Pope Recalls Role of Joseph in Salvation History

Full Text and Summary of General Audience Catechesis

Joseph in Salvation History
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Pope Francis focused on the role of Saint Joseph in salvation history as he offered the second installment of his catechesis on Joseph at his Wednesday General Audience.

The Holy Father recalled that in the Gospels, Jesus is called “son of Joseph” and “carpenter’s son.” The Gospel writers make clear that although Joseph is not the biological father of Jesus, he is “fully the father of Jesus.”

“The evangelist Matthew helps us to understand that the person of Joseph, although apparently marginal, discreet, and in the background, is in fact a central element in the history of salvation,” the Pope said. “Joseph lives his role without ever seeking to take over the scene.

“Everyone can find in Saint Joseph, the man who goes unnoticed, the man of daily presence, of discreet and hidden presence, an intercessor, a support, and a guide in times of difficulty. He reminds us that all those who are seemingly hidden or in the ‘second row’ are unparalleled protagonists in the history of salvation. The world needs these men and women: men and women in the second row, but who support the development of our life, of every one of us, and who with prayer, and by their example, with their teaching, sustain us on the path of life.”

Speaking in the waning day of the Year of Saint Joseph, the Holy Father stressed that Joseph continues his role as protector of Mary and the Church from heaven:

“With his life, Joseph seems to want to tell us that we are always called to feel that we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers, the guardians of those who are close to us, of those whom the Lord entrusts to us through many circumstances of life.”

Following is the Holy Father’s full catechesis, provided by the Vatican:

Catechesis on Saint Joseph – 2. Saint Joseph in salvation history

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

Last Wednesday we began a cycle of catecheses on Saint Joseph – the year dedicated to him is coming to an end. Today we will continue this journey, focusing on his role in salvation history.

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Jesus in the Gospels is indicated as the “son of Joseph” (Lk 3:23; 4: 22; Jn 1:45; 6:42) and the “carpenter’s son” (Mt 13:55; Mk 6:3). Narrating Jesus’ childhood, the Evangelists Matthew and Luke dedicate space to the role of Joseph. Both of them compile a “genealogy” to highlight the historicity of Jesus. Addressing himself above all to the Judeo-Christians, Matthew starts from Abraham and ends up at Joseph, defined as “the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ” (1:16). Luke, on the other hand, goes all the way back to Adam, beginning directly with Jesus, who “was the son of Joseph”, but specifies: “as was supposed” (3:23). Therefore, both Evangelists present Joseph not as the biological father, but in any case, as fully the father of Jesus. Through him, Jesus fulfills the history of the covenant and salvation between God and humanity. For Matthew this history begins with Abraham; for Luke, with the very origin of humanity, that is, with Adam.

The evangelist Matthew helps us to understand that the person of Joseph, although apparently marginal, discreet, and in the background, is in fact a central element in the history of salvation. Joseph lives his role without ever seeking to take over the scene. If we think about it, “Our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people, people often overlooked. People who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines. … How many fathers, mothers, grandparents, and teachers are showing our children, in small ways, and in everyday ways, how to accept and deal with a crisis by adjusting their routines, looking ahead, and encouraging the practice of prayer. How many are praying, making sacrifices and interceding for the good of all” (Apostolic Letter Patris corde, 1). Thus, everyone can find in Saint Joseph, the man who goes unnoticed, the man of daily presence, of discreet and hidden presence, an intercessor, a support, and a guide in times of difficulty. He reminds us that all those who are seemingly hidden or in the “second row” are unparalleled protagonists in the history of salvation. The world needs these men and women: men and women in the second row, but who support the development of our life, of every one of us, and who with prayer, and by their example, with their teaching, sustain us on the path of life.

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In the Gospel of Luke, Joseph appears as the guardian of Jesus and of Mary. And for this reason, he is also “the Guardian of the Church”: but, if he was the guardian of Jesus and Mary, he works, now that he is in heaven, and continues to be a guardian, in this case of the Church, for the Church is the continuation of the Body of Christ in history, even as Mary’s motherhood is reflected in the motherhood of the Church. In his continued protection of the Church – please do not forget this: today, Joseph protects the Church – and by continuing to protect the Church, he continues to protect the child and his mother” (ibid., 5). This aspect of Joseph’s guardianship is the great answer to the story of Genesis. When God asks Cain to account for Abel’s life, he replies: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (4: 9). With his life, Joseph seems to want to tell us that we are always called to feel that we are our brothers and sisters’ keepers, the guardians of those who are close to us, of those whom the Lord entrusts to us through many circumstances of life.

A society such as ours, which has been defined as “liquid”, as it seems not to have consistency… I will correct the philosopher who coined this definition and say: more than liquid, gaseous, a properly gaseous society. This liquid, gaseous society finds in the story of Joseph a very clear indication of the importance of human bonds. Indeed, the Gospel tells us the genealogy of Jesus, not only for a theological reason, but also to remind each one of us that our lives are made up of bonds that precede and accompany us. The Son of God chose to come into the world by way of such bonds, the way of history: he did not come down into the world by magic, no. He took the historic route we all take.

Dear brothers and sisters, I think of the many people who find it difficult to find meaningful bonds in their lives, and because of this they struggle, they feel alone, they lack the strength and courage to go on. I would like to conclude with a prayer to help them, and all of us, to find in Saint Joseph an ally, a friend, and a support.

Saint Joseph,
you who guarded the bond with Mary and Jesus,
help us to care for the relationships in our lives.
May no one experience that sense of abandonment
that comes from loneliness.
Let each of us be reconciled with our own history,
with those who have gone before,
and recognize even in the mistakes made
a way through which Providence has made its way,
and evil did not have the last word.
Show yourself to be a friend to those who struggle the most,
and as you supported Mary and Jesus in difficult times,
support us too on our journey. Amen.

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Special Greetings:

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today’s Audience, especially the groups from England and the United States of America.  In particular, I greet the priests from various dioceses of England and Wales who are celebrating their sixtieth anniversary of ordination. Upon all of you and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!

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Summary of the Holy Father’s words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters: In our continuing catechesis on Saint Joseph, we now consider his important role in salvation history. The genealogies in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke present Jesus as the “son of Joseph” (Lk 3:23), and affirm that, while not his biological father, Joseph nevertheless exercises a true fatherhood in his regard. Matthew shows that Joseph, though an apparently marginal figure, is in fact central to the unfolding of salvation history and the fulfillment of God’s promises. This reminds us that we too are called to play our own part, however small, in spreading the saving message of the Gospel. Luke portrays Joseph as the protector of Jesus and Mary. He likewise carries on this role as Protector of the Universal Church, the continuation of the Body of Christ in history. The genealogy of Joseph also reminds our often fractured world of the importance of the human ties that precede and follow us. As we seek to strengthen those ties and protect our vulnerable brothers and sisters through fraternal works of charity, let us trust in Joseph’s prayers and imitate his humble and loyal role in God’s plan of salvation.

© Libreria Editrice Vatican