Sunday, June 23, 2013

Redemptoris Custos, II: The Guardian of the Mystery of God (8)

Today I would like to focus on section 8 of Blessed John Paul II's apostolic exhortation Redemptoris Custos.
8. St. Joseph was called by God to serve the person and mission of Jesus directly through the exercise of his fatherhood. It is precisely in this way that, as the Church's Liturgy teaches, he "cooperated in the fullness of time in the great mystery of salvation" and is truly a "minister of salvation."(21) [From St. John Chrysostom. See, it's in a different way than Mary, but still important. And awesome. I think its significance is shown through its Patristic roots.] His fatherhood is expressed concretely "in his having made his life a service, a sacrifice to the mystery of the Incarnation and to the redemptive mission connected with it; in having used the legal authority which was his over the Holy Family in order to make a total gift of self, of his life and work; in having turned his human vocation to domestic love into a superhuman oblation of self, an oblation of his heart and all his abilities into love placed at the service of the Messiah growing up in his house."(22) [An example of charity! See my previous post on what charity is. And I really like the imagery. It's heavenly.]
In recalling that "the beginnings of our redemption" were entrusted "to the faithful care of Joseph,"(23) the Liturgy specifies that "God placed him at the head of his family, as a faithful and prudent servant, so that with fatherly care he might watch over his only begotten Son."(24) Leo XIII emphasized the sublime nature of this mission: "He among all stands out in his august dignity, since by divine disposition he was guardian, and according to human opinion, father of God's Son. Whence it followed that the Word of God [Remember that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. I think that passage is kept in mind throughout this letter.] was subjected to Joseph, he obeyed him and rendered to him that honor and reverence that children owe to their father."(25) [The finding of Jesus in the Temple is key here and shall be discussed later.] 
Since it is inconceivable that such a sublime task would not be matched by the necessary qualities to adequately fulfill it, we must recognize that Joseph showed Jesus "by a special gift from heaven, all the natural love, all the affectionate solicitude that a father's heart can know."(26) [Y'know, that isn't just for Joseph's task, one which none of us will ever have: namely guarding Jesus Christ. But, God supplies the graces for it, and He does for us, because our tasks-especially I think in our families- are just as important to us in terms of them being our own vocation, and for us to sanctify.] 
Besides fatherly authority over Jesus, God also gave Joseph a share in the corresponding love, the love that has its origin in the Father "from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named" (Eph 3:15). [How awesome is this.]
The Gospels clearly describe the fatherly responsibility of Joseph toward Jesus. For salvation-which comes through the humanity of Jesus-is realized in actions which are an everyday part of family life, in keeping with that "condescension" which is inherent in the economy of the Incarnation. The gospel writers carefully show how in the life of Jesus nothing was left to chance [in fact, nothing in our history is left to chance. Tolkien demonstrates this most effectively in The Hobbit.], but how everything took place according to God's predetermined plan. The oft-repeated formula, "This happened, so that there might be fulfilled...," in reference to a particular event in the Old Testament serves to emphasize the unity and continuity of the plan which is fulfilled in Christ [I certainly see why covenant theology became big around this time. Personally, I find the aspects where the events parallel each other-one in falling, one in redemption/sanctification- to be the most fascinating.]
With the Incarnation, the "promises" and "figures" of the Old Testament become "reality": places, persons, events and rites interrelate according to precise divine commands communicated by angels and received by creatures who are particularly sensitive to the voice of God. Mary is the Lord's humble servant [Behold the handmaid of the Lord...], prepared from eternity for the task of being the Mother of God [through her Immaculate Conception, preserving her from , "at the first instant of her conception, by a singular privilege and grace of the Omnipotent God, in virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved immaculate from all stain of original sin" and thus actual sin] . Joseph is the one whom God chose to be the "overseer of the Lord's birth,"(27) the one who has the responsibility to look after the Son of God's "ordained" entry into the world, in accordance with divine dispositions and human laws. All of the so-called "private" or "hidden" life of Jesus is entrusted to Joseph's guardianship. 

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