The Gospel: Matt 1:16, 18-21, 24A
Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Of her was born Jesus who is called the Christ.
Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.
When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,
but before they lived together,
she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man,
yet unwilling to expose her to shame,
decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,
“Joseph, son of David,
do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.
For it is through the Holy Spirit
that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus,
because he will save his people from their sins.”
When Joseph awoke,
he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him
and took his wife into his home.
After the Gospel:
Happy Feast Day, Br Giuseppe, Br Joseph, as we join in celebrating your patron saint!
The Annunciation to Joseph, that’s today’s Gospel.
The angel bringing a message from God, a request to which Joseph could say Yes or No –
then all heaven awaiting his answer,
and Joseph said YES! as the angel of the Lord had asked.
Of all men to choose from, God selected Joseph for one special service:
to be Husband of Mary and Head of the Holy Family.
For the Son of God to become Man, a human Mother was needed,
a foster father was needed to protect both of them.
Without Mary, without Joseph, the whole thing would have fallen apart.
Joseph’s YES! allowed God’s plan to unfold.
Centuries later, 1870 was not a good year for Pope Pius IX.
The Papal States had collapsed to invading armies;
Rome was occupied; the bishops assembled for the First Vatican Council had to flee home.
Pius IX began his long captivity as “Prisoner of the Vatican.”
Prospects seemed very bleak for the papacy, the Church definitely needed a Protector.
With things at their worst, Pius IX named Joseph of Nazareth “Protector and Guardian of the Church. “
Two years later, the monks of Gethsemani were in hard times.
After twenty-five years in America, they faced an uncertain future.
Two dozen monks lay buried in the cemetery, no new monks to replace them,
The War Between the States brought so many financial troubles and debts,
they were borrowing money and begging ,… all of which showed up in their prayer.
That’s when the community chose St Joseph as the Patron, Protector, and Defender of the Monastery of Gethsemani, asking him to increase the merit and number of the brethren …
to keep it from dying out.
That big stone tablet on the front porch, dated 1872, bears witness how long St Joseph has been protecting Gethsemani.
Of all the saints to choose from in their hour of need,
why did the Pope …
why did the monks pick St Joseph?
Pius IX was confident that since Joseph had preserved the Christ Child from the designs of a wicked King Herod, he was able to protect the Vicar of Christ from the plotting kings of a wicked world.
The monks were convinced that Joseph, the strong Protector who saved the Baby Jesus from death at Bethlehem, who got the Holy Family to Egypt and back, was able to protect Gethsemani from dying out.
So little is known about Joseph …
not a single word from him is recorded in the Gospels, his language is silence …
what is it that made him such a good friend of our monks?
Joseph the Proto-monk: That’s how they saw him.
He was willing to act on faith and do what God asked.
He took the risk of trusting God, and embracing the next step God set out for him.
Joseph … the Silent Partner through it all, content to be behind the scenes, hidden,
not always in control, not always making the decisions,
paying attention to angel voices in his sleep,
offering prompt and generous obedience when that was asked of him,
following along quietly, remaining in the shadow of the mysteries of Jesus.
Joseph … an ordinary craftsman with no personal greatness to make him stand out,
just his manual labor, which earned Jesus the reputation of being “the son of the carpenter.”
All that was a good enough list of Joseph’s virtues!
Like the monks’ hardships, Joseph’s hardships came one after another:
Starting after his engagement in Nazareth… discovering his intended wife was pregnant,
finally believing it was God’s work.
Then a forced march to Bethlehem…
– walking 90 miles in winter with a heavily pregnant woman…
ending with a birth in a cave because there were no welcoming relatives or friends with a spare bedroom…
Then an emergency warning to flee the killer Herod…
– 430 miles – walking to Egypt, with a woman and her young baby,
carrying all the provisions… Skins of water, lots of bread.
Arriving in Egypt – living as refugees for three years,
treated as foreigners by an alien people of strange language, strange religion, strange customs.
Finally, back to Nazareth , walking all the way … 500 miles …. and having to start all over again back where they began.
Somewhere under those adversities, many of us would have given up and quit…
The monks chose Joseph because he trusted God enough to allow Him to lay out the next steps and guide him through the hardships …
Joseph never asked how the story would end, how Jesus would save His people:
He never requested perks or privileges:
A big house, Servants to do the chores,
a few coins each month for safe measure …
Protection from sickness and troubles …
After all, this is the Son of God we’re talking about…
Joseph was willing to be like everyone else in the village,
work as a carpenter to support a wife and child,
live through troubles and sickness, like everyone else,
not knowing what tomorrow would bring.
Likewise, our founding monks never knew how their story would end.
They believed that God had a plan, they were willing to be partners in God’s plan,
even though they couldn’t see what the whole plan would look like,
even though they might not live long enough to see it happen.
They prayed to be like Joseph, a man filled with faith,
who loved God, who trusted God enough to say Yes,
because he knew how faithful God was.
We just had the privilege of renewing their prayer, renewing their dedication. .
As they did, we invoked St Joseph as the Patron, Protector, and Defender of the Monastery of Gethsemani,
asking him to increase the merit and number of the brethren …
In a world with churches shutting down, a world facing an uncertain future,
it’s our way of thanking God for 175 years of monastic life at Gethsemani,
our way of letting the world know it was St Joseph who protected Gethsemani over the years.
= = = = NOTE: Before Mass today, the monks processed to the front porch of the church, where the words on the old stone plaque were prayed in re-dedication = = = = = =
TO GOD ALMIGHTY,
TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY,
OUR IMMACULATE LADY,
AND TO BLESSED JOSEPH, WHOM WE CHOOSE
TRAPPIST MONASTERY OF GETHSEMANI.
DAY BY DAY
MAY THERE BE AN INCREASE IN THE
NUMBER OF THE BRETHREN,
THAT THOSE WHO SEEK GOD
MAY NEVER GROW LESS IN ALL GOOD.
BE THIS PLAQUE A LASTING TESTIMONY.
(Original dedication: March 31, 1872)
(Rededicated March 19, 1998) (150 of founding in 1848)
(Rededicated March 20, 2023) (175)