Entry 0337: Reflections on the Solemnity of
by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate
On two occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on 19 March, the solemnity of the
Saint Joseph, in 2006 and 2009. Here are the texts of a brief address before the recitation of the Angelus
and two homilies delivered on these occasions.
Vatican Basilica, Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March
May God bless you and watch over you! May he give you the grace to keep advancing towards him with fidelity! May he give stability to your lives so that you may reap the fruits he awaits from you! May he make you witnesses of his love here in
Cameroon and to
the ends of the earth! I fervently beg him to give you a taste of the joy of belonging
to him, now and for ever. Amen.
Saint Peter’s Square, Third Sunday of Lent, 19 March 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, 19 March, is the Solemnity of St Joseph, but as it coincides with the Third Sunday of Lent, its liturgical celebration is postponed until tomorrow. However, the Marian context of the Angelus invites us to reflect today with veneration on the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s spouse and Patron of the universal Church.
I like to recall that beloved John Paul II was also very devoted to
St Joseph, to whom he dedicated the Apostolic
Exhortation Redemptoris Custos, Guardian of the Redeemer, and who surely
experienced his assistance at the hour of death.
The figure of this great Saint, even though remaining somewhat hidden, is of fundamental importance in the history of salvation. Above all, as part of the tribe of
he united Jesus to the Davidic lineage so that, fulfilling the promises regarding
the Messiah, the Son of the Virgin Mary may truly be called the “son of David”.
The Gospel of Matthew highlights in a special way the Messianic prophecies which reached fulfilment through the role that Joseph played: the birth of Jesus in
Bethlehem (2: 1-6); his journey through
where the Holy Family took refuge (2: 13-15); the nickname, the “Nazarene” (2: 22-23).
In all of this he showed himself, like his spouse Mary, an authentic heir of Abraham’s faith: faith in God who guides the events of history according to his mysterious salvific plan. His greatness, like Mary’s, stands out even more because his mission was carried out in the humility and hiddenness of the house of
Moreover, God himself, in the person of his Incarnate Son, chose this way and style
of life - humility and hiddenness - in his earthly existence.
From the example of
St Joseph we all receive a strong invitation to
carry out with fidelity, simplicity and modesty the task that Providence has entrusted to us. I think especially
of fathers and mothers of families, and I pray that they will always be able to
appreciate the beauty of a simple and industrious life, cultivating the conjugal
relationship with care and fulfilling with enthusiasm the great and difficult educational
To priests, who exercise a paternal role over Ecclesial Communities, may
St Joseph help them love the Church with affection
and complete dedication, and may he support consecrated persons in their joyous
and faithful observance of the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity and obedience.
May he protect workers throughout the world so that they contribute with their different
professions to the progress of the whole of humanity, and may he help every Christian
to fulfil God’s will with confidence and love, thereby cooperating in the fulfilment
of the work of salvation.
EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION FOR ALL WORKERS
ON THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have listened together to a famous and beautiful passage from the Book of Exodus, in which the sacred author tells of God’s presentation of the Decalogue to
Israel. One detail makes an immediate
impression: the announcement of the Ten Commandments
is introduced by a significant reference to the liberation of the People of Israel.
The text says: “I am the Lord your God, who
brought you out of the , out of the house
of bondage” (Ex 20: 2). land
Thus, the Decalogue is intended as a confirmation of the freedom gained. Indeed, at a closer look, the Commandments are the means that the Lord gives us to protect our freedom, both from the internal conditioning of passions and from the external abuse of those with evil intentions. The “nos” of the Commandments are as many “yeses” to the growth of true freedom.
There is a second dimension of the Decalogue that should also be emphasized: by the Law which he gave through Moses, the Lord revealed that he wanted to make a covenant with
Israel. The Law, therefore, is a gift
more than an imposition. Rather than commanding what the human being ought to do,
its intention is to reveal to all the choice of God: He takes the side of the Chosen People; he set
them free from slavery and surrounds them with his merciful goodness. The Decalogue
is a proof of his special love.
