2019 March 19. St. Joseph
• 2 Samuel 7:4-5a, 12-14a, 16 • Psalm 89 • Romans 4:13, 16-18, 22 • + Matthew 1:16,18-21, 24a •
Title: [►God Wants to Build A House]
[_01_] Last evening – in his reflection on the Good News, Father Zack spoke about marriage – the marriage, first, between Adam and Eve and later the marriage of Jesus (the bridegroom) and the Church/his disciples.
Marriage – is a sign of God’s love - not only for those who are married, but for all of us who trust in God’s love as our refuge/support in times of distress.
Marriage, as we know, is a paradox in that marriage calls the spouses to unity and to oneness while also honoring and upholding their individual identity and souls.
“God wants to marry us”– this was Father Zack’s summary statement, but he also wants to know us as individuals.
[_02_] If God wants to marry us, then He is going to have to find us a place to live.
God wants to find a house.
What I’d like to reflect on is
the importance in a marriage or family of having the “right house” I don’t mean that the house has to be luxurious or large, but just that the house is right for the family at that time.
While we might recognize that our “home” is more than just a house – or piece of real estate rented or owned - I would say that the right house also makes for a home. Moreover, does not the house itself become a blessing to the family?
And, if we have move – our change – our house, this is a momentous event in our interior life as well. It’s just not a matter of telling everyone our new address. We also must adjust – inside (“in here / head / ♥ + ”).
[_03_] I bring this up also because our ‘house’ is the Church, and the Church blesses us… it is not we who make the Church holy, but our relationship to the Church blesses us and makes us holy.
And, this is true for Joseph of Nazareth as well. As the foster father of our Savior, surely, he had been searching – in the online media of his day for the right house -- for a residence.
When we welcome Christ into our house/heart, he makes us holy. While we may prepare our hearts to receive him, it is Christ who does the renovating and rebuilding – not to mention the forgiveness and love in our lives.
God is Love. Jesus is Love.
[_04] Despite the poverty we may experience – spiritually or financially – God still wants to build a house, even if God must start out in a zero-room-stable rather than a one-room-studio.
From the earliest days with Mary and Jesus, Joseph was seen searching for a house, a place to stay. There was no room at the inn.
Yet, at this stable, amid the hay and animals and other stuff, there is a blessing, the presence of our Savior.
God wants to build a house.
Joseph is part of this plan. You and I are part of this plan today.
[_05_] As Catholics and as Christians, we believe in the house of the Church, the house as as a place of worship, the house as a structure with doors to open and shelter us.
Some of us remember the shovels and trucks and cement poured in the early 1960’s for the construction of Our Lady of Lourdes, the feeling of victory and blessing when this church was opened.
In this regard, the church – the house – is a place of blessing.
We also believe that the holiness of the church does not depend on the personal holiness of her members.
The Church makes us holy; we don’t make the Church holy.
[_06_] In a message about this, B16 wrote about the essential connection of HOLINESS to CHARITY and LOVE which we experience here …
What is the essential [of holiness]? 3 “S’s”
Sunrise/sunset: never beginning and never ending a day without at least a brief contact with God. J.F: This does not mean we have to be in a church pew daily but just as our love for others has both a start and finish at home, our contact with God is traced to this house.
Sunday: never leaving a Sunday without an encounter with the Risen Christ in the Eucharist. This is not an additional burden but is light for the whole week.
Signposts: following the “signposts” that God has communicated to us in the Ten Commandments, interpreted with Christ, which are merely the explanation of what love is in specific situations. (Benedict XVI, General Audience, St. Peter's Square, Wednesday, 13 April 2011)
[_07_] God wants to build a house with you and me inside. Are we to build a house?
In 128th psalm we read/pray: “If God does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor, if God does not watch over the city, in vain do the watchmen keep vigil.”
Joseph is a carpenter, a builder. He is also male. Males like to build things, fix things.
This sentiment is expressed by David in the Book of Samuel. David wanted to build a house, a house of worship, because he wanted to enclose and put a proper roof over the Ark of the Covenant. The Ark had been under a tent of cloth or canopy all the way from Sinai.
David confesses that “here I am living in a house of cedar, while the Ark of God dwells in a tent.”
Nice try, David, but God’s plan is for Solomon – son of David – to build the Temple.
It is a similar to message to Joseph that Jesus will build the house, not as a carpenter but as our Savior. And, by the time Joseph comes on the scene, construction is already underway. Joseph just has to come inside.
The message to Joseph: do not be afraid to take Mary and Jesus into your home.
[_08_] In this regard, Joseph seems to be a background figure. But, guess what – how many parents come to the realization that some of their best and most important work for their children is unnoticed and performed in the shadows.
Parents accept this willingly.
God wants to build a house
[_09_] Holiness –for you and me – means also that we accept that we both united to each other and to God …while also honored and respected as individuals.
Was Joseph just a bit … overshadowed by his son… Jesus?
Yet, he had an exceptional individual role to play, whether written up explicitly or not. The same is true for you and for me.
This aspect of an “individual calling” being tied into a communal identity was also taught to me at the seminary …and something I experienced here at Lourdes.
Here is the lesson, then the life experience of 9 years ago, one day before 8:30 am Morning Mass.
The lesson was from a priest/professor at the seminary who told me, was talking to me … …”you know, when you become a priest, you should be glad …James Ferry / Father James Ferry, you should feel blessed – and glad if the people forget your name or confuse you with other Catholic priests. If that happens, you are doing something right. ”
That’s the lesson. I was stunned.
Here is the life experience.
About 8-9 years ago, I became acquainted and later befriended by a gentleman who would come come to Lourdes church every day to light a candle and say a prayer. He actually did not come to church/Mass here, but he would come to light a candle almost every day and we would talk.
I believe that mine was the only face and name he knew here. He did not socialize at Lourdes, he would leave before Mass started and he did not seem to know any other priest or person beside me.
He was very friendly and affirming to me. I looked forward to seeing him.
Then … one day, he could not wait to tell me something… he told me how he had been hearing from a young person he knew… … how I absolutely popular and well-liked and effective I was the Catholic priest/chaplain at the Newman Center at Montclair State University.
That’s the other Father Jim. Or, I’m the other Father Jim.
[_10_] It is a reminder to me that the Church is supporting me, not me the Church. That we are together in this, that the Church is a blessing to me, as to you.
And, that we are blessed by our relationship together.
And, when people are together in a long-term relationship, they start to look alike.
Sometimes we are also in a background role, as God wants to build the Church with us inside.