I know it’s not Christmas. I know it’s Spring outside and the flowers are blooming. Yet I’m asking you to think back to the story of Joseph and Mary. It’s an amazing and faith-filled story that you have likely heard many times in your life . . . at least once a year during Christmastime. It’s a story you have likely grown up with, but it’s not one you can ever grow tired of. It’s new every time you hear it — and it has amazing lessons and implications for our daily lives. Take yourself back to the angels telling Mary she was to become a mother, the baby crying in the manger, the wise men, and the shepherds as they began their journey to praise a king they had yet to meet.
What role did Joseph play in this most amazing of stories? According to Pope Francis, he had an important role as the “protector” of Mary, Jesus, and the Church. While this role seems primarily take place in the background — hymns, story books, children’s Christmas pageants, and thousands of artists over the years chose to place the emphasis on Mary and Jesus — it is nonetheless extremely important.
To be honest, Joseph’s role in the Christmas story is very like the roles we ourselves play in our families, jobs, schools, and communities. Pope Francis chose to highlight this role in his inaugural mass and beautifully explained this calling Joseph had and how it relates to the lives we each live every day:
“God does not want a house built by men, but faithfulness to his word, to his plan. It is God himself who builds the house, but from living stones sealed by his Spirit. Joseph is a “protector” because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will, and for this reason, he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping . . . in him, dear friends, we learn how to respond to God’s call, readily and willingly, but we also see the core of the Christian vocation, which is Christ! Let us protect Christ in our lives, so that we can protect others, so that we can protect creation!
The vocation of being a “protector”. . . involves everyone. It means protecting all creation, the beauty of the created world. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing love and concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need . . . those who are often the last we think about. It means caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!”
What an admonishment! I think of my own life and my calling to protect my four children, my husband, my parents, my dog, two cats, and six chickens. I think of my calling to protect those who come through the door at Catholic Charities and to serve them — clients, volunteers, staff, donors, community members. I think of all the other people God has placed in my life to love and protect — friends and family, people who I worship with, people who I know through my children’s school and extracurricular activities. It can be overwhelming! Yet, as Pope Francis says, my calling goes even beyond this — I am called to help those who “are often the last we think about.” Those in need. Facing homelessness, unwanted pregnancy, family crisis, depression, mental illness, and more. I am called to show God’s love to each of these as if they were Christ himself.
Take a moment to go back to that wonderful story of Mary, Jesus, and Joseph. Joseph was called to protect the most amazing gift the world will ever know — and he didn’t have any way to understand that calling completely. He went forward in faith, using his gifts and seeking God’s guidance. With those tools he could not fail . . . and neither can we. Now take a moment to consider all your blessings and ask God to help you protect and love the world around you — even those members of your community who you never think about. Many of them are our clients here at Catholic Charities.
We’d love to have your help at CCDOK, reaching out to those who have no one else and wrapping them in love and protection just as Joseph did to Jesus that first night in the stable.