Engaging the Gospel – The Holy Family

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary & Joseph (Year C): Gospel – Luke 2:41-52

Joseph and Mary searched for Jesus “with great anxiety” before finding him in the Temple, a Gospel passage that may offer us hope, comfort, and strength as our own families suffer difficulties.

St John Paul II reflected upon the “demanding yet fascinating roles of the Christian family” in Familiaris Consortio (On the Role of the Christian Family in the Modern World). He concluded by invoking “the protection of the Holy Family of Nazareth” —

Through God’s mysterious design, it was in that family that the Son of God spent long years of a hidden life. It is therefore the prototype and example for all Christian families. It was unique in the world. Its life was passed in anonymity and silence in a little town in Palestine. It underwent trials of poverty, persecution and exile. It glorified God in an incomparably exalted and pure way.

And it will not fail to help Christian families — indeed all the families in the world — to be faithful to their day-to-day duties, to bear the cares and tribulations of life, to be open and generous to the needs of others, and to fulfill with joy the plan of God in their regard.

…I entrust each family to Him, to Mary, and to Joseph. To their hands and their hearts I offer this Exhortation: May it be they who present it to you, venerable Brothers and beloved sons and daughters, and may it be they who open your hearts to the light that the Gospel sheds on every family (86).

Question for reflection: When have I brought my worries about a family member to the Lord?

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Spiritual value of work

No matter what kind of work we do – whether inside or outside the home – our daily duties have a spiritual dimension.

The Church offers us a rich theology of work, what St John Paul II calls a “gospel of work,” that may revolutionize how we see our workaday lives. In Laborem Exercens, JPII explains that we are in fact collaborating with God’s work of both creation and redemption.

“The Church finds in the very first pages of the Book of Genesis the source of her conviction that work is a fundamental dimension of human existence on earth.” God created us in His image and gave us the task of earthly stewardship. “In carrying out this mandate, man, every human being, reflects the very action of the Creator of the universe” (4).

This truth took on special resonance when God became man in Jesus, and worked in St Joseph’s carpentry shop. Jesus “belongs to the ‘working world’…He looks with love upon human work and the different forms that it takes, seeing in each one of these forms a particular facet of man’s likeness with God, the Creator and Father” (26).

And the “sweat and toil” of our work likewise give us a share in Christ’s work:

This work of salvation came about through suffering and death on a Cross. By enduring the toil of work in union with Christ crucified for us, man in a way collaborates with the Son of God for the redemption of humanity. He shows himself a true disciple of Christ by carrying the cross in his turn every day in the activity that he is called upon to perform. The Christian finds in human work a small part of the Cross of Christ and accepts it in the same spirit of redemption in which Christ accepted His Cross for us (27).

Habemus Episcopum!

I have updated my sidebar to reflect today’s appointment of our new Bishop of the Diocese of Lexington — John Stowe, OFM Conv, the rector of the Basilica and National Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation in Carey, Ohio. He becomes the third bishop of this diocese that was established by St. John Paul II in 1988.

Here are links to the announcement on the Vatican website, the USCCB site, and the press release from the diocese.

Bishop-Elect Stowe also currently serves as Vicar Provincial of the Conventual Franciscan Province of Our Lady of Consolation.

Fr. Jim Kent, the Minister Provincial, lauded the appointment:

It is with great joy the Conventual Franciscans received the news that Pope Francis has appointed our brother, Bishop-elect John Stowe, OFM Conv., to shepherd the Diocese of Lexington, Kentucky. He is a man of deep faith and integrity, with a sharp and inquisitive intellect, all rooted in a genuine pastoral heart.

It’s been nearly 14 months since Pope Francis transferred our well esteemed second bishop, Ronald Gainer, to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. That announcement was made January 24, 2014, and his installation took place on March 19, 2014.

What a cause for celebration that come this St Joseph’s Day, we know our new bishop! His ordination/installation Mass is scheduled for Tuesday, May 5.

Bishop Gainer welcomed the news of his successor, noting that the “appointment of a Conventual Franciscan Friar is especially significant as the Catholic Church observes the Year for Consecrated Life.”

Archbishop Joseph Kurtz of Louisville said that “Bishop-elect Stowe brings a strong spiritual presence, evidenced in his leadership at the Franciscan Shrine in Ohio, and a wealth of pastoral experience, including his service to the Latino community in El Paso, Texas.”

After all of the prayers and sacrifices offered for this very special intention, thanks be to God and to St Joseph for taking care of our particular Church.

Thanks to Pope Francis and to Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, the Papal Nuncio, for all of his diligent work.

Finally, gratitude to Fr. Robert Nieberding who served as our diocesan administrator during the sede vacante period.

I hope this calls for a Te Deum!

 

Engaging the Gospel: Feast of the Holy Family

Gospel – Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23: Joseph acts to protect Mary and Jesus and keep them out of harm’s way

Already in Jesus’ infancy, we see St. Joseph fulfilling his role as fatherly protector in the Holy Family. Warned by the angel, Joseph takes Mary and Jesus and flees to Egypt, and returns only after the angel informs him that it is safe.

Joseph continues to serve God’s saving plan for us, both as a powerful intercessor in heaven and as a model for us to follow.

Blessed John Paul II reminds us of this truth: “Inspired by the Gospel, the Fathers of the Church from the earliest centuries stressed that just as St. Joseph took loving care of Mary and gladly dedicated himself to Jesus Christ’s upbringing, he likewise watches over and protects Christ’s Mystical Body, that is, the Church” (Redemptoris Custos/Guardian of the Redeemer, 1).

Benedict XVI has encouraged us to learn from Joseph:

If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary…

I wish to extend a particular word of encouragement to fathers so that they may take St. Joseph as their model. He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning of their own fatherhood…Dear fathers, like St. Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your children to God where they must be.

Homily of March 19, 2009

Question for reflection: What family concerns might I entrust to St. Joseph’s care?

Engaging the Gospel: Fourth Sunday of Advent

Gospel: Matthew 1:18-24 — Joseph obeys the angel and takes Mary into his home

St. Joseph serves as a model of profound faith and generosity of spirit, as Blessed John Paul II has reflected upon in Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer).

Calling the angel’s revelation to Joseph “the ‘annunciation’ by night” (19), the Holy Father links Joseph’s acceptance of God’s plan with Mary’s obedience as the handmaid of the Lord.

“Joseph not only heard the divine truth concerning his wife’s indescribable vocation; he also heard…the truth about his own vocation” (19) – that is, “to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood” (8). By taking Mary into his home, “he showed a readiness of will like Mary’s with regard to what God asked of him through the angel” (3).

Thus “Joseph surrendered his whole existence to the demands of the Messiah’s coming into his home” (26).

Pope Paul VI contrasted the sanctity of Joseph and Mary with the disobedience of Adam and Eve:

“We see that at the beginning of the New Testament, as at the beginning of the Old, there is a married couple. But whereas Adam and Eve were the source of evil which was unleashed on the world, Joseph and Mary arc the summit from which holiness spreads all over the earth. The Savior began the work of salvation by this virginal and holy union, wherein is manifested his all-powerful will to purify and sanctify the family — that sanctuary of love and cradle of life” (quoted in Redemptoris Custos 7).

Question for reflection: When has God led my life into an entirely unexpected direction?