Today’s liturgy offers us a second message: The Mosaic Law was totally fulfilled in Jesus, who revealed God’s wisdom and love through the mystery of the Cross, “a stumbling block to Jews and an absurdity to Gentiles; but to those who are called, Jews and Greeks alike, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” (I Cor 1: 23-24).
The Gospel just proclaimed refers precisely to this: Jesus drove the merchants and money-changers out of the temple. Through the verse of a Psalm: “Zeal for your house has consumed me” (see Ps 69: 10), the Evangelist provides a key for the interpretation of this significant episode. And Jesus was “consumed” by this “zeal” for the “house of God”, which was being used for purposes other than those for which it was intended.
To the amazement of everyone present, he responded to the request of the religious leaders who demand evidence of his authority by saying: “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2: 19). These are mysterious words that were incomprehensible at the time; John, however, paraphrased them for his Christian readers, saying: “Actually, he was talking about the temple of his body” (Jn 2: 21).
His enemies were to destroy that “temple”, but after three days he would rebuild it through the Resurrection. The distressful “stumbling block” of Christ’s death was to be crowned by the triumph of his glorious Resurrection.
In this Lenten season, while we are preparing to relive this central event of our salvation in the Easter triduum, we are already looking at the Crucified One, seeing in him the brightness of the Risen One.
Dear brothers and sisters, today’s Eucharistic Celebration, which combines the commemoration of
St Joseph with meditation on
the liturgical texts of the Third Sunday of Lent, gives us the opportunity to consider
in the light of the Paschal Mystery another important aspect of human life. I am
referring to the reality of work, which exists today in the midst of rapid and complex
In many passages, the Bible shows that work is one of the original conditions of the human being. When the Creator shaped man in his image and likeness, he asked him to till the land (see Gn 2: 5-6). It was because of the sin of our first parents that work became a burden and an affliction (see Gn 3: 6-8), but in the divine plan it retains its value, unaltered.
The Son of God, by making himself like us in all things, dedicated himself for many years to manual activities, so that he was known as “the carpenter’s son” (see Mt 13: 55). The Church has always, but especially in the last century, shown attention and concern for this social context, as the many social interventions of the Magisterium testify and the action of many associations of Christian inspiration show; some of them are gathered here today and represent the whole world of workers.
I am pleased to welcome you, dear friends, and I address my cordial greeting to each one of you. A special thought goes to Bishop Arrigo Miglio of Ivrea and President of the Italian Episcopal Commission for Social Problems and Work, Justice and Peace, who has interpreted your common sentiments and addressed courteous good wishes to me for my name day. I am deeply grateful to him.
Work is of fundamental importance to the fulfilment of the human being and to the development of society. Thus, it must always be organized and carried out with full respect for human dignity and must always serve the common good.
At the same time, it is indispensable that people not allow themselves to be enslaved by work or idolize it, claiming to find in it the ultimate and definitive meaning of life.
The invitation contained in the First Reading is appropriate in this regard: “Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day. Six days you may labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord, your God” (Ex 20: 8-9). The Sabbath is a holy day, that is, a day consecrated to God on which man understands better the meaning of his life and his work. It can therefore be said that the biblical teaching on work is crowned by the commandment of rest.
The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church speaks opportunely of this: “For man, bound as he is to the necessity of work, this rest opens to the prospect of a fuller freedom, that of the eternal Sabbath (see Heb 4: 9-10). Rest gives men and women the possibility to remember and experience anew God’s work from Creation to Redemption, in order to recognize themselves as his work (see Eph 2: 10), and to give thanks for their lives and for their subsistence to him who is their author” (no. 258).
Work must serve the true good of humanity, permitting “men as individuals and as members of society to pursue and fulfil their total vocation” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 35). For this to happen, technical and professional qualifications, although necessary, do not suffice; nor does the creation of a just social order, attentive to the common good.
