or some things can no longer be fixed. “God can make flowers spring up from stony ground.”
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.
Mass for Life Homily by Bishop John Noonan
St. James Cathedral, Orlando – 12:10 p.m.
January 21, 2021