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Celebrating the Feast of St. Joseph

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 20, 2019

The following is the homily delivered by Bishop Terry R. LaValley on March 16 at the St. Joseph’s Day celebration at the Sisters of St. Joseph Motherhouse in Watertown:

“Joseph…decided to divorce her quietly.” Then, when he awoke, Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him. Joseph changed his mind. That can, that must happen to the faithful Christian. The changing of one’s mind is more than “a woman’s prerogative.” For every person, change is a necessary consequence of closeness with Jesus. As we put on the mind of Christ, old ways of thinking, of living must change.

But change isn’t merely a waffling, bending to every fleeting feeling or pleasurable notion or fad that comes our way. No, rooted in an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ, we must be open to change, no matter how old or young we are. Growing closer to the Lord, affects us from the inside out. When the Spirit of the Risen Lord touches a person, he or she is changed, enabling that person to put love in motion in ever new ways. The resurrection of the heart must happen every day. What God’s Spirit touches, God’s Spirit changes.

The angel assured Joseph: “Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home.” Joseph, do not be afraid to change your mind, your plans, no matter how noble. We remember Paul’s words to the Romans: “God makes all things work together for the good of those who love Him” (Rom.8:28). The Lord “straightens” all things. Trusting in God, as did St. Joseph, we find comfort knowing that in our faithfulness all will be well, no matter how threatening and dark the clouds on the horizon might seem.

Like good St. Joseph, we are all reminded to embody in our lives real trust and hope in the Lord. The Lord casts out all fear. As I mentioned in my Lenten letter, it is through our cultivation of a personal relationship with Jesus, tending to a continual intimate longing for the loving God, that we become witnesses to hope. In an address last fall to priests, seminarians and consecrated religious, Pope Francis said that “As men and women of special consecration, we can never afford to lose that inward restlessness of heart that finds its rest in the Lord alone.”

Clearly, nothing can substitute for our need for concrete, prolonged and regular personal moments with the Lord. We must expend sustained effort to meet our need of daily dialogue with the Lord through prayer and adoration. We need to keep cultivating our desire for God so that our time with the Lord doesn’t become a legalistic satisfaction of an obligation, but is truly an affair of the heart. We are lovers first, not teachers, pastoral associates or administrators. Because we know we have been loved, we are energized to tend to our relationship with Jesus, with members of the community, indeed with all those we meet and minister.

Such moments with the Lord will help us not to be overcome with discouragement and close in on ourselves. Especially these days, we must remember that it is trial that can bring out what is distinctive with Christian hope. When our hope is merely human, we can become frustrated and discouraged.

With David, the psalmist, we sing of God’s faithfulness, trusting in His unique plan for each one of us.

God calls us to proclaim the eagerly-awaited glory that God is present in the midst of His people in the Risen Christ, a glory that one day will be revealed in the children of God. Ours is the mandate to evangelize. The Holy Father wrote about the illness of Spiritual sadness. Too many today are sad because we do not find love, because we have not fallen in love with the Lord. Many of us here this morning have left aside a married life, family life, because we wanted to follow the Lord in a unique way. Some of us might be tired. When this occurs, it is difficult to smile, let alone be joy-filled witnesses encouraging new vocations to the consecrated life.

May every person who sees you, may they see Mother Church and Mother Mary. Mother Church loves, serves, helps others to grow. Dear Sisters, you have left everything behind in order to be with Christ and to place yourselves, as did Joseph, at the service of God. Truly through the generations, this local Church continues to be so richly blessed through you.

I want to acknowledge and express words of gratitude to the Associates celebrating with us today. As you share more intensely in the spirituality and mission of the Sisters of St. Joseph, you contribute much to the rich charism of this much beloved community.

Sisters and Associates, brothers and sisters all, let us not lessen our resolve to follow Jesus ever more closely. We rely on His grace to change those things in our lives that have become obstacles to growth. I must say that every time I enter this sacred space, your home, I find joy and happiness. I encounter women who clearly know Jesus and are in love with Him. Thank you for your witness to hope. Continue to let your love story with Jesus give you courage and joy each and every day as you follow Him even more closely with sweet abandon. Christ-led, Christ-fed, Hope-filled! Happy and Blessed Feast Day! St. Joseph Pray for Us!

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