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St. Joseph: a man of mercy

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 30, 2016

Bishop LaValley’s homily for the St. Joseph’s Day Mass at St. Joseph’s Motherhouse, Watertown

While the story is so familiar, its impact continues to be ever new and truly earth-shattering. 

In a dream, the Lord told Joseph that the Child conceived in Mary’s womb “will save God’s people from their sins.”  Simply - Divine Mercy would descend upon the human race - a Savior, Redeemer - and the world would never be the same!  Yet, even before it was made known to him what the Holy Spirit had in store for his betrothed, “Joseph, an upright man unwilling to expose her to the law, decided to divorce her quietly.”   St. Joseph motherhouse

Here we see what lay deep within St. Joseph’s heart:  such tenderness, thoughtfulness and compassion for the woman he loved.  Even before he received the divine message clarifying what was happening, Joseph wanted to avoid possible scandal, protecting Mary from potential harm. 

Prior to him having all of the providential facts, he was making plans for a personal act of mercy.

This Jubilee of Mercy is a year of focused tenderness, reverence and compassion, a time to acknowledge God’s boundless mercy for me, for you.

This is a graced time to size up the tenderness, reverence and compassion I give to my sisters and brothers, my neighbor. 

I think it particularly opportune for this much-loved congregation of consecrated religious that honors and seeks the powerful intercession of St. Joseph, to acknowledge and celebrate God’s love as you reflect on the tenderness, reverence and compassion that lay deep within your hearts as consecrated religious. 

So, we each ask the question: Do these qualities that lay deep within the heart of St. Joseph lie deep within my own heart—tenderness, reverence and compassion for others.

In the Joy of the Gospel (99), Pope Francis writes: “I especially ask Christians in communities throughout the world to offer a radiant and attractive witness of fraternal communion.  Let everyone admire how you care for one another, and how you encourage and accompany one another:  In John’s Gospel we hear Jesus say, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).  This was Jesus’ heartfelt prayer to the Father:  “That they may all be one…in us…so that the world may believe” (Jn 17:21). 
My friends, this Society of St. Joseph offers a radiant and attractive witness to those who live outside these walls every time you encourage and accompany your sisters who share the same charism and consecrated commitment.  We admire and seek to imitate such mercy in motion! 

The kind attention and tender care you give to your sisters in failing health, the compassion you express in your parish ministry, in the schools, college, and the reverence you give to those in the special religious education programs all reveal your Spirit-filled heart and devoted faith in Jesus, the Face of Divine Mercy.

Mercy is about caring for and accompanying one another.  The Holy Father reminds us to “Beware of the temptation of jealousy!  We are all in the same boat and headed to the same port,” he says.  So, we ask for the grace to rejoice in the gifts of each, which belong to all.” 

Like Joseph, even before we know all the details of what the Lord has mapped out for the future for us as individuals, even before we know all the details of what the Lord has in store for this consecrated community’s tomorrow--tenderness, compassion and kindness through it all are the best indicators of the extent to which God’s mercy has found a home in our hearts.  To encourage, care for, and to accompany another means that mercy cannot be shared from a distance or an abstract idea that we just talk about.

When the Holy Father urges us to encourage and accompany one another, we see such were facets of Joseph’s life.

We know that Joseph’s own deep faith in and worship of Yahweh must have had a powerful influence on Jesus’ growth.  Leading Mary and the Christ Child on perilous journeys to and from Egypt to escape the dictates of those mired in evil, Joseph shows us what courage, tender concern and accompaniment can achieve. 

Joseph became an instrument through which Divine Mercy Himself would be welcomed, supported, and protected in this world.

In Misericordiae Vultus, Pope Francis recalls that there are times when “we are called to gaze even more attentively on mercy so that we may become a more effective sign of the Father’s action in our lives” (3).
With the welcoming of this Most Holy of Weeks only hours away, we have an opportunity to accompany the merciful Lord in a personal and communal prayer on his Passion Way. 

At this and every Eucharist, we join our lives with that of our victorious and risen Savior in humble adoration of the Father. St. Paul told the Romans that “All depends on faith, everything is a grace.   Because we believe, we enter the profound richness of this Mystery, rejoicing in the mercy so freely and lovingly given. 

Thank you, Sisters of St. Joseph for your radiant witness of tender love and mercy.  The Church of the North Country is so blessed!  Blessed and Happy Feast Day to you and to all the Associates! May God be praised…forever may God be praised!

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