Tuesday, March 19, 2013

St. Joseph’s Day 2013 – [beginning of my 50th year as ministerial priest]

“Fecit te Deus quasi Patrem regis, et dominum universae domus eius…” (God made you as if father of the king, and lord of his entire house).

The Truth of Joseph“’Joseph did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife’ (cf. Mt. 1, 24).”[1] “Joseph, Son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins’ (Mt. 1, 20-21). “In these words we find the core of biblical truth about St. Joseph…”[2]

He said “Yes” to the vocation. No, rather, he “did” – he lived the obedience of faith (Dei Verbum #5) as Vatican II has deepened the understanding of faith as the act which involves not just the faculties of intelligence and will, but involves the whole person. In his lived life. Joseph said “Yes” to take Mary as wife. Before there could be any coming together (which did not take place), she is with child.

            Therefore, his “Yes” connects with her “Yes” in the Incarnation of the Word. Therefore, Joseph is “quasi patrem regis” as she is the mother of the child who is God. Notice how this involves us in that the engendering of the Word (the Person of the Son of God) consists in receiving the vocation to hear the Word of God and doing it.  When the woman in the crowd shouted out “Blessed is the womb that bore thee and the breasts that gave thee suck” (Lk. 11, 27), the Lord responds: “Yeah, rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Lk. 11, 28). Anyone who hears the word of God and does it, is my brother and sister and mother (Lk. 8, 20-21[3]).

            And so we have this new meaning of motherhood, fatherhood, or engendering, that applies to Joseph as well as to our Lady, and to us. John Paul II wrote that “one must note that the new and different motherhood which Jesus speaks of to his disciples refers precisely to Mary in a very special way. Is not Mary the first of ‘those who hear the word of God and do it?’ And therefore does not the blessing uttered by Jesus in response to the woman in the crowd refer primarily to her. Without any doubt. Mary is worthy of blessing by the very fact that she became the mother of Jesus according to the flesh (‘Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that gave you suck’), but also and especially because already at the Annunciation she accepted the word of God, because she believed it, because she was obedient to God, and because she ‘kept’ the word and ‘pondered it in her heart’ (Lk. 1, 38, 45; 2, 19, 51).”[4]

            All of this applies to Joseph. And to us.  “’(T)he 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. While it is true that Joseph did not respond to the angel’s ‘announcement’ in the same way as Mary, he ‘did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took his wife.’ What he did is the clearest ‘obedience of faith’  (cf. Rom. 1, 5; 16, 26; 2Cor 10, 5-6). 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 Annunciation. The Council teaches: ‘The obedience of faith’ must be given to God as he reveals himself. By this obedience of faith means man freely commits himself entirely to God, making the ‘the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals,’ and willingly assenting to the revelation given by him.’ This statement, which touches the very essence of faith, is perfectly applicable to Joseph of Nazareth.[5] Hence, “Quasi patrem regis.”

            I say “to us,” since the sacrament of Baptism empowers us to radically accept the Word of God within us such that we become the Word; i.e. to become Christ: “I live, no, not  I; Christ lives in me” (Gal. 2, 20). What does this mean? It means that we become capable of giving our very selves even to death in the service of the others. As the Second Person of the Trinity is total gift of self to the Father for us, and for us on the Cross, so also by making the gift of ourselves to the Father for others, we actualize our imaging of the divine Persons as becoming “another Christ,” “Christ Himself.” Note that Bergoglio speaks of the Christian community of baptized laity in Japan that had spent two years without a priest, and “(w)hen the missionaries returned they found them all baptized, all married validly for the Church and all their dead had been buried in Christian fashion. Those laymen had received only baptism, and by virtue of their baptism they had also lived their apostolic mission.”

            The apostolic mission is a sea without shores: Insofar as we begin the process of becoming “other Christs” – like Simon after denying Christ three times is asked “Do you love me"(agapas me), so also we are asked the same. And here, the motto of pope Francis enters into play: Miserando atque Elegendo,  which is worthwhile considering. It is taken from the Venerable Bede and joined with Caravaggio’s painting of the call of St. Matthew: "Vidit ergo Jesus publicanum, et quia miserando atque eligendo vidit, ait illi, 'Sequere me." The meaning is: Jesus saw the publican, but in seeing him he had compassion on him and chose him. Seeing is identified with having compassion and with choosing. I would venture to say that Cardinal Bergoglio applies these words to himself: Jesus looked at him, and upon seeing him had pity and chose him. 

