Wood Sculpturer Ken Packie Carving a Statue of St. Joseph for Boston College.
Transcription Of Homily
Lesson from the Letter of St. Paul to the Colossians.
Brethren, have charity, which is the bond of perfection: And let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, wherein also you are called in one body: and be ye thankful. All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God and the Father by him. Whatsoever you do, do it from the heart, as to the Lord, and not to men: Knowing that you shall receive of the Lord the reward of inheritance. Serve ye the Lord Christ.
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time, Jesus coming into his own country, he taught them in their synagogues, so that they wondered and said: How came this man by this wisdom and miracles? Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James, and Joseph, and Simon, and Jude: And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence therefore hath he all these things? And they were scandalized in his regard. But Jesus said to them: A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house. And he wrought not many miracles there, because of their unbelief.
At that time, Jesus coming into his country, he taught them in their synagogue so that they wondered and said, How came this man by this wisdom in miracles? Is not this the carpenter’s son is not his mother called Mary and his brother and James, Joseph and Simon and Jude and his sisters? Are they not all with us? Whence, therefore have he all these things? And they were scandalized in his regard. But Jesus said to them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country and in his own house, and he rocked not many miracles there because of their unbelief.
The saving words of the Gospel.
All whatsoever you do in word or in work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen.
Today we celebrate this feast of the greatest of saints, and he already has a Feast Day on May 19: the Feast of St. Joseph the man. Today we celebrate the feast of St. Joseph the Worker which is Pius the 12th’s response to the commies, who made May 1st a form of a Labor Day. I don’t know why they call it Labor Day when they don’t work. But the idea was, they were exalting this notion of working for, you know, the Regime, to exalt the State, et cetera, and humanity, fraternity, and all those other things that are empty if Christ is not in the center. And so the Church, as a good mother, gives us a correct understanding of work and human activity in general.
Joseph is called the δίκαιος ὢν, a just man. And this is not a word that is used with great facility in Sacred Scripture. To declare somebody a just man is saying very much about the character and the holiness of a person. Joseph is called the just man; δίκαιος ὢν.
I wanted to clear up something before we go any further with the nature of the Feast. There are a couple of theories about how Joseph received the news of the Blessed Virgin’s unexpected pregnancy. There’s what I call the Suspicion Theory. Augustine is one of the Church Fathers who subscribes to it, and so do many modern theologians. And then there’s the other one that I call the Veneration Theory.
The Suspicion Theory is that Joseph suspected Our Lady of unmentionables and, therefore, he wanted to break off the betrothal and send her away. There are some problems with this; scriptural problems, logical problems with this theory. First of all, he is δίκαιος ὢν, he is a just man, and that, if that were the case, that is a capital offense meriting capital punishment. A just man doesn’t just turn a blind eye to that, say, ‘Well, whatever.’ Also, if there’s just a suspicion of impropriety Numbers Chapter 5 gave the Jews a ritual that men would have recourse to in the case of suspicion. Joseph, as a just man, doesn’t do that. Why is that? Why doesn’t he invoke that ritual? Why doesn’t he turn it over to the proper authorities? He’s not relaxing the Law. The Lord didn’t come to relax a Law. He came to intensify them; fulfill them, and intensify them. When the Disciples when they understand finally what our Lord is demanding, they say, ‘That’s too much,’ and it is too much for any person, but not without God’s grace. So left to our own, of course, what He demands is too much.
The Veneration Theory, though, is, for me, very convincing. It’s the only alternative. In other words, it’s the only way to understand that. There is no other alternative. It also it’s very scriptural and Origin, who was an early Church father. He’s not St. Origin. He had a couple of problems, but his writings are wonderful. Most of them are really, really good. Aquinas cites Origin in many cases. St. Bernard of Clairvaux was another one who subscribed to this Veneration Theory. So we’ve got Origin. We’ve got St. Bernard of Clairvaux. We’ve got Thomas Aquinas.
Origin says something beautiful. He says, “He sought to put her away,” speaking about Joseph, “he sought to put her away because he saw in her a great sacrament to approach which he thought himself unworthy.” Joseph understood, he believed what the Blessed Mother said to him. And basically, his response was, ‘Who am I, that the mother of the Messiah, that the Messiah Himself who is God, conceived the Holy Spirit, should come to me as foster father?’ A just man would shrink at that. He reels, so he wants to put our Lady away to turn away from this situation he’s been involved in more because he understands what’s asked of him. Not because of suspicion. Nobody knew our Lady better than Joseph. He wouldn’t suspect her of lying. He wouldn’t suspect her of grave sin. But he knows himself. And as a humble and just man, he thinks this is too much for me because of her sanctity, which is now reaffirmed in her mission, as Mother of the Eternal Logos. Joseph is cast into a certain darkness. ‘How can I do this?’ He feared her. And he feared to enter into this relationship with her in a formal way because of the disproportion between himself and the task and obviously he doesn’t want to expose her to shame. ‘Who else is gonna believe this?’ It would have been fruitless and precarious for Our Lady if you were to try to explain this mystery to others. So he becomes, basically, the custodian of the mystery.
And so when the Angel appears to him in his dream, it’s not so much to clear up doubts about the Blessed Mother’s guilt or innocence as much as a revelation of God’s plan, and that Joseph should not be afraid to fulfill his role in it because God ordained it as such and Joseph has an important part to play in it. So the Suspicion Theory has more problems than solutions as far as I’m concerned. And this Veneration Theory underscores just what a just man, St. Joseph is.
