With a Father’s Heart

Your excellencies. The reverend fathers. The religious sisters and brothers.  Our ordinands. The families of our ordinands. Brothers and sisters in Christ.

Jan, Ken and Emil.

We thought it would be December 27 but it would not be so. And then we thought it would be the 25th of March to celebrate the annunciation but it was not meant to be so. As soon as Pope Francis declared the year of Saint Joseph on December 8th last year until December 8th this year, we knew that you would be priests of Saint Joseph. We did not know but God knew from the listing of the Archdiocese, this is the first ordination on the 19th of March. You will be called ordinands, priests after the heart of Saint Joseph. So, what does it mean to be priests according to the heart of Joseph? Saint Joseph has many titles but the most beautiful title is to be called father. God called him Abba. Jesus called him father. Properly understood, he is the father of God. He is not the father of God in flesh. He is not the father of God by blood. He was the father of God by Jewish law. He was the father of God by grace. And isn’t that what you are? You will not be fathers by blood. You will not be fathers by body. You will not be fathers by natural generation. You will be fathers by law, by the law of the church. You will be fathers by grace. Catholics who are old enough to be your grandparents will call you father.  Children who did not come from you will call you father. You will be truly and really like Saint Joseph. Father of many children. Father of Jesus by Jewish law and by grace. You my dear brothers will be called that. You will be fathers of the Christian community. You will not be able to generate your own children according to the law of celibacy which you have gladly accepted on the day you were ordained as deacons. But because of your embrace of celibacy, you also embrace the blessing of generativity. You will be able to give birth a million times over, beyond what the body can do. You will be fathers of our souls. The second title of Saint Joseph, some spiritual writers call him – the savior of the Savior.

The Savior with the capital “s” was so humble to ask the protection of His own creatures. Saint Joseph saved the Savior from Herod. Saint Joseph saved the Savior from sure murder as an infant. So properly understood again, Saint Joseph was savior of the Savior. He saved the child Jesus from the murderous hands of Herod. You are not the savior because there is only one savior. It is Jesus Christ. But as priests, you will be entrusted with the mission of saving us from error, saving us from falling, saving us from blasphemy, saving us from sacrilege, saving us from dishonesty, saving us from death. You are going to save us from death, each time you absolve us from sins. You are going to save us from death, each time you give us your blessing. You are going to save people from death, when you baptize. You are going to save people from mistakes by your counsel. You will be the savior of those who need salvation. You will be Jesus for them. Savior of the Savior is Saint Joseph. But you, my dear fathers, will also be saviors. But do not put the title “savior” into your head, lest you become boastful. Do not put the title “savior” into you head lest your ego become bloated. Put it into your heart, so that it can make you courageous. Because that is what we need now – courageous priests – who are willing to stand up, who are ready to suffer, who are ready to be killed in order to live for the Savior. Savior of the Savior is Saint Joseph. Savior of the Savior is you.

Finally, Saint Joseph was not only savior of the Savior but he was also teacher of the Teacher. The teacher taught us – I am the way, the truth and the life. But before Jesus could say – I am the way, the truth and the life – Jesus had to be taught how to talk. Jesus had to be taught how to read. And who taught Jesus how to talk? Who taught Jesus the meaning of words and then the reality. It is Joseph. He taught Jesus to say “way”. He taught Jesus to say “truth”. He taught Jesus to say “life”. And as a grown-up, the lessons that Joseph taught Jesus became valuable for us. He taught the Teacher how to talk. He taught the Teacher how to hold the hammer. He taught the teacher how to hold the nail. He taught the teacher how to saw the wood. He taught the Teacher how to walk. He also taught the teacher how to stand up if you fall. At every fall of Jesus on the way of the cross. At every standing up of Jesus, each time He fell. Who taught him how to stand up when you make a mistake? It was Joseph. It was Joseph who taught the Teacher the many beautiful lessons in life. Many beautiful lessons in childhood that you must not forget in adulthood unless you want to make a ruin out of your life. He was teacher of the Teacher. And yet even if he was teacher of the Teacher, he himself allowed to be taught by the teacher. You my dear brothers will be teachers of Christ. Not Christ the Lord but Christ among His people – the orphans, the widows, the strangers and aliens, they are your teachers. Let the orphans teach you. Let the widows teach you. Let the strangers teach you. Because they are the favorites of God and unless you appreciate the importance of being an orphan, of being a poor widow, of being a stranger in a strange land, unless you understand the beauty and power of childhood, the beauty and power of poverty, you will not be able to understand the real lessons of Jesus.

Teacher of the Teacher is Saint Joseph. Savior of the Savior is Saint Joseph. God called him father. That is Saint Joseph and you, my dear brothers, will be that. You will be called Fathers. You will be called Fathers. And bask in that title. Relish being called Father. And be happy to be called father, not with the sense of egoistic pride but with a sense of gratitude that even if you are not worth it to be called a “child of God” you will be called father in the church. Before this mass concludes, we will pray the act of the consecration to Saint Joseph. As you consecrate your priesthood to him, may he give you his heart. The true heart of the father. Do not be afraid to entrust your heart to Joseph because that same heart does not belong to Joseph. That heart has been entrusted to the immaculate and the heart of Joseph, the heart of the Immaculate, both hearts have been entrusted to the meek and gentle heart of Jesus. So really and truly, my dear brothers, when you consecrate your priestly heart to the heart of Joseph whom God Himself called Father. Joseph will bring you to the heart of Jesus and in that heart, we will rest. In that heart, you must rest. And in that heart, you must find the meaning and purpose of your priesthood. At the end of your life…at the last breath of your life, when we look at you through the glass of the casket, may people just remember you and say, “He was our good father.” And in the life of Father Jan, in the life of Father Ken, in the life of Father Emil, we saw the Father’s heart, we saw the Father’s love, we experienced the Father’s mercy. May your heart be the heart of Joseph and may the heart of Joseph lead you to the heart of Jesus.

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