Following yesterday’s FFF day-dreaming post the inspiration of the dreaming Josephs has remained with me: both Josephs – the OT son of Jacob and Rachel and the spouse of Mary.
Late last year, in the last days of the 2021 Year of St. Joseph, Pope Francis reflected on the significance of Joseph from the small town Nazareth “far from the clamour of the news and the powers of the time.”
Francis continues his brief audience reflection emphasising the beauty and power of life on the periphery and margins.
To celebrate today’s Feast of St. Joseph I’m happy to give the rest of this post to Pope Francis’ encouragement quoting him directly:
This is why the choice of Bethlehem and Nazareth tells us that periphery and marginality are preferred by God. Jesus was not born in Jerusalem, with all the court… no, he was born in a periphery and he spent his life in that periphery until the age of thirty, working as a carpenter like Joseph.
For Jesus, the peripheries and marginality were favoured. To fail to take this fact seriously is the same as not taking seriously the Gospel and the work of God, who continues to manifest himself in the geographical and existential peripheries.
The Lord always acts in secret in the peripheries, even in our souls, in the peripheries of the soul, of feelings, perhaps feelings of which we are ashamed; but the Lord is there to help us move forward.
The Lord continues to manifest himself in the peripheries, both the geographical ones and the existential ones.
In particular, Jesus goes in search of sinners; he goes into their homes, speaks with them, calls them to conversion.
And he is also rebuked for this: “But look at this Teacher”, say the doctors of the law, “Look at this Teacher: he eats with sinners, he gets dirty”. He also goes in search of those who have done no evil but have suffered it: the sick, the hungry, the poor, the least.
Jesus always goes towards the peripheries. And this should bring us great trust because the Lord knows the peripheries of our heart, the peripheries of our soul, the peripheries of our society, of our city, of our family, that is, that slightly obscure part that we do not show, perhaps out of shame.
In this respect, the society of that time is not very different from ours.
Today, too, there is a centre and a periphery.
And the Church knows that she is called to proclaim the good news starting from the peripheries.
Joseph, who is a carpenter from Nazareth and who trusts in God’s plan for his young fiancée and for himself, reminds the Church to fix her gaze on what the world deliberately ignores. Today Joseph teaches us this: “Do not look so much at the things that the world praises, look into the corners, look in the shadows, look at the peripheries, at what the world does not want”.
He reminds each of us to give importance to what others discard. In this sense he is truly a master of the essential: he reminds us that what truly matters does not attract our attention, but requires patient discernment to be discovered and appreciated. To discover what matters. Let us ask him to intercede so that the whole Church may recover this insight, this ability to discern, this ability to evaluate what is essential. Let us start again from Bethlehem, let us start again from Nazareth.
Today I would like to send a message to all the men and women who live in the most forgotten geographical peripheries of the world, or who experience situations of existential marginality. May you find in Saint Joseph the witness and protector to look to. We can turn to him with this prayer, a “home-made” prayer, but one that comes from the heart:
you who have always trusted God,
and have made your choices
guided by his providence
teach us not to count so much on our own plans
but on his plan of love.
You who come from the peripheries
help us to convert our gaze
and to prefer what the world discards and marginalises.
Comfort those who feel alone
and support those who work silently
to defend life and human dignity. Amen.