And so St. Joseph becomes the custodian of this mystery. This ineffable mystery is entrusted to his care. And His task is to give the Logos a human name, a name that contains the secret of His life and mission. And this, in the context of a liturgy, with a public proclamation of Christ’s identity YHWH Saves, Jesus/Yahushua, he does this before all the people through the Rites of Circumcision and the Naming. He becomes the living symbol of the Divine Father who sends His son on the Mission of Salvation by giving Him the Name that expresses who and what He is. So much for Joseph the man.
Joseph the Worker. Work existed before the Fall. It’s not a consequence of the Fall. Onerous labor, sweat, brambles, thistles, those are the fruit of the Fall but work itself already existed. Adam was entrusted with work before the Fall. You see the two verbs that are used for the task entrusted to him; to cultivate and protect the Garden. Interesting. The only other time that those two verbs are used together is to describe the Levitical task as priests; the priests caring [for] and protecting the Sanctuary. And so, Eden was really the original Holy of Holies.
The Temple is an imitation of Eden and our work, then, is a form of participation and co-creation. We become co-creators with God when we offer up our work to Him when we are Joseph-like in its execution. I can’t imagine Joseph being disordered in his work; being lazy or dishonest in deals that he was making when he was selling things. He had to make a profit because he had to support a family but I can’t imagine him being unjust. He’s a just man. Imagine the humility of St. Joseph who has been entrusted with the Eternal Logos, who is the creator of the universe, who left His throne in heaven to come down to earth to live under Joseph’s tutelage. And Joseph has Him alongside him in his workshop, teaching the Eternal Word how to make a chair. It says so much about Joseph himself, but also about the nature and value of work.
If the Son of God is willing to learn human work from this just man, it indicates that there is a specific moral value to work and it has a precise meaning for man and his own self-fulfillment. Through work, we transform nature and adapt it to our needs. But it’s also a form of a fulfillment of the worker himself. When you look at, you know, the Marxist approach to work, and then when you read John Paul II’s Laborem exercens, there’s a world of difference between the philosophy of work presented by the Marxists, which has work as an end, and the philosophy of the worker, which sees work as something that fulfills man himself; not in some horizontalist, naturalist way but in a supernatural way in that we are participating in a Divinely ordered plan. And when we are in a state of grace, when we offer up our work, when we do it to His glory, that work is sanctifying and it doesn’t leave the work or the worker the same. We’re transformed through it.
Children need to see a strong father. Strong and tender and gentle fathers because boys see in their father, regardless of what he’s like, they see in him what they’re supposed to be like, for good and ill. Girls see in their father the kind of guy they’re supposed to marry. That is just how children are wired, and that is the importance of the role of a father who has to be aware of his own value, aware of his own co-creative vocation. Because these things don’t happen in a vacuum.
Our worship here doesn’t happen in a vacuum. You know the virtue of religion, and that’s why this line stood out to me today in the Letter of Paul to the Colossians. “All whatsoever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s everything. So the virtue of religion, not religion as a phenomenon that, you know, everyone is born religious. That’s part of our nature. You know, people who say, ‘Well, I’m spiritual and not religious.’ It’s like saying, ‘I’m physical, but I don’t take showers.’ Okay, one doesn’t replace the other, one fulfills the other. So what is religion, religion not as a phenomenon? What is religion as a virtue? Religion as a virtue, it’s a subset of the virtue of justice. What is justice? Justice is to give each his due; what he deserves. That is justice. So there is no higher virtue really, no higher moral virtue better said, than the virtue of religion because, through the virtue of religion, we give God what He deserves. And that is not something that is just limited to cult worship. Okay, it’s not limited. So our virtue of religion, the way we’re supposed to live, is not something that’s just limited to what happens in the sanctuary, what happens in the pew. The virtue of religion, then, is precisely this: Do all your work, your work, your thoughts, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We give Him what He deserves. To give God what He deserves means my every thought, my every word, my every action.
That’s the importance of a morning offering. When I give it all to Him, now He can do something with that. When I’m in a state of grace, those are not just good works, they become meritorious. The difference between a good work and a meritorious work is not a question of degree. It’s a question of species. They’re nothing alike. Materially, they may look the same. Materially. But when you’re in a state of grace, and you have that sense of offering, all of a sudden, that material work becomes a spiritual reality. It’s transforming of the one who does it and of the product itself.
There was a nun, a Benedictine nun, Catherine Maria Baij, in a monastery, a bit north of Rome – it is still in existence. She had all sorts of revelations nobody knew about until decades after her death when the documents that she wrote down at Lord’s behest were revealed, were discovered. She wrote one on the interior life of Jesus Christ, these things that he revealed to her. It’s a huge dense book. And then there’s a shorter one, called The Life of St. Joseph. And in it this is what our Lord reveals reveal to this Sister Maria Cecilia Baij:
Joseph was sometimes so exhausted at the end of his workday, that he would seek refreshment in the Blessed Virgin by asking her to sing to him, something that she readily did. And she would sing a hymn of praise to the Father and her voice and the praises that she sang, moved his heart so much that he would fall into ecstasy. And when he would come out of the ecstasy, he would thank her, and he praised her saying, “My spouse, your singing alone is enough to bring comfort to every afflicted heart. What consolation you gave me through it. What relief for my weariness. What a great joy it is for me to hear you speak or sing.” For the Most Holy Virgin, these words were the occasion for giving additional praise to God, the source of all that is good, and she responded, “God has poured these graces into my heart in order that you might be comforted and obtain relief in your tribulations and afflictions.”
In the name of the Father, and the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen