Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Joseph, Humble worker

MAY 1st. St Joseph the Worker (Optional Memorial)

 My blurry picture of Joseph the Worker Statue at the Ignatius Jesuit  Center in Guelph
Today, we take a little break from the journey of the early Christians and of the book of John, to celebrate  May Day! This is a celebration that is rather ancient! It is a traditional spring holiday in many cultures -going as far back as the ancient Celts and perhaps even to the Romans-, but in the old Soviet Union, it was  'International Worker's day', a national holiday. Ironically, today is also the day we Catholics celebrate Joseph the Worker, husband of Mary, 'Father' to Jesus. It's a fitting celebration: Although it's from his lineage that Jesus was connected to the greatest kings of the tribe of Judah, he himself was a humble man, and a worker. This is crucial for the Church, as for centuries, our Popes have been teaching that "it is work - not power, not money, not culture – that gives men and women a sense of dignity." (Pope Francis's words during Mass this morning). Consequently, although the figure of Joseph is somewhat of secondary importance in our calendar -he does have two feasts days, but there is probably more devotion to Mary and the Saints in our Church than there would be to Joseph-his is a figure that is rather important to Catholic social thinking. In a world that values profit more than people, we can  use this simple humble man with great spirituality as a role model to help understand that our dignity is essential to our humanity. Joseph wasn't a scholar or a successful businessman, but in his simplicity, he had more inner beauty and spiritual wealth than many of the successful CEOs today. How different our  Jesus would have turned out had he been raised by a profit hungry father who turned a blind eye to the injustices committed in order to make more money for himself. This is why I believe Joseph was chosen by God.  ( (sorry for the weird highlighted text!) "His perfect dispositions, were so acceptable to God, the lover of justice, charity, and peace, that before he put his design into execution he sent an angel from heaven, not to reprehend anything in his holy conduct, but to dissipate all his doubts and fears, by revealing to him this adorable mystery".( EWTN)
 I'll let St Bernard have the final words:  "He was truly the faithful and prudent servant,whom our Lord appointed the master of his household, the comfort and support of his mother, his foster-father, and most faithful co-operator in the execution of his deepest counsels on earth."  Joseph's participation in the great divine plan only reminds us that we too, though we may think we are  sinful, imperfect and broken creatures, have a small role to play in the great unfolding of the divine mystery.


This to me is what is key when we read in today's first reading from Genesis, ' God made us in his image'. It does not mean that we look like God, or that we have God's abilities, but it does mean that there is a great humility, simplicity, but also a great complexity and strength within us that is from God. Because God's seed is within us, we're given so much more responsibility towards creation...not to tame it as many people have interpreted the concept of ' stewardship' but to interact, and care for it. We've obviously failed miserably as this ONE BIG JOB God had gave us. Still, he turns to us everyday and reminds us to continue to live out our role with great hope and joy.
 The most important words in that first passage come in verse 30. Throughout the rest of Genesis, God usually says 'and it was good' after he creates something. At the very end of it, when all had been created, and humanity is the final work of his creation, he proclaims 'it is VERY good'. For the record, like many Catholics, I don't believe in the Genesis story as being a literal account of creation, but it is an important image of how linked we are to God, and creation. It's a message we need today more than ever.

In the Gospel, a change of pace, we are reminded of Jesus' connection to both God, and Joseph. The people recognize his earthly lineage and are confused by this vast amount of if to say 'someone from such a simple upbringing should not know so much'. And it is an incredible source of irony to me that to this day, it is not the scholars or the academics that can teach us the most about God, but the poorest of the poor. Those who know what it means to depend on his divine providence. Those who live out their trust in the divine day after day. Those who understand what it means to truly rejoice in the small gifts our Lord offers us day by day. We can never exactly be like them. And yet, Jesus, Joseph and Mary call us to appropriate our own humility and simplicity in our relationship to God, that we  may be more excellent workers in the Kingdom of God.

Genesis 1: 26 - 31

26Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.28And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth."29And God said, "Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food.30And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.31And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, a sixth day.

Psalms 90: 2 - 4, 12 - 14, 16

2Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting thou art God.
3Thou turnest man back to the dust, and sayest, "Turn back, O children of men!"
4For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night.
12So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.
13Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on thy servants!
14Satisfy us in the morning with thy steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.
16Let thy work be manifest to thy servants, and thy glorious power to their children.

Matthew 13: 54 - 58

54and coming to his own country he taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished, and said, "Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works?55Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?56And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all this?"57And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, "A prophet is not without honor except in his own country and in his own house."58And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.

1 comment:

  1. Amen- love the Statue of St.Joseph. I went to university through Campion College more that 35 years ago and still cherish the Jesuits that were there. -