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October 16, 2021 - Pastor Message

12/07/2021

THE YEAR OF ST. JOSEPH - JOSEPH, DEFENDER OF LIFE

“Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day. You protected and cherished the Virgin; loving the child Jesus as your son, you rescued him from the danger of death. Defend the Church, the household of God, purchased by the blood of Christ. Guardian of the Holy Family, be with us in our trials. May your prayers obtain for us the strength to flee from error and wrestle with the powers of corruption so that in life we may grow in holiness and in death rejoice in your crown of victory. Amen” (The Prayer to St. Joseph).

October is Respect Life Month, that time of year that we as a Church set aside in a special way to remember and recommit ourselves to cherishing and protecting all human life from conception to natural death. In keeping with the Year of St. Joseph, the theme for this year’s Respect Life Month is “Joseph, Defender of Life.” Joseph’s primary vocation was to protect the Holy Family, which he did from the moment he made his decision in response to the message of the angel to take Mary into his home. In first century Palestine, as a woman pregnant out of wedlock, Mary was not only subject to public shame but possibly even death if Joseph had denounced her as an adulteress. He did not do that, though. Even before the angel proclaimed to him the truth of Jesus’ divine origin, Joseph had resolved to divorce Mary quietly, so as not to expose her to public consequences. His respect for Mary’s life and that of her unborn child even then surpassed his concern for himself.

Joseph’s commitment to protecting Mary and Jesus continued after he accepted his divine commission, when he literally pulled up stakes and moved himself and his family away from everything and everyone he knew to Egypt to escape King Herod’s murderous wrath. This was not an easy journey by any means in that time, over 400 miles on foot, fraught with danger and hardship, yet Joseph did not hesitate to undertake it to carry out his mission of protecting the life of Mary and Jesus.

Finally, in a less dramatic but no less important way, Joseph protected Mary and Jesus by providing for them through his work as a carpenter. There was no social safety net in that time. Your family was your safety net, and if your family did not care for you, no one did. Women and children were particularly vulnerable as there were few if any ways for them to provide for themselves. Joseph’s earnings through his hard work as a carpenter, which would have been modest, were sufficient to provide the necessities for the Holy Family and protect them from the harsh realities of a cruel world that had little respect for the lives of the poor and vulnerable.

Sadly, with all of our advances, the world today is not much different in that regard. We devalue the lives of those whom our society deems undeserving and enshrine in law as “rights” and “healthcare” the mass murder of the most helpless and vulnerable among us. We do have a social safety net, but it is inefficient and bureaucratic, subject to exploitation by the very people who are charged with overseeing it and to abuse by those it is meant to serve. We claim to be champions of humanity yet reduce humanity to our basest instincts and then champion their pursuit as living life to the full while denouncing the pursuit of higher aspirations as foolish or even harmful. The Holy Family needed St. Joseph’s protection then. God’s family needs Joseph’s protection just as much today. All people, especially the most vulnerable, need Joseph’s protection today. Let us pray for his intercession that our world may experience a new birth of respect for all human life. Joseph, defender of life, pray for us.

Fr. Marc Stockton

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