And he calls us to a no-holds-barred apostolate. It is the  apostolate of the layman in the ordinary life of the street. As Francis wrote as Cardinal:

“ Acting as the Apostle Philip did with the eunuch to whom he proclaimed the good news as they went along. “Look, here is water: what prevents me from being baptized?” the eunuch asked as they passed near a stream. “So Philip baptized him. When they were out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord spirited Philip away and the eunuch saw him no more and went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8, 36-39).

            The spirit of St. Josemaria Escriva is openness like a fan: “We must open out like a fan… Open out like a hand, with a group of souls hanging from each finger, of the easy sort and of the difficult sort… and pulling them along! May each person be not one but ten. And not all huddled together in a corner, like rabbits.” That is clericalism. Baptism and Confirmation are sacraments of this zeal. These sacraments must be lived. The consecrated life is excellent, but it is only for a few and it is not in the center of society where Christ wants to be. He wants to be at the center. Bergoglio wrote “Let’s call on Jesus for all we need. Let’s ask the Father in His name, let’s ask Him to ask the Father. Like the poor who asked everything of Him when He went through the streets and they thronged around Him. Jesus is very keen to be with the rest of us, with all the rest of us, with all those passing by. It’s something that interests Him first of all. If there had been only one man or one woman in the whole world, He would have offered His life just the same, for that one man or one woman”[6] (emphasis mine).

Bergoglio on Clericalism

 I [blogger] feel it imperative to repeat the following remark of Bergoglio on clericalism[1] as sin (“sinful complicity”) because it nullifies the responsible freedom and daring of the baptized layman to bring souls to Christ. It shuts down the layman and keeps him immature, supernaturally lazy – sinfully indolent. It is more a sin than secularism or relativism. It is a sanctimonious shut-down:

As I have said before, there is a problem: the temptation to clericalism. We priests tend to clericalize the laity. We do not realize it, but it is as if we infect them with our own thing. And the laity – not all but many – ask us on their knees to clericalize them, because it is more comfortable to be an altar boy than the protagonist of a lay path. We must not enter into that trap, it is a sinful complicity. Neither clericalize nor ask to be clericalized. The layman is a layman and has to live as a layman with the strength of his baptism, which enables him to be a leaven of the love of God in society itself, to create and sow hope, to proclaim the faith, not from a pulpit but from his everyday life. And by carrying his daily cross as all of us do. And this is the cross of the layman, not that of the priest. Let the priest carry the cross of the priest, since God gave him a broad enough shoulder for this.”

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Some priests In Buenos Aires are taking steps to facilitate the
celebration of new baptisms and encourage them in every way. What
is driving them?[2]

JORGE MARIO BERGOGLIO: The Conference of Latin American
Bishops held in 2007 in Aparecida reminded us to proclaim the Gospel by
going out to find people, not sitting in the Curia or the presbytery waiting for
people to come to us. In the third to last paragraph, the Aparecida document
casts back thirty years and returns to the apostolic exhortation Evangelii
nuntiandi of Paul VI, which described “apostolic zeal” as “the sweet and
comforting joy of evangelizing”, of “proclaiming with joy a Good News that
has been learned through the mercy of the Lord”. But this is expressed not so
much by planning initiatives or exceptional events. The Evangelii nuntiandi
itself repeated that “if the Son came, it was precisely to reveal, by His words
and His life, the ordinary paths of salvation”. It’s the ordinary that one can
achieve in missionary fashion. And baptism is paradigmatic in that. I think
the parish priests of Buenos Aires are acting in that spirit.

Do you think that concern to facilitate baptism is tied to specific
and local situations, or is a criterion that can be recommended for everyone?
BERGOGLIO: The concern to encourage in every way the
administration of baptism and the other sacraments involves the whole
Church. If the Church follows its Lord, it comes out of itself, with courage
and compassion: it doesn’t remain locked in its own self. The Lord works a change in those who are faithful to Him, makes them look up away from themselves. That is the mission, that is witness.

