Wednesday, May 02, 2012

St. Joseph the Worker: May 1, 2012

Fecit Te Deus Quasi Patrem Regis et Dominum Universae Domus eius, Ora Pro Nobis

            If the Word became flesh because Our Lady said “Yes” to the vocation to “hear” the Word and take Him into her such that He took His entire humanity from her (“and the Word was made flesh,” Jn. 1, 14)  -  so also Joseph said “Yes” and gave Him a name “Jesus” and a home at Nazareth. Joseph’s “Yes” consisted in taking the Virgin, now pregnant, as his wife and creating a home for her in Nazareth.

            What is significant here is that the act of faith engenders the life of God in us. It did so in Mary in such fashion that she becomes the Mother of God Himself, and it did so in Joseph that he becomes “quasi patrem regis” and is thus empowered to name the Lord, “Jesus.” As John Paul II wrote: “the faith of Mary meets the faith of Joseph. If Elizabeth said of the Redeemer’s Mother, ‘blessed is she who believed,’ in a certain sense this blessedness can be referred to Joseph as well, since he responded positively to the word of God when it was communicated to him at the decisive moment… One can say that what Joseph did united him in an altogether special way to the faith of Mary. He accepted as truth coming from God the very thing that she had already accepted at the AnnunciationTherefore he became a unique guardian of the mystery ‘hidden for ages in God’ (Eph 3, 9), as did Mary, in that decisive moment which St. Paul calls ‘the fullness of time,’ when ‘God sent forth his Son, born of woman…[1]

            The act of faith –which always engenders divine life because it images the divine ontology of total self-gift and therefore relationality that makes up the Trinity – that Joseph exercised, consisting in taking the Virgin as wife, now includes establishing a home and work. Joseph created a home by work, and the Word-made-flesh worked, and He worked with hands given to Him by our Lady. The Son of God learned work at the side of Joseph the Worker and thus took Joseph’s work up into Himself. Human work became integrated into the Incarnation – and Redemption which finds its created locus in  home and house.

            Work in this originating perspective is not principally for profit but the anthropological (and therefore, theological) act whereby one becomes the Son of God in act. Human ordinary work and labor is the mediating process whereby the human person becomes “Ipse Christus” and builds the very image of God, the human family. Work, then, is to become Christ, and profit which should accrue to it is for family. Work is an expression of love and not for self.
            John Paul II, deploying the tool of phenomenology, crosses the threshold of sin and enters into the prelapsarian moment recounted in Genesis 2 which tells of the God’s covenant with Adam to be obedient by tilling the garden and naming the animals. In the wake of that obedience, man suddenly experience loneliness, what John Paul calls “the original solitude,” and this because Adam in obeying had exercised his subjectivity in mastering himself in order to subdue the earth and master the animals by naming them. He felt alone because he was the unique subject in the entire creation of objects. He was alone as a subject, a state which God saw to be “not good” since the destiny of the human person was to image the “We” of the Creator. Casting Adam into a deep sleep, he awakens as male and female and the two enter into a communion of persons (self-gift) as image of the “We” yet to be disclosed by Jesus Christ as the Trinity of God.

            The point to be made is the nature of human work which activated the subjectivity of the human person who had responded in obedience to the divine command. The principal purpose of work is to activate the personhood as image of God, of becoming an “I” as God is a triple “I,” “to fulfill the calling to be a person… by reason of his very humanity.”[2] John Paul II continues: “And so this ‘dominion’ spoken of in the biblical text being meditated upon here refers not only to the objective dimension of work but at the same time introduces us to an understanding of its subject dimension. Understood as a process whereby man and the human race subdue the earth, work corresponds to this basic biblical concept only when through the process man manifests himself and confirms himself as the one who ‘dominates.’ This dominion, in a certain sense, refers to the subjective dimension even more than to the objective one: this dimension conditions the very ethical nature of work. In fact there is no doubt that work has an ethical value of its own, which clearly and directly remains inked to the fact that  the one who carries it out is a person, a conscious and free sublet, that is to say, a subject that decides about himself.
            “This truth, which in a sense constitutes the fundamental and perennial heart of Christian teaching on human work, has had and continiues to have primary significance for the formulation of the important social problems characterizing whole ages.”[3]

            Conclusion vis a vis economics: Benedict XVI wrote in “Caritas in Veritate” #36:

            “The Church’s social doctrine holds that authentically human social relationships of friendship, solidarity and reciprocity can also be conducted within economic activity, and not only outside it or ‘after’ it. The economic sphere is neither ethically neutral, nor inherently inhuman and opposed to society. It is part and parcel of human activity and precisely because it is human, it must be structured and governed in an ethical manner.

            “The great challenge before us, accentuated by the problems of development  inthis global era and made even more urgent by the economic and financial crisis, is to demonstrate in thinking and behaviour, not ony that traditional principles of  social ethics like transparence, honest and responsibility cannot be ignored or attenuated, but also that ins commercial relationships the principle of gratuitousness and the logic of gift as an expression of fraternity can and must find their place within normal economic activity. This is a human demand at the present time, but it is also demanded by economic logid. It is a demand both of charity and of truth.”[4]

[1] John Paul II, “Guardian of the Redeemer” #4.
[2] John Paul II, “Laborem Exercens,” #6.
[3] Ibid
[4] Benedict XVI “Caritas in Veritate,” #36.

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