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19 March 2016. Homily


Homily for the feast day of Saint Joseph - Opening of Marie Balavenne Year: 350 years (1666-2016).  

Famous paintings but also stained-glass windows, in our churches, have very often put the Annunciation in front of our eyes, the annunciation to Mary, as Paul Claudel said. But we often overlook the second annunciation, the annunciation to Joseph. This is the narrative by Saint Matthew we hear in the liturgical feast of St Joseph: “The Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream”. While we are familiar with the “yes” of the Virgin Mary, we pay too little attention to the consent of Joseph. Joseph was a righteous man who lived according to the law of God. In his surprise and perhaps anxiety to know that Mary was pregnant, he did not want to harshly enforce the law by denouncing her publicly, but to repudiate her secretly. What happened afterwards tells how he changed his mind, owing to a call from God: he will finally be the adoptive father of the child to come.

In the narrative, three possibilities are put forward, supported by three figures: - What the law says. -What Joseph decides. - What is revealed to him by the Angel. The Law, Joseph and the Angel of God

THE LAW Joseph lives according to the law of God; he is an Israelite believer, an upright man in the sense that he obeys the law of the Lord. And yet he would trespass the law. Repudiating Mary publicly was designating her to the disapproval of all and perhaps exposing her to the violence of the others.

Joseph had intended to repudiate her secretly. He was a righteous man along the same lines as expressed by St Paul in his letter to the Romans (Rm 4:13): “The promise made to Abraham and his descendants to inherit the world not in account of any law but on account of the righteousness which consists in faith”. Sisters, brothers and sisters, the law assuredly tells us what is right, but charity is urged by the love of Almighty God. Charity goes beyond the justice of the law. We too are called to live likewise, doing not only what is required of us by the law, the rules or any personal reasons, but in putting our actions and our words under the sign of true love, under the sign of a self-given gift, in memory of the Lord who gave his life “for you and for many”. In the following of Marie Balavenne, you seek to live beyond what is only right, to embody a love which goes far beyond, which goes to the very end, to the measure of Jesus’ self-gift for His disciples, to the measure of the salvation he has accomplished.

The Angel of the Lord. The Gospel tells us that the Angel appeared to him in a dream. In biblical language, this means a genuine inner adventure in which God reveals something of great importance. The Lord spoke inwardly to Joseph whose heart, we can imagine, was broken and filled with anxiety on behalf of what was happening. He listens… he welcomes… he consents to the mystery of God for whom nothing is impossible: “The child she is bearing has been conceived by the Holy Spirit”Shall we, too, listen to what the Lord wants to tell us? Do we take sufficient time to pray, to pause and discern to better understand the hidden meaning of events, to better respond to what the Lord expects from us?

In today’s prayer, we say: ”You have entrusted St Joseph with the task of watching over the mysteries of salvation”. This mystery of salvation is the coming of the Eternal Son of God in flesh. Through Joseph’s consent, God can give Jesus a name, a land, Bethlehem and Nazareth, a house. The Lord as well asks of us to watch over His house, for he comes to dwell within us, within the other, within the hearts of the poorest of the poor. This is the mission of the Church. It is the mission of the DHS: attentiveness to the most fragile, while listening to the Holy Spirit in union with Christ, and praising the Father.

Denis Moutel. Bishop of Saint Brieuc and Tréguier. Published on le 25/03/2016



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