Pope: St. Joseph, Model for Priests, all Christians
To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph gave proof of great devotion.
I wish to reflect on the figure of Saint Joseph, setting out from the words of Scripture offered to us in this evening´s liturgy.
Dear Brother Cardinals and Bishops,Priests and Deacons,
Consecrated Brothers and Sisters,Friends from other Christian Confessions,Dear Brothers and Sisters! It is a great joy to meet here to give thanks to God in this Basilica of Marie Reine des Apôtres in Mvolyé, raised on the site of the first church built by the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit who came to bring the Good News to Cameroon. Reflecting the apostolic fervour of those men whose hearts embraced the whole of your country, this place symbolically contains every portion of your land. And so, dear brothers and sisters, in deep spiritual closeness to all the Christian communities where you render service, we raise our prayer of praise this evening to the Father of lights. In the presence of the representatives of other Christian confessions, to whom I extend my respectful and fraternal greetings, I wish to reflect on the figure of Saint Joseph, setting out from the words of Scripture offered to us in this evening´s liturgy.
Speaking to the crowd and to his disciples, Jesus declared: "You have only one Father" (Mt 23:9). There is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, the one Creator of the world, "of all that is seen and unseen". Yet man, created in the image of God, has been granted a share in this one paternity of God (cf. Eph 3:15). Saint Joseph is a striking case of this, since he is a father, without fatherhood according to the flesh. He is not the biological father of Jesus, whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely. To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth. Saint Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails. He had to settle far from his native town. His only reward was to be with Christ. His readiness to do all these things illustrates the words of Saint Paul: "It is Christ the Lord whom you serve" (Col 3:24).
What is important is not to be a useless servant, but rather a "faithful and wise servant". The pairing of the two adjectives is not by chance. It suggests that understanding without fidelity, and fidelity without wisdom, are insufficient. One quality alone, without the other, would not enable us to assume fully the responsibility which God entrusts to us.
Dear brother priests, you are called to live out this fatherhood in the daily tasks of your ministry. In the words of the conciliar Constitution Lumen Gentium: "As their fathers in Christ, priests should care for the faithful whom they have spiritually begotten by Baptism and instruction" (No. 28). If this is the case, how can we not continually return to the very foundation of our priesthood, the Lord Jesus Christ? Our personal relationship with Jesus is constitutive of the way we wish to live our lives. He has called us his friends because everything which he learned from the Father he has made known to us (cf. Jn 15:15).
In living out this deep friendship with Christ you will discover true freedom and deep joy. The ministerial priesthood entails a profound relationship with Christ who is given to us in the Eucharist. Let the celebration of the Eucharist be truly the centre of your priestly lives; in this way it will also be the centre of your ecclesial mission. Throughout our lives Christ calls us to share in his mission, to be his witnesses, so that his word may be proclaimed to all. In celebrating this sacrament in the Lord´s name and in his person, the person of the priest cannot occupy centre stage; he is a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ, who offers himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world. As Jesus teaches us, "the leader must become as one who serves" (Lk 22:26).
Origen writes that "Joseph understood that Jesus was superior to him even as he submitted to him, and, knowing the superiority of his charge, he commanded him with respect and moderation. Everyone should reflect on this: frequently a lesser man is placed over people who are greater, and it happens at times that an inferior is more worthy than the one who appears to be set above him. If a person of greater dignity understands this, then he will not be puffed up with pride because of his higher rank; he will know that his inferior may well be superior to him, even as Jesus was subject to Joseph" (Homily on Saint Luke XX, 5; S.C. p. 287).
Dear brothers in the priesthood, your pastoral ministry demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your Bishops, united fraternally to the whole ...
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