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
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,
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
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
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
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
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.