Sunday, March 19, 2017

Solemnity of Saint Joseph, spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Catechism Links[2]
CCC 2214-2220: Duties of children to their parents

“Joseph's Dream” by Gaetano Gandolfi, 1790
Commentary on 2 Sm 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16
Within the historical books of the Old Testament (1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, 1 and 2 Maccabees), this passage is considered to have the most theological significance. Nathan’s Oracle, the establishment of the dynasty of King David, marks the beginning of the understanding of royal messianism, our first hint of the Messiah to come.
In this passage, Nathan is told by God to tell David that, while he would not build the Temple, his son (Solomon) would, and that his (David’s) line would continue: “Your house and your kingdom shall endure forever before me; your throne shall stand firm forever.
CCC: 2 Sm 7 709; 2 Sm 7:14 238, 441
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 89:2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29
R. (37) The son of David will live for ever.
Though Psalm 89 is a lament, this first section is prophetic and reiterates the establishment of the Davidic Dynasty. The intended support for 2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a,16 is clear. It is likely this hymn was sung, entreating God, and reminding the people of the covenant between God and David to “…establish your throne for all generations.
CCC: Ps 89 709
Commentary on Rom 4:13, 16-18, 22
St. Paul continues his discourse on justification through faith. He reconciles Jewish History as it applies to gentiles. He reasserts that Abraham was given the promise, not because of adherence to the Law, but because of God’s love. By defining God’s people as the descendants of Abraham, he includes all peoples in the inheritance of Christ. This reconciliation is through faith, not the Law of Moses, and not simply heritage. In an intense theological statement, St. Paul states that the Law has the negative function of bringing deep-seated rebellion against God to the surface in specific sins.
CCC: Rom 4:16-21 706, 2572; Rom 4:17 298; Rom 4:18-21 723; Rom 4:18 146, 165, 1819
Commentary on Mt 1:16, 18-21, 24a
This section of the Nativity Narrative from St. Matthew’s Gospel tells the story of Joseph’s dilemma. He is required by Mosaic Law to file a petition of divorce in front of witnesses. He had resigned himself to this course of action, when he had a dream in which an angel came to him and told him of the origins of the child Mary bore. For his part, Joseph accepted the message and did as the Lord commanded. (See also commentary on Matthew 1: 18-25)
CCC: Mt 1:16 437; Mt 1:18-25 497; Mt 1:20 333, 437, 486, 497; Mt 1:21 430, 437, 452, 1507, 1846,2666, 2812
Commentary on Lk 2:41-51a
From the Gospel of St. Luke we have the story of Jesus in the Temple. It is significant from a number of perspectives. First the story breaks scriptural silence regarding the “lost years” of Jesus’ growth from infancy to adulthood. This story says Jesus is twelve; that would be the time when he would have celebrated his bar miswah. He would have been considered a man.
This story is at odds with the Apocryphal Gospels (such as the Gospel of St. Thomas) that attributed many miracles to Jesus during his early years. This story paints his childhood as fairly normal. The implication, based on Joseph and Mary’s reaction to Jesus' actions in the Temple, is that they do not completely understand their son’s mission at this point in his life.
With reference to St. Joseph, this passage is the first time God is identified as the Father of Jesus, not Joseph. It is also the last time in scripture he is mentioned. He does, however receive a great tribute as the Lord Jesus returns home with him and is obedient to him (“He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them”).
CCC: Lk 2:41-52 534; Lk 2:41 583; Lk 2:46-49 583; Lk 2:48-49 503; Lk 2:49 2599; Lk 2:51-52 531; Lk 2:51 517, 2196, 2599
The options for the Gospel readings give us both ends of Joseph’s involvement in the life of Christ and two different images to ponder. The dots are all connected in terms of salvation history tumbling down from Abraham to David to Joseph. We are all part of the drama that unfolds as the Messiah is born and raised by earthly parents as true man, born of woman.
Of all the roles played by God’s instruction in Christ’s life, St. Joseph is least mentioned, but, like the cotter pin that holds together two great weights, his understated presence is critical to fulfilling the prophecy. He is, as we hear in Matthew, of the line of David and he continues, through his foster son Jesus, the messianic promise.
His role for us is one of the persons who, in spite of social pressure, does the right thing without fanfare. In all humility, he does what God asks. He is the faithful father who works in obscurity to provide for his family. His contribution to the whole may only be seen by inference. The son he helped to raise fulfilled His destiny, as bittersweet as that was.
One of the things that sets Catholics apart from our protestant brethren is our strong affinity to the saints. They have a difficult time understanding. If you are ever asked: “Why do you pray to Mary (or Joseph, or Cyril, etc.)?” Your first answer should be: “We don’t. We pray for them to intercede for us, but we pray only to God through Christ.”
We look to the saints for a couple of reasons. The first of these is for the reason mentioned above, intercession. We believe that people recognized by the Church as having a special place in the Communion of Saints, have a special place in heaven (this is supported by scripture). And because of their unique status, having places of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven, they are in a position to petition God the Father on our behalf. We believe this to be so because one of the attributes of the saints is that they were some of the best examples of how a person might live a life of faith. And, a big part of that faith is compassion and love for all humankind.
The second reason we have such reverence for the saints is they provide us with examples of faith that are real to us. We can understand a St. Joseph whose principal merit was to provide a human father figure for Jesus as he grew up. That sacrifice and love earned him a special place in the heart of the Church and a special significance for all fathers who adopt children or provide that role for them without a biological connection.
We love what Pope John Paul the Great said of St. Joseph in his Daily Meditations: “What emanates from the figure of Saint Joseph is faith. Joseph of Nazareth is a ‘just man’ because he totally ‘lives by faith.’ He is holy because his faith is truly heroic.” And we, whose faith is often challenged, need heroes.
Today we end with the prayer of St. Joseph:
Almighty God, You entrusted to the faithful care of Joseph the beginnings of the mysteries of man's salvation. Through his intercession may Your Church and her pontiff always be faithful in her service so that Your designs will be fulfilled. Amen.
In other years on this date: Monday of the Third Week ofLent

[1] The picture used is “Joseph's Dream” by Gaetano Gandolfi, 1790
[2] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014

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