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Saint Joseph Continues in His Role as Protector of the Body of Christ

by Pope John Paul II

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    Document Information

  • Description:
    The Holy Father's homily on the Solemnity of St. Joseph during a pastoral visit to the Diocese of Sabina-Poggio Mirteto.
  • Larger Work:
    L'Osservatore Romano
  • Publisher & Date:
    Vatican, March 1993

"He will say to me, 'You are my Father'" (Ps 88:27).

The word of God which the liturgy offers us on today's Solemnity of St. Joseph is very rich. It presents to us the words of the Gospel of St. Luke but, at the same time, it draws from the great treasury of the Old Testament, in particular from the Second Book of Samuel and the Book of Psalms. There is an intimate bond between the Old and the New Testament, which is illustrated clearly and profoundly by St. Paul in the passage from the letter to the Romans proclaimed a short while ago.

Who is the one who, in the words of the Psalm, cries out: "You are my Father"? It is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. Before these words were spoken by Jesus of Nazareth, however, the psalmist had spoken them precisely in the context of the covenant which Yahweh made with his people. Therefore, they are words addressed to the God of the covenant.

So, you see, it is precisely God, the rock of mankind's salvation to whom Jesus cries out: "You are my Father"! He says this using the word which expresses a son's greatest degree of confidence in his father: "Abba", my father!

2. Abba, my Father! This is what Jesus calls his heavenly Father, thus making it possible for us also to address in like manner the One whose eternal, consubstantial Son he is. Jesus authorizes us to use this expression, to pray to the Father in this way. Today's liturgy introduces us in a significant way into the prayer which the Son of God ceaselessly addresses to the heavenly Father.

At the same time, from his prayerful invocation which sheds light on the fatherhood of God, in some way emerges a special salvific plan concerning the man called Joseph, to whom the eternal Father entrusted a singular participation in his own fatherhood.

Joseph participates in God's fatherhood

"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife in to your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:20-21).

By these words the heavenly Father calls Joseph, a descendant of the house of David, to participate in a special way in his eternal fatherhood. The Son of God, Son of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, will live at Joseph's side. He will be entrusted to his loving fatherhood. He will address Joseph, a human being, as a "father".

3. When Jesus was only 12 years old, did not his mother say in the temple of Jerusalem: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety" (Lk 2:48)?

Mary, speaking of Joseph, uses the expression "your father".

On that occasion the response the boy Jesus gave to his parents is quite singular: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).

In this way Jesus reveals the profound truth of his divine Sonship: the truth concerning the Father who "so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life" (Jn 3:16). The boy Jesus responds to Mary and Joseph: "I must be busy with my Father's affairs".

Although at first glance these words in a certain sense seem to cast a shadow on Joseph's "fatherhood", in reality they show it even more clearly as the loving fatherhood of that singular "descendent of David", Joseph of Nazareth.

4. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the heart of today's liturgical solemnity: the loving fatherhood of St. Joseph. He is the guardian and protector who, together with his vocation to be the foster-father of the Redeemer, received from divine Providence the mission of protecting his growth in wisdom, age and grace.

In the Litany to St. Joseph, we invoke him under wonderful titles. We call him the "Renowned offspring of David", "Light of Patriarchs", "Spouse of the Mother of God", "Chaste guardian of the Virgin", "Foster-father of the Son of God", "Diligent protector of Christ", "Head of the Holy Family".

In an expression which so well summarizes the biblical truth about him, we invoke him as the "Protector of holy Church". This invocation is deeply rooted in New Testament revelation. The Church is, in fact, Christ's Body. Is it not logical then and necessary that he to whom the eternal Father entrusted his Son, should offer the same protection to the Body of Christ which, according to the teaching of the Apostle Paul, is the Church?

We call upon you, St. Joseph

5. Today the community of believers throughout the whole world entrust to St. Joseph themselves and their needs at this difficult stage of history as we draw near the end of the second Christian millennium.

We invoke your aid, O wonderful guardian of the Lord: "Diligent protector of Christ", you who are "protector of holy Church".

Today the Church of Sabina also entrusts to you herself and her pastoral plans. Dear brothers and sisters, your Diocese is preparing for the important spiritual appointment of the year 2000 with the pastoral visit which your Bishop will make to the 82 parishes comprising your ecclesial family in the light of the diocesan Synod. May this providential pastoral visit open up in all of you the path of a genuine Synodal mentality.