It is necessary to live a spirituality that helps believers to sanctify themselves through their work, imitating
who had to provide with his own hands for the daily needs of the Holy Family and
whom, consequently, the Church holds up as Patron of workers. His witness shows
that man is the subject and protagonist of work.
I would like to entrust to
St Joseph those
young people who are finding integration into the working world difficult, the unemployed
and everyone who is suffering hardship due to the widespread employment crisis.
Together with Mary, his Spouse, may
watch over all workers and obtain serenity and peace for families and for the whole
May Christians, looking at this great Saint, learn to witness in every working environment to the love of Christ, the source of true solidarity and lasting peace. Amen!
OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
CAMEROON AND ANGOLA
(MARCH 17-23, 2009)
ON THE OCCASION OF THE PUBLICATION
OF THE INSTRUMENTUM LABORIS
HOMILY OF THE HOLY FATHER BENEDICT XVI
Amadou Ahidjo Stadium of Yaoundé, Thursady, 19 March 2009
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Praised be Jesus Christ who has gathered us in this stadium today that we may enter more deeply into his life!
Jesus Christ brings us together on this day when the Church, here in
and throughout the world, celebrates the Feast of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Virgin
Mary. I begin by wishing a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have
received the grace of bearing this beautiful name, and I ask Saint Joseph to grant
them his special protection in guiding them towards the Lord Jesus Christ all the
days of their life. I also extend cordial best wishes to all the parishes, schools,
colleges, and institutions named after Saint
Joseph. I thank Archbishop Tonyé-Bakot of Yaoundé for his
kind words, and I warmly greet the representatives of the African Episcopal Conferences
who have come to Yaoundé for the promulgation of the Instrumentum Laboris
of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the
Synod of Bishops.
How can we enter into the specific grace of this day? In a little while, at the end of Mass, the liturgy will remind us of the focal point of our meditation when it has us pray: “Lord, today you nourish us at this altar as we celebrate the feast of
Saint Joseph. Protect your
Church always, and in your love watch over the gifts you have given us.” We are
asking the Lord to protect the Church always – and he does! – just as Joseph protected
his family and kept watch over the child Jesus during his early years.
Our Gospel reading recalls this for us. The angel said to Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home,” (Mt 1:20) and that is precisely what he did: “he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him” (Mt 1:24). Why was Saint Matthew so keen to note Joseph’s trust in the words received from the messenger of God, if not to invite us to imitate this same loving trust?
Although the first reading which we have just heard does not speak explicitly of
Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal about
him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to God’s command, tells David: “I will raise
up your heir after you, sprung from your loins” (2 Sam 7:12). David must
accept that he will die before seeing the fulfilment of this promise, which will
come to pass “when (his) time comes” and he will rest “with (his) ancestors”. We
thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most cherished desires – seeing the fruits
of one’s labours – is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who
are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best
of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet
make no mistake about what this “success” entails: what God asks David to do is
to place his trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne
“firm for ever” (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of
prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God. In the same way, Joseph trusts
God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: “Joseph, son of David, do
not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy
Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Throughout all
of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even
in the face of such astonishing news.
Dear fathers and mothers here today, do you have trust in God who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of his adopted children? Do you accept that he is counting on you to pass on to your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves have received and which will prepare them to live with love and respect for his holy name? At a time when so many people have no qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful. Africa in general, and
in particular, place themselves at risk if they do not recognize the True Author
of Life! Brothers and sisters in Cameroon
and throughout Africa, you who have received from
God so many human virtues, take care of your souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated
by selfish illusions and false ideals! Believe – yes! – continue to believe in God
– Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – he alone truly loves you in the way you yearn to
be loved, he alone can satisfy you, can bring stability to your lives. Only Christ
is the way of Life.
