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The Pope's Homily in Fabriano On the Feast of St. Joseph

April 21, 1991

Papal Visit to Fabriano: Homily at Mass 'Is rejection of life a result of consumerism?' asks the Pope

The Pope celebrated Mass in the cathedral of Fabriano on the feast of St Joseph. He preached the following homily.

1. "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).

With these words of the 12-year-old Jesus to Mary and Joseph, I want to express to you, dear brothers and sisters, my joy at celebrating this solemnity together with you. I greet your pastor Bishop Luigi Scuppa, and thank him for the invitation he gave me to visit your diocesan community, which I can feel is alive and full of faith.

I greet the bishops of the region and the bishops emeritus of your dioceses; I want to thank all of them for their fraternal communion. I also greet everyone present: the civil and military authorities, the priests, religious, associations and ecclesial movements, the families, young people, the infirm, and everyone!

We have just listened to a passage from the Gospel of Luke which mentions the episode of the young Jesus in the Temple. During their pilgrimage to Jerusalem Jesus left Mary and Joseph to take part in the instruction given to Israelites in the Temple by the teachers of the Torah. Mary and Joseph were forced to turn back to look for him. The instruction about the things of God totally absorbed Jesus.

In fact, when "they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers... all who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers" (Lk 2:46-47).

2. His mother asked: "Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you" (Lk 2:48), and Jesus replied: "Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). The Evangelist adds that Mary and Joseph "did not understand what he said to them" (Lk 2:50). Immediately after, however, -- he specifies-- he went down "with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them" (Lk 2:51).

Today the Church solemnly renders homage to St Joseph. However, we are able to understand the meaning of this important person, as the readings show, only by penetrating into the whole truth about Jesus Christ, only by meeting the incarnate word, the Redeemer of the world in his mystery of light and truth. The same is true for Mary, the mother of Jesus. This is what I sought to show in both the encyclical Redemptoris Mater and the apostolic letter Redemptoris Custos. Today's solemnity of St. Joseph, like the Marian feasts, also has an eminently Christological character.

3. At the same time, the figure of the carpenter of Nazareth, the husband of the Mother of God and the guardian of the Son of the Most High, is filled with meaning for the Church, the community called to live fully the mystery of mankind, a fullness which, as the Second Vatican Council affirmed, is fulfilled only in Christ. Thus the Mother of Jesus and St Joseph in a special way draw the mystery of the incarnate Word closer to the fundamental problems of human existence.

In substance it is a question of two realities: the family and work, not two realities which are distinct, but which are rather connected to one another in a close, mutual relationship.

The family and work.

This was the life in Nazareth during those 30 years which the evangelist summed up in the phrase: "Jesus went down with them (Mary and Joseph) and came to Nazareth and was subject to them" (Lk 2:51).

A brief expression, however, that emphasizes quite well the bond that exists between the family and work. Each year on the occasion of my visits to various parts of Italy for the feast of St. Joseph I try to elaborate on what I said in the encyclicals Laborem Exercens and Sollicitudo Rei Socialis.

4. The family and work! In the light of the Gospel and the Church's tradition, which are expressed not only in the continuity of her teaching but also in the Christian practice of life and morality, these two important human realities shed light on the proper hierarchy of values; they emphasize that the primacy belongs to the human being as a person and as a community of persons: in the first place, therefore, to the family. All work, and especially physical labor, binds the person to the world of things, to the whole "order" of things. The world has been given to mankind as a task by the Creator, as an earthly job: "Subdue the earth!" The words from the Book of Genesis (cf. 1:28) indicate precisely this subordination of things to the person. The visible world is "for man". Things are for people.

May this order be understood and respected! May it never be violated, and even less so upset! Modern progress, as can be clearly seen, has such a danger in itself. The "progressive" culture, with the exception of those projects which have the person as their true reference, all too easily become a culture of things rather than of people. There are so many things that can be done, the calls of advertising and publicity are so insistent, that there is the risk of being overcome. People can end up being, even against their will, slaves of things and of the desire for possessions. Does not perhaps the so-called consumerism represent the expression of "order" (or rather of "disorder") in which "having" is more important than "being"? Is it perhaps not symptomatic that this line of culture is sometimes hostile to the beginning of life, almost as if that human being who is just beginning its existence were an impediment to the possession and use of things?

There is great risk of seeing the very dignity of the person offended, having its autonomy and deepest freedom jeopardized.

5. Subdue the earth!

Dear brothers and sisters, accept the message offered to you by today's liturgy and open your heart to the strength of the love which knocks down the barriers of selfishness and indifference. You are not slaves to selfish possession, but servants of sharing in solidarity! Fix the eyes of your spirit on the holy family and through the intercession of St. Joseph draw the determination that is enlightened by faith, courage and perseverance in goodness!

You priests, ministers of the free gift of divine salvation, by your prayer, exhortation and example sustain the flock entrusted to your pastoral care; share their hopes and difficulties in a fraternal way. In the Christian family, in every family of your diocese, may the image of the home of Nazareth, the atmosphere of understanding and communion, of simplicity and service, be alive.

I am especially addressing the laity who are involved in the various movements and ecclesial associations.

I also address all those who, called by God to the consecrated life, are the witnesses of a service to the Lord and their brothers and sisters in a total and exclusive manner. Be faithful to your particular vocation.

Young people, nourish the hope of your present and future in the school of truth which does not deceive and the life which does not perish.

How much more easily society could find solutions to the problems that affect it would it but accept the humble but eloquent witness of life offered in the home at Nazareth! With what concrete trust we would be able to look at others if our daily activity were seen as a valuable way of giving praise to the Creator and service to others!

6. The family of Nazareth and, in a special way, the person of St Joseph, have a profound relation to this vast problem which is affecting mankind and which shows the order in which everyone must work. It is an order which concerns persons, families, and society, the world of labor and legislation. It involves the principal problem for mankind and its future.

In replying to Mary and Joseph: "I must be about my Father's business", Jesus shows that the human order in the family-labor field is established on a divine basis: the Father's concern. For this reason, returning to Nazareth, he lived in filial "obedience".

This is one of the elements which are part of the life and work of every human family: the Father's concern, confident trust in divine Providence.

After 30 years the time will come for Christ's messianic mission. And from that moment to the end he will reveal the meaning of the words spoken when he was 12 years old.

The obedience of the youth of Nazareth will be revealed as the redemptive "obedience" of the Son of God to the Father: obedience unto death.

Obedience to God, from whom "all fatherhood in heaven and on earth" (cf. Eph 3:15) has its origin and model; work also has its origin and model in this obedience.

The Father "works" (Jn 5:17) unceasingly with the Son. God gives ultimate meaning and full dignity to all human activity, to all human activity on the earth.

The image of this meaning and dignity is the Son of God.

It is Christ who worked with Joseph the carpenter.

At the same work bench, he worked in the home at Nazareth.


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