Fourth Sunday, Mary and Joseph

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home (Mt. 1:24). ⧾

On this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, the Sacred Liturgy invites us to be one with the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph; that we might learn from them how to approach and how to serve the Mystery of God made Man, the Word Made Flesh. Our Advent liturgy has recalled the ancient prophecies, specifically those of the Prophet Isaiah. We might say of these that they were a remote preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God. For two Sundays we contemplated the figure and message of John the Baptist, who, as the last of the prophets provides us with a more proximate preparation for the revelation of this Mystery. Today, with Our Lady and St. Joseph as models and guides, our contemplation of this Mystery is both proximate and intimate.

From them, more than anyone, we learn how to receive the Mystery of Christ Our Lord and how to serve this Mystery in the intimacy of our own interior life. At the Angel’s message, Our Lady says, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord’ (Lk. 1:38). We are very familiar with these words because they comprise part of the Angelus prayer that we recite several times daily. St. Joseph is no less prompt in his obedience; for as our Gospel text tells us, St. Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. This is the obedience of faith spoken of by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans and which we are called to bring about; called as we are to belong to Jesus Christ (Rom 1:5). Our own prompt obedience and willingness to serve the Mystery of Christ expresses our gratitude for the gift of salvation and our willingness to serve the cause of the Gospel in our time.

The saints assure us that devotion to Our Lady is a sure sign of salvation because the grace that she wants to obtain most for us is the grace of saving our souls. As we contemplate her with the Christ Child we see Our Saviour and Lord whom she served with love beyond all telling. So we make our own today the simple yet profound prayer of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich: O God, let us serve the work of salvation following the example of the faith and love of Mary. Devotion to St. Joseph is no less important and as I do every year on the Sunday before Christmas, I exhort you – especially the men here, to foster in yourselves a deep devotion to St. Joseph, the Chaste Guardian of both the Virgin and of the Redeemer. Like our Lady, St. Joseph receives a unique task in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. His vocation is to be the visible fatherhood of God on earth, to serve the Son of God and His Mother selflessly; and such service is reward enough in itself (Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Fire of Mercy Heart of the Word, p. 72). As men, to serve God and in turn our families with this same selflessness is what we should be striving for as we mature in faith and in character.

Devotion to duty has always been a hallmark of a rightly ordered masculinity; and in an age like ours that blasphemes nature’s godly order especially through what has come to be known as transgender theory, it is imperative that we assert the truth about femininity and masculinity respectively. Growth in character and in faith enables all of us to find our fulfilment simply in doing what is right and proper, and in serving God, our ultimate good. This sentiment is expressed beautifully in the prayer popularized by St. Ignatius of Loyola: Give me love for you alone along with your grace, and I am rich enough; I ask for nothing more. (Amorem tui solum cum gratia tua mihi dones, et dives sum satis, nec aliud quidquam ultra posco.) May St. Joseph, the model of all who labour, obtain this grace for us.

Among the titles in his litany, we invoke St. Joseph as the Splendour of the Patriarchs; our fathers in faith such as Abraham and Isaac and, yes, Joseph, who though sold into slavery, became the means of salvation for all of Israel. By God’s appointment Joseph, son of Isaac became the administrator of the Egyptian granaries; so to Joseph, son of David the granary of the Redemption was entrusted, for the Child born of Mary has become for us the Bread of Life. May St. Joseph obtain for all of us the grace of having greater reverence and devotion for Our Eucharistic Lord.

Thirty years ago Pope John Paul II wrote a beautiful Apostolic Exhortation on the role of St. Joseph in the Mystery of Christ and the Church; and the pope observed that St. Joseph is an exceptional teacher in the service of Christ’s saving mission which is the responsibility of each and every member of the Church. (Redemptoris Custos, August 15, 1989, Apostolic Exhortation, On the Person and Mission of St. Joseph in the Life of Christ and of the Church). This means that all of us without exception can learn from him how to receive Our Lord into the intimacy of our own interior life and how to serve the work of salvation with prompt obedience.

Many of you are already familiar with the devotion to St. Joseph known as The Holy Cloak of St. Joseph. It is a devotion comprised of a series of prayers and invocations that are recited for thirty consecutive days, in memory of the thirty years that St. Joseph spent in the company of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Our Lady. It is called the Holy Cloak because it seeks the protection of the Guardian of the Redeemer as a shield against all ills, both material and spiritual. It is such a beautiful devotion and collection of prayers that three years ago I decided to publish it in a little booklet which I encourage you to have and to share with others. I assure you that once you have prayed this devotion your spiritual life will deepen and grow. An increase in our spiritual life should be the desire of all us. To date, to the greater glory of God, 3,500 copies of this devotional have been printed and distributed.

Christmas is a few days away. Let us ask Our Lady and St. Joseph to obtain for us the grace of celebrating the coming Feast above all with gratitude for the gift of the true Faith in Christ Jesus; for there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Let us pray that the many who have forsaken the faith may return to its fullness, for the light of faith is more than ever needed as we endure the great apostasy and the resurgence of ancient heresies in the Church. May the example and prayers of St. Joseph, Terror of demons and Patron of the Universal Church, obtain for us the wisdom of faith, perseverance in our good deeds and the grace of final perseverance (Supplications in Honour of St. Joseph’s Hidden Life with Jesus and Mary, The Holy Cloak of St. Joseph). ⧾