In the handbook on baptism prepared and distributed by the
diocese of Buenos Aires answer is given to possible criticism from
those who say that the sacraments should not be “a bargain offer” and
that the requirements of preparation and readiness should be held to.
Is the criticism valid?

BERGOGLIO: There is no sellout, no exchange. The parish priests are
observing the directions given by the bishops of the pastoral region of
Buenos Aires, which meet all the conditions required by the Code of Canon
Law, according to the basic criterion expressed in the last canon: the
supreme law is the salvation of souls.

In your opinion, are the cases where baptism is denied to
children because the parents are not in a canonically regular marital
situation justified in some way?

BERGOGLIO: To us here that would be like closing the doors of the
Church. The child has no responsibility for the marital state of its parents. And then, the baptism of children often becomes a new beginning for parents. Usually there is a little catechesis before baptism, about an hour, then a mystagogic catechesis during liturgy. Then, the priests and laity go to visit these families to continue with their post-baptismal pastoral. And it often happens that parents, who were not married in church, maybe ask to come before the altar to celebrate the sacrament of marriage.

It sometimes happens that ministers and pastoral workers
assume almost a proprietorial attitude as if the decision to grant the
sacraments or not were in their hands.

BERGOGLIO: The sacraments are signs of the Lord. They are not
performances or the conquests of priests or bishops. In our vast country there are many small towns or villages that are difficult to reach, where the priest arrives once or twice a year. But popular piety feels that children should be baptized as soon as possible, and so in those places there is always a layman or woman known by everyone as bautizadores who baptize the children when they are born, awaiting the arrival of the priest. When the priest comes, they bring him the children so he can anoint them with holy oil, completing the ceremony. When I think of it, I’m always surprised by that story of those Christian communities in Japan that were left without a priest for more than two hundred years. When the missionaries returned  they found them all baptized, all married validly for the Church and all their dead had been buried in Christian fashion. Those laymen had received only baptism, and by virtue of their baptism they had also lived their apostolic mission.

According to some people unless there is adequate
understanding and preparation the sacramental rite is in danger of
becoming something “magical” or mechanical. What do you think?

BERGOGLIO: Nobody thinks that we don’t need catechesis, preparing
children for confirmation and communion. But we must always look at our
people as they are, and see what is needed most. The sacraments are for the life of men and women as they are. Who maybe don’t talk all that much, but their sensus fidei captures the reality of the sacraments with more clarity than that of many specialists.

Can you give us some incident in your pastoral experience that
highlights this sensus fidei?

BERGOGLIO: Just a few days ago I baptized seven children of a woman
on her own, a poor widow, who works as a maid and she had had them from two different men. I met her last year at the Feast of San Cayetano. She’d said: Father, I’m in mortal sin, I have seven children and I’ve never had them baptized. It had happened because she had no money to bring the godparents from a distance, or to pay for the party, because she always had to work ... I suggested we meet, to talk about it. We spoke on the phone, she came to see me, told me that she could never find all the godparents and get them together ... In the end I said: let’s do everything with only two godparents, representing the others. They all came here and after a little catechesis I baptized them in the chapel of the archbishopric. After the ceremony we had a little refreshment. A coca cola and sandwiches. She told me: Father, I can’t believe it, you make me feel important... I replied, but lady, where do I come in, it’s Jesus who makes you important.

[1] Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte (Peruvian Franciscan, archbishop of Trujillo: “The most insidious enemy [“of ‘closeness’ as suggested by the Aparecida Conference” of 2007] is not relativism or secularism… [but] a certain harking-back to clericalism” Closeness and Compassion Gianni Valente, 30 Days.
[2] 30 Days,  “We Are Not Owners of the Gifts of the Lord” Interview with Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio by Gianni Valente

[1] Redemptoris Custos, John Paul II, August 15, 1989, #1.
[2] Idem #2.
[3] “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
[4] John Paul II, Redemptoris Mater #20.
[5] Redemptoris Custos, op. cit #4.
[6] 30 Days, Gianni Valente “Closeness and Compassion.”
[7] Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte (Peruvian Franciscan, archbishop of Trujillo: “The most insidious enemy [“of ‘closeness’ as suggested by the Aparecida Conference” of 2007] is not relativism or secularism… [but] a certain harking-back to clericalism” Closeness and Compassion Gianni Valente, 30 Days

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