Memorial of Saint Joseph the Worker

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The following homily was delivered by Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades during an All-Schools Mass livestreamed from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne, May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker.

In the first reading today, we heard St. Paul’s simple exhortation to the Colossians: “Be thankful.” Be thankful! I want you to know how thankful I am for our Catholic schools, especially during this coronavirus pandemic. I’m very thankful for the hard work of our teachers, principals and Catholic school staffs who are making sure that you, our children and young people, continue to receive a great education. I know it’s not been easy to switch to on-line teaching, yet many have worked so hard and made many adjustments to make sure you continue to learn, to grow in knowledge and advance in your education. So thank you to everyone! But also I’m thankful to all of you students. You’ve also been working hard, reading and studying and completing assignments. I’m sure you miss being with your friends in school. We all look forward to our schools reopening in the fall, to come together again in our school and parish communities.

The Lord calls us to be thankful. I also think it’s important for all of us to be thankful for the many doctors, nurses and health care workers who are working so hard to care for the sick and dying at this time, even at the risk of becoming infected with the virus themselves. Please be sure to pray for all those who serve and are in harm’s way, including all those workers who have been serving during this time, like police officers, firefighters, first responders, those working in food production and grocery stores, garbage collectors, postal workers and other important services. They have continued to work so that we can all have what we need during this time.

I mention all these workers specifically today May 1, the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. We ask St. Joseph to pray for them and to protect them, just like he protected Jesus and Mary. St. Joseph was the protector of the Holy Family and he is also the patron and protector of the Catholic Church. We can always turn to St. Joseph for his prayers and protection. It’s also important for us to remember in prayer all those who are out of work during this time, all those who have lost their employment because of the pandemic. We ask St. Joseph to intercede for them.

In the Gospel today, the people in the synagogue in Nazareth were astounded by Jesus’ wisdom, by His teaching and His miracles. But they questioned how Jesus could have such wisdom and power. They knew him as the son of Mary and Joseph, a part of their community. They said: “is he not the carpenter’s son?” Joseph was a carpenter, a regular worker. How could his son have such wisdom and power? So they were doubtful about Jesus. The Gospel says that “they took offense at Him.” They did not have faith in Him. They didn’t believe that this Jesus, whom they knew, could be that special. But Jesus was special. He was the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior. And He indeed came into the world as the son of Mary and the son of a simple carpenter. In fact, he worked in his father’s carpenter shop. He learned the trade of carpentry from his earthly father, Joseph. And He also learned a lot more from Joseph and from Mary. He grew in wisdom and grace in His home in Nazareth. Of course, He had the greatest Mom and Dad anyone could ever have.

Today, we remember St. Joseph as the worker. He worked with His hands. He worked with wood and made furniture. He shows us the importance of human work. Because of his work, he was able to support his family. And he did his work with dedication and skill. He’s a good example for us of the dignity of human work. He did his work for the glory of God and for the love of his family. He shows us that all the work we do, including your schoolwork, should be for the glory of God.

In our first reading, St. Paul wrote: “Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” At the beginning of doing our work, it is good to give thanks to God and to offer up our work to Him. You can say before you begin your homework, “Lord, I offer up my work to you.” We can pray the words of today’s responsorial psalm: “Lord, give success to the work of our hands.” And we can always ask St. Joseph to intercede for us in our work, saying “St. Joseph the Worker, pray for us.”

Today the Bishops of the United States are re-consecrating our nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of the Church. We’re doing so at this time because we want to entrust our country and ourselves to Mary during this challenging time. At the end of this Mass, I invite you to join with me as I re-consecrate our diocese to our Blessed Mother. She is already our patroness under the title of the Immaculate Conception. I’m celebrating this Mass here in our Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. As we remember today Mary’s husband, St. Joseph, we also place ourselves in her arms. We ask both Mary and Joseph to intercede of us during this terrible pandemic.

I hope that all of you will continue to work hard in your studies and complete this academic year successfully. Special greetings to all those who are graduating this month, especially the graduates of our four high schools, Bishop Luers, Bishop Dwenger, Marian and Saint Joseph. I’m proud of you and am praying for you as you approach graduation and prepare for college or other pursuits. May Mary our mother and St. Joseph watch over you and keep you always close to Jesus! As we continue with this Mass, we lift up our minds and hearts to the Lord. Even though you are unable to receive Holy Communion, you can be united to Jesus spiritually through your prayers. We look forward to the day when everyone can receive the Holy Eucharist again. In the meantime, let’s not stop praying, but pray even more. That’s what we are doing together via this livestreamed Mass. Though we’re physically separated at this time, we are spiritually united — from 43 Catholic schools all over the diocese — we are united in our faith and our love. We are united in Jesus our Lord. May He bless us with His love and His peace!