You are aware of the need to rediscover the mystery of the "Church" as communion and mission, and the heart of your pastoral plan is precisely this: to proclaim to all that Jesus Christ is Lord!

6. With these sentiments I am happy to greet each of you present at this solemn Eucharistic celebration and those who have joined us in spirit. In particular I greet Cardinal Camillo Ruini, my Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference. With affection and esteem I greet the Pastor of your Diocesan community, Bishop Salvatore Boccaccio, together with the priests, his foremost coworkers in the pastoral service of the brethren! To you, dear priests, I would like to offer a word of heartfelt appreciation for the taxing apostolic work you do, which is sometimes not very gratifying, humanly speaking. Always be solidly founded in Christ; in all circumstances you should remember that you are his heralds and witnesses. With Gospel passion take care of the portion of the Christian people entrusted to you and spread the message of salvation, destined for every human person, all about you. In order to have an abundance of joy and Gospel hope to sow, may the communion between you and your Bishop be strengthened so that your common pastoral activity may become ever closer and more effective.

I offer an affectionate greeting to the Apostolic Nuncio in Italy and to the Bishops of Lazio. I also greet you, the dear religious who are actively involved in the various areas of the apostolate in the service of the Gospel. May the Lord reward your every effort and make you radiant signs of his presence in the world.

I am also pleased to offer my deferential greeting to the civil and military authorities, to the representatives of the Provincial Administration of Rome and the Regional Council of Lazio, as well as to all those who have helped to organize this visit, giving me the opportunity in a single day to get to know various interesting localities in the Sabine area.

With particular affection I address you, dear invalids, the privileged witnesses of the cross of Christ, the elderly, and you, the young people whom I see so numerous and so inspired with courageous, ardent missionary enthusiasm. Dear young people, the hope of the Church and the civil community depends on you: Open your hearts to Christ; do not be ensnared by the false allure of consumerism and selfishness. Be apostles of a love without frontiers; be seekers of authentic, liberating truth. Be enthusiastic about Christ

People have a right to dignified work

7. Dear brothers and sisters, my visit today cannot fail to be concerned especially about the family and work, your families and your work: your work in the fields, as well as that done in the factories and workshops.

Unfortunately, in many respects the picture of current family conditions in your region is planning. The crisis of the family institution, connected with growing problems in work, is making itself felt and has serious repercussions on the whole of society. One part of your Diocese, the part closer to Rome, especially is experiencing some of the difficulties of the capital, pressed by "rampant immigration" to new models of life, new demands, a new way of understanding existence. Both parents working or people holding two jobs and the time lost in traffic on overcrowded roads are like so many termites gnawing away at the identity of the family and contribute to the loss of direction among the young people, ever more confused in their basic choices and disappointed in their innermost hopes.

St. Joseph, guardian of the family of Nazareth, look upon the families of this diocesan community! Help them to resolve the many complex problems which make their future uncertain and troubled. People have a right to work that will assure nuclear families of a dignified life; children must be able to enjoy the full, undivided affection of their parents; newlyweds must be in a position to begin their married life with serenity and commitment.

St. Joseph, help families to become the agents of a renewed evangelization, one sustained and accompanied, as your Bishop recalled at the beginning of this celebration, by the witness of charity which begins with the lowly. Thus your diocesan community will grow in missionary openness and concrete solidarity towards those in need. In that context, I thank you for the generous offering which you gave to me on behalf of the African peoples particularly stricken by poverty, violence and hunger.

8. As happened in the family of Nazareth, in St. Joseph's family, make your families privileged places for Christ to meet his brothers and sisters.

In the Litany of St. Joseph we pray as follows: "Glory of home life" "Model of workers".

Under his protection may the family and labor here and everywhere bear fruit to everlasting life, an expression of that covenant which God has made with the whole of humanity in Jesus Christ.

"You are my father"

Joseph, most faithful, to you we turn. Do not cease interceding for us; do not cease interceding for the whole human family!


Click here for a compilation of documents, prayers and novenas for St. Joseph available on Petersnet.


© L'Osservatore Romano, Editorial and Management Offices, Via del Pellegrino, 00120, Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.

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