A local guest prepared the following homily for his parish and then shared it with us before Vespers yesterday:
2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16
Romans 4: 13-18
May the words of my mouth + and the meditation of all our hearts
Be acceptable to you, O Lord, our strength and our redeemer.
I am a little younger than 12 years old, in the fourth or fifth grade; I wake up one morning and decide I would play a bit of a trick on my mother. Mom always makes sure we are awake, up, and getting ready for school. This particular morning, I wake early, creep downstairs to the living room, and hide under the sewing machine table. When mom comes looking for me, I’ll pop out and yell boo. That’s the plan, anyway.
Mom goes to my room and doesn’t see me there. She goes looking for me… just not in the living room. When I hear commotion on the main floor, I decide to reveal myself. I come upstairs to the sight of my mom, eyes brimming with tears, in the open doorway to our apartment. My mother thinks I ran away or was kidnapped. My mother’s demeanor reflects very much what must’ve been Mary’s when she speaks to the twelve-year-old Jesus: “How could you do this to us? Did you not know that your step-father and I were looking for you?”
Unlike the account in this morning’s Gospel, no explanation on my part would have satisfied my mother. She was trembling, fearful, and yes, a bit angry. That look is burned in my mind and I swear to myself then and there that I would never hurt my mother by running away. And I never did.
Picture the scene of Jesus and his parents at the temple: Jesus, an innocent child not grasping the trouble he caused; Mary shaken, but relieved; and Joseph, as traditionally depicted in Christian art, is aged, with grey hair, and worn out from all the walking. According to current scholarship, Joseph was not an old man. He was likely closer in age to Mary than previously thought. If Joseph had grey hairs, Jesus probably gave them to him! Holy Scripture does not give us much information on Joseph, but in what is written, there is a wealth of spiritual wisdom.
Our Lord and his family are at the end of their Passover celebration: This account highlights sorrow that ends in the joy of finding Jesus, and with him, the joy of adjusting one’s focus on God’s love. Imagine your kid has gone off in a crowded city. Think back on the times that, for whatever reason, your children caused you anxiety. Many of us, if not all of us, have either been an anxious parent or have been the cause of a parent’s anxiety. It is not uncommon for children to wander astray from their parents loving instructions and guidance. Mary and Joseph’s three days of tireless searching for Jesus in Jerusalem is just one example of woes for this Nazarene family. It is not the only time that Mary and Joseph ask hard questions and are puzzled at the turnings of their lives.
Years earlier, when an angel visits Mary and gives her the news of Jesus’ conception, she, having never been with a man, asks, “How can this be?” I bet her next question was, “How will I explain this to Joseph?”
At some point, Mary tells Joseph that she is pregnant. We read in another Gospel account that Joseph is troubled at her news. He knows the rules of his society: you marry good girls who are virgins. Mary’s claims are just too wild. If he publicly exposes her infidelity, she will be labeled as impure and stoned to death. Imagine Joseph’s inner turmoil. Imagine the questions that run through his mind. He suspects that his fiancé has not been faithful to their commitment. Even worse, he fears that the woman he loves will be killed. Mary would know firsthand that “the law brings wrath.” Joseph decides to quietly dissolve their engagement. But it is the voice of love, come to Joseph by an angel in a dream that settles Joseph’s anxiety and convinces him to wed Mary anyway. God, who is always the God of life, intervenes and saves Mary and Joseph from ruin.
Mary and Joseph’s relationship is off to a rocky start when they should have been lost in the bliss of the honeymoon period. They have troubles all throughout their relationship. But, for Mary and Joseph, love is the guiding principle and foundation of their lives and their relationship. It is the root of love that binds Mary and Joseph together and by which they are able to nurture and bring forth the fruit of her womb.
Among Christians, Joseph has long been honored as a saint. Engaged and newly married couples have asked him, their patron, for prayers on their behalf. Like Mary and Joseph, may we always answer the demands of our marriages and various relationships with love.
After their child’s birth, in order to escape the slaughter commanded by Herod, Mary and Joseph seek refuge in Egypt. Joseph is the patron of so many things! Here we find reason to believe that Joseph takes a special interest in refugees. Mary and Joseph are faced with more sorrow, but they stick together and through love bring Jesus safely into the world. Joseph’s intercession has also been sought as the protector of families and children. May we always see the face of God in the faces of our children.