God alone could grant Joseph the strength to trust the Angel. God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to raise your family as he wants. Ask it of him! God loves to be asked for what he wishes to give. Ask him for the grace of a true and ever more faithful love patterned after his own. As the Psalm magnificently puts it: his “love is established for ever, his loyalty will stand as long as the heavens” (Ps 88:3).
Just as on other continents, the family today – in your country and across
– is experiencing a difficult time; but fidelity to God will help see it through.
Certain values of the traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between
different generations have evolved in a way that no longer favours the transmission
of accumulated knowledge and inherited wisdom. Too often we witness a rural exodus
not unlike that known in many other periods of human history. The quality of family
ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile members of the younger generation
who often – sadly – are without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living
in ephemeral and man-made paradises which we know will never guarantee the human
being a deep, abiding happiness. Sometimes the African people too are constrained
to flee from themselves and abandon everything that once made up their interior
richness. Confronted with the phenomenon of rapid urbanization, they leave the land,
physically and morally: not as Abraham had done in response to the Lord’s call,
but as a kind of interior exile which alienates them from their very being, from
their brothers and sisters, and from God himself.
Is this an irreversible, inevitable development? By no means! More than ever, we must “hope against all hope” (Rom 4:18). Here I wish to acknowledge with appreciation and gratitude the remarkable work done by countless associations that promote the life of faith and the practice of charity. May they be warmly thanked! May they find in the word of God renewed strength to carry out their projects for the integral development of the human person in Africa, especially in
The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the acceptance of life as a gift from God. According to both Sacred Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created “in the image and likeness of God” (Gen 1:27). Every person must live! Death must not prevail over life! Death will never have the last word!
Sons and daughters of
Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to hope,
and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life,
and that we can be saved by him alone. Saint Paul is indeed an inspired author given
to the Church by the Holy Spirit as a “teacher of nations” (1 Tim 2:7) when
he tells us that Abraham, “hoping against hope, believed that he should become the
father of many nations; as he had been told, ‘So shall your descendants be’” (Rom
“Hoping against hope”: is this not a magnificent description of a Christian?
is called to hope through you and in you! With Jesus Christ, who trod the African
soil, Africa can become the continent of hope!
We are all members of the peoples that God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each
and every one of us was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of
us has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If discouragement
overwhelms you, think of the faith of Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think
of the hope of Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if exasperation
or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph, who was the first man to set
eyes on the human face of God in the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy
Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for having
drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an example and model of love for
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say to you once more from the bottom of my heart: like Joseph, do not be afraid to take Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the Church. Mary, Mother of the Church, will teach you to follow your pastors, to love your bishops, your priests, your deacons and your catechists; to heed what they teach you and to pray for their intentions. Husbands, look upon the love of Joseph for Mary and Jesus; those preparing for marriage, treat your future spouse as Joseph did; those of you who have given yourselves to God in celibacy, reflect upon the teaching of the Church, our Mother: “Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God with his people” (Redemptoris Custos, no. 20).
Once more, I wish to extend a particular word of encouragement to fathers so that they may take
Saint Joseph as their model.
He who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the deepest meaning
of their own fatherhood. In the same way, each father receives his children from
God, and they are created in God’s own image and likeness. Saint Joseph was the spouse of Mary. In the same
way, each father sees himself entrusted with the mystery of womanhood through his
own wife. Dear fathers, like Saint Joseph,
respect and love your spouse; and by your love and your wise presence, lead your
children to God where they must be (see Lk 2:49).
Finally, to all the young people present, I offer words of friendship and encouragement: as you face the challenges of life, take courage! Your life is priceless in the eyes of God! Let Christ take hold of you, agree to pledge your love to him, and – why not? – maybe even do so in the priesthood or in the consecrated life! This is the supreme service. To the children who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to join paramilitary forces that are terrorizing some countries, I would like to say: God loves you, he has not forgotten you, and Saint Joseph protects you! Invoke him with confidence.
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