Considering that yesterday was Father’s Day, a day we celebrate our Fathers, Grandfathers, Godfathers, and our spiritual fathers – men who are Priests, I found today’s “Mondays with Mary” the perfect arena to share with you a selection of words from Redemptoris Custos (Guardian of the Redeemer) by Pope St. John Paul II.
The apostolic exhortation focuses on the marriage between Mary and Joseph as seen through the Gospel picture, Joseph’s faith and fatherhood, the virginity of Mary and Joseph, their love, their interior life, and concludes with St. Joseph as the Patron of the Church.
As we approach the World Meeting of Families 2015, to be held in Philadelphia in late September, I will come back to this apostolic exhortation again to help us understand the importance that the Holy Family plays in our lives today as explained to us through the words of the Polish Saint.
For today, I draw from paragraphs 7-8, which discusses the Fatherhood of St. Joseph –
“As can be deduced from the gospel texts, Joseph’s marriage to Mary is the juridical basis of his fatherhood. It was to assure fatherly protection for Jesus that God chose Joseph to be Mary’s spouse. It follows that Joseph’s fatherhood – a relationship that places him as close as possible to Christ, to whom every election and predestination is ordered (cf. Rom 8:28-29) – comes to pass through marriage to Mary, that is, through the family.
St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. It is precisely in this way that, as the Church’s Liturgy teaches, he “cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation” and is truly a “minister of salvation.”
His fatherhood is expressed concretely “in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house.”
St. Joseph with Infant Jesus by Guido Reni
In recalling that “the beginnings of our redemption” were entrusted “to the faithful care of Joseph,” the Liturgy specifies that “God placed him at the head of his family, as a faithful and prudent servant, so that with fatherly care he might watch over his only begotten Son.” Leo XIII emphasized the sublime nature of this mission: “He among all stands out in his august dignity, since by divine disposition he was guardian, and according to human opinion, father of God’s Son. Whence it followed that the Word of God was subjected to Joseph, he obeyed him and rendered to him that honor and reverence that children owe to their father.”
Since it is inconceivable that such a sublime task would not be matched by the necessary qualities to adequately fulfill it, we must recognize that Joseph showed Jesus “by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father’s heart can know.”
Besides fatherly authority over Jesus, God also gave Joseph a share in the corresponding love, the love that has its origin in the Father “from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15).
The Gospels clearly describe the fatherly responsibility of Joseph toward Jesus. For salvation-which comes through the humanity of Jesus-is realized in actions which are an everyday part of family life, in keeping with that “condescension” which is inherent in the economy of the Incarnation. The gospel writers carefully show how in the life of Jesus nothing was left to chance, but how everything took place according to God’s predetermined plan. The oft-repeated formula, “This happened, so that there might be fulfilled…,” in reference to a particular event in the Old Testament serves to emphasize the unity and continuity of the plan which is fulfilled in Christ.
With the Incarnation, the “promises” and “figures” of the Old Testament become “reality”: places, persons, events and rites interrelate according to precise divine commands communicated by angels and received by creatures who are particularly sensitive to the voice of God. Mary is the Lord’s humble servant, prepared from eternity for the task of being the Mother of God. Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the “overseer of the Lord’s birth, “the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God’s “ordained” entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws. All of the so-called “private” or “hidden” life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph’s guardianship.”
Today, please offer up an “Our Father” for all fathers – those still with us, and those who have left us to be with God in Heaven.
To be continued in September 2015.