Joseph has been a special saint for me also. At Confirmation, I chose a patron saint– a lifelong spiritual companion and model of Christian living. I chose Joseph of Nazareth, because he is totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary. Joseph focuses on the Lord and helps bring our Savior Emmanuel into this world. Total dedication to Jesus with the saints, focus on the Lord, and bringing our savior who we know as “God with us” to the world is the joy of every Christian!
For the longest time the idea of Joseph as totally dedicated to Jesus and Mary is merely a nice abstract to me. It isn’t until most recently that my connection to Saint Joseph becomes personal and apparent in my life.
Working as a teacher’s aide, I often ask Saint Joseph, the patron of workers and of children, to pray for me, my co-workers and the students. I ask for God’s grace to bring the staff’s capacity to love and nurture through the door of every classroom we enter.
For more than half my life, I have sought the Lord Jesus Christ and to live in his love. I have seen so much goodness, love, life, and joy in people, and in community, because hearts are gathered around Christ. In response to the love that I have known, I seek to give myself and my talents to the work of sharing the good news that God’s love is for all people. I often ask Saint Joseph the patron and protector of the universal Church for prayers when I do anything related to the Kingdom of God. It is such an honor to speak to you today on the feast of Saint Joseph, my patron saint!
Today’s message is about journeys, our journeys through life, our journeys with God, in God’s love. At the heart of today’s message, the beginning of Jesus’ journey is a young Christ who is listening to others and asking questions. Love in the flesh enters the world that Love created; Love enters in and listens and asks its questions. Love poured out, abundant life, and relentless grace is the business of the Father that Jesus is concerned with. Jesus wants us to enjoy and share what he has prepared!
LOVE MUST BE EMBODIED ALSO IN US and enter into the lives we are given. Love in us must seek where God’s love is waiting, wanting to be found. We need to listen to each other and ask questions. We all want answers for the struggles of this earthly life. But, we cannot neglect the seeking of the right questions as well as the right answers. Caution in our lives is not unreasonable. However, we mustn’t allow fear to prevent us from the work of sharing God’s love.
After all, isn’t love the basis of everything? In reality, all we do on a personal, familial, communal, national, and global level is based on how much or how little we love. Too often our communication falls short of love and serves to show us and others how right we are. But, in all things, our business with God, our good Father, is to listen lovingly and to ask the questions of love—the love that is of Christ.
In today’s gospel, Love proceeds from the midst of the learned men in the temple and goes home with Mary and Joseph. There, he grows and gains favor with men and with God. With Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, may we learn to be “at home” together– living, growing, and loving in harmony with each other and with God.
Jesus, Love in the flesh, goes through his entire life to bring wisdom, healing and strength to all. Through his work, he builds up his community: touching people of all walks, daring to reach beyond all boundaries. Our journey through Lent will acquaint us with the difficulties and opposition that Jesus knew in his ministry. But, not even fear of death makes Jesus waver from his love for us. How much Jesus must be influenced by the example of his earthly father! Like Joseph does with Mary, we are to bear each other’s burdens! Our Lord asks us to follow his path, to be busy with the Father’s business of love for all… even while taking up our crosses.
The way of love is not always easy. Mary and Joseph’s journey, despite troubles, does not end in sorrow, but in blessedness. It is assumed that Joseph dies in the arms of Mary and his savior. Certainly, our Lord would have said to him, “Come, you that are blessed by my father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” For this reason, Joseph is regarded as the patron of the dying. Joseph’s faith and life with Christ was not the way of a dead-end but the beginning of the journey towards true and everlasting life! Let your journeys go this way. Let love’s light be triumphant over the shadows of death that darken the various corners of life.
Looking back on your lives, perhaps you too will find that throughout your journeys Joseph and Mary have been your companions? Trusting in God and convinced of love, look ahead with Christ, and go forward boldly!
Finally, I leave you with the Blessing of Saint Joseph:
May the poverty of my sweet and suffering little child be your riches;
his sighs and tears the consolation of your days;
the love of his heart, all your earthly treasure;
and the clear vision of his adorable and glorified humanity,
your eternal joy and recompense.