After I first announced that Fr Joe was in the hospital with a very serious sickness two weekends ago, I stepped down from this ambo, turned up this aisle, and I immediately locked eyes with our statue of St. Joseph.
It is an image of him carrying a miniature model of our parish.
I saw that image, and in that moment, I just knew — no matter what the future held for us, no matter what happened to Fr Joe, I knew that the Lord was telling me point blank:
We are in good hands.
And that has been my meditation ever since: St. Joseph is protecting this parish family. He is guarding us. Carrying us. Holding us close.
Especially now, with the horrible reality still sinking in that Fr. Joe is gone — as we grapple with our grief, and absorb the shock… and we feel all the anger, confusion, sadness, and pain that goes along with losing someone we love — I find myself returning to this powerful image again and again of St. Joseph holding our parish, and I know and believe:
We are still in good hands.
As our Gospel account this weekend tells us, God Himself placed into the hands of Joseph His two most precious treasures: Mary and Jesus.
Joseph had already been betrothed to Mary, but they had not yet moved in together, when she was unexpectedly and inexplicably found to be pregnant. We are sort of numb to this fact of history — it doesn’t seem all that surprising to us — because here we are after 2,000 years of Church history. We’ve been pelted by Christmas songs since Thanksgiving. This is a familiar story to us. Maybe too familiar!
Imagine when that bomb first dropped…
Wait… Mary, my bride, is pregnant??? And it’s definitely NOT my child. What happened? HOW could this be possible?
We’re not entirely sure what was going through Joseph’s mind when he first received this shocking and overwhelming piece of news.
Some very reliable saints argue that Joseph never doubted Mary’s complete and total innocence for a single second. A few saints even go so far as to suggest that St Joseph had some vague intuition of the great mystery that was at hand — and felt himself totally unworthy to take any part in it.
At any rate, all we really know for sure is that Joseph found himself in what seemed to be an impossible situation. And so, being a just and righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, Joseph resolved to divorce Mary quietly.
St. Joseph does so many things quietly. In silence! The silence of a virtuous, humble, resolute man of God who takes responsibility…
In this quiet act, we should see a great act of mercy and gentleness towards Our Lady — Despite all appearances of what could easily have been interpreted as a great injustice to himself, Joseph instead chose to dismiss her in such a way that both honored the Law, and yet tried to keep her good name intact.
It was a pretty solid plan, so far as natural, man-made plans go…
All that changed, however, when Joseph decided to go to sleep one night!
And an angel visited him in his dream, saying:
“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!”
In other words, God was telling St Joseph:
“Do not be afraid to take Mary and this child into your hands, Joseph! I’m entrusting you with a great mission. It is so much bigger than you can possibly begin to imagine…
You are going to be the guardian of my two most precious treasures — Mary the Mother of God, and Jesus — the Savior of the world. Emmanuel Himself, God-with-us!!! He’s going to save the world from sin and death!!
…What the prophets foretold hundreds of years ago is happening RIGHT NOW in YOUR lifetime!!!! In YOUR family!!!!
The virgin has conceived and will bear a son. He is MY son. My only Begotten Son. I’m placing HIM and His mother into YOUR hands….
YOU take care of them.”
God must have trusted St. Joseph a LOT in order to do this… to place the culmination and climax of all Salvation History into this man’s hands.
If God trusts him so much, why shouldn’t we?
I’m convinced that, as our statue over here so beautifully communicates, St. Joseph — the guardian of the Redeemer and most humble, chaste spouse of Mary — is holding our parish in his fatherly hands right now. He is guarding and holding our “Holy Family” of St Bede…
…And he will not drop us!
We are in good hands!
We have nothing to be afraid of!!!!!
We can take the time and the space we need to grieve… to be sad… to enter into the vigil tonight and the funeral tomorrow…to slow down and pause to remember all of the good memories of our pastor — OUR Joseph — Fr Joe.
We can reflect on all joy, all the encouragement, all the humility, all the jokes and good-hearted teasing that Fr. Joe constantly brought to our parish and to everyone he encountered throughout his 42 years of ministry. We can lean on one another as we go through this process of mourning and healing…
We can do all this with faith, hope, and love alive in our hearts — because we can trust that we’re in good hands…
We’re very used to seeing St. Joseph depicted in paintings or sculptures as holding the baby Jesus, right? It might seem cute to us and even a little trite.
But there is a profound theological lesson in this image for us.
By our baptism, we are now in Christ. The Church is the Body of Christ, and each of us individually is a member of Christ’s Body. We can each say with Saint Paul: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!” Jesus is alive in us right now! We are His presence in this world! We’ve been “set apart for the gospel of God” as our second reading put it today. We are now called to “belong to Him,” and He to us! We are in Him, and He in us!
If all of that is true… then, when we look at an image of St. Joseph holding Jesus, we are also somehow… mysteriously… looking at an image of St. Joseph holding us.
We’re in good hands.
Yes, we are in the middle of a terrible crisis. None of this should have happened the way that it did. But it did.
What do we do now?
Let’s take St. Joseph as a model.
Pope Francis talked about this in his homily today. As you may know, the Pope has a great love for St. Joseph. One of the best things he has done in his pontificate was when he proclaimed the Year of St Joseph back in 2020, at the height of the pandemic — entrusting the Church and the whole world, to the trustworthy hands of St. Joseph in the middle of a global crisis.
In his homily earlier today, the Pope reflected on St Joseph’s crucial role in receiving Mary into his home, even in the middle of a crisis.
St Joseph, he says, “experienced his world falling apart all around him. And what was he supposed to do?” That’s a good question for us:
What are we supposed to do when we feel like our whole world is facing apart? Should we “give in to negative feelings, like anger or isolation?” No, Pope Francis says — “this is the wrong way. Instead, we (like St Joseph) need to attentively welcome surprises in life, even crises.”
That’s a hard pill to swallow for us right now. I don’t want to attentively welcome this crisis and trust God in the middle of it. How are we supposed to do that? How can we possibly welcome this awful crisis that we as a parish family are going through? How can we possibly find joy in this moment?
Let’s listen to the rest of what Pope Francis had to say:
“God opens crises into new horizons, perhaps not as we would expect, but in the way that He knows how. And these, brothers and sisters, are God’s horizons: surprising, but infinitely more grand and beautiful than ours.”
These are powerful words from the Vicar of Christ:
“God opens crises into new horizons.” The perfect, most definitive example of this, of course — of God transforming the worst kind of crisis into something infinitely more grand and beautiful than anything we could expect or concoct for ourselves — is the Cross.
When Joseph first said “Yes” and accepted Mary into his home, he accepted the Cross into his home. He accepted into his home those Seven Swords that would soon pass through Her Immaculate Heart. They would pierce him, too.
The Cross is a truly awful thing.
But the Cross is also how Jesus takes care of everything. It’s for the healing of the entire world. It’s what He was born to accomplish for us: He was sent in order to freely lay down His life up there, hanging limp on an old, splintery chunk of wood.
The parish of St. Bede’s is on the Cross right now. But we do not — we WILL not despair. Because the Resurrection is real… and God can transform this suffering and bring healing.
We are in the hands of St. Joseph, the patron of the Universal Church, yes. We are in the hands of him who we call the Terror of Demons!
But even more importantly, we are in the hands of Jesus. Fr. Joe is in the hands of Jesus.
Those hands are pierced out of love for us. Those hands forgive sins. Those hands heal… Those hands raise the dead.
I would say we are in VERY good hands.