Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Uh, maybe we shouldn't bury the Saints?

Fourth Week of Lent 2007
March 19, 2007
The Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Mass Readings
2 Samuel 7:4-5a,12-14a,16
Romans 4:13,16-18,22
Mt 1:16,18-21,24a

The Solemnity of St. Joseph is one of my favorite feast days. St. Joseph is a most overlooked hero of our faith. St. Joseph took on the responsibility of raising God's son as his own.

We see in our Gospel text today that Joseph was a good and faithful man. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant, well, he didn't exactly react with anger and malice. Joseph had every right to react with outrage. Instead he chose to protect Mary by not going public with her pregnancy and instead he was going to divorce her in secret so as not to bring any shame or danger to her. If Joseph would have gone public, Mary would have been an outcast. Instead Joseph reacted with the desire to protect and conceal Mary and in essence, hide her away so that she would be safe.

God was definitely at work with the Holy Family! God chose a woman of great faith, devotion, and immense love to give birth to our Salvation. God also chose a good, gentle, and holy man to be the adopted father of Jesus. What a great example of faith! Not only was Joseph faced with the reality that his wife was pregnant but soon God would speak to Joseph and explain it all. So picture it. Mary has been reeling from accepting her vocation as the Mother of our Lord, and now Joseph has to accept Mary's God given vocation and take on one himself. Joseph decides to accept God's call and raise Jesus as his very own. Joseph's display of faith in God and in his wife is monumental. An ordinary carpenter and husband who is faithful to God becomes the one who will guide and teach Jesus as he moves through childhood into adulthood. What an amazing responsibility!

So why then, do we take the adopted father of Jesus and bury a statue of him upside down in the backyard in order to sell a house? This truly baffles me.

Not long ago I was in a church supply store and came across the "St. Joseph Home Selling Kit". But it wasn't just any old kit, it was the deluxe model! Wow. Printed on the exterior of the package it said that if you are having trouble selling your house, buy this statue, get it blessed and then bury it upside down in your backyard and bingo! your house will sell. And it isn't just Catholics doing this. The market for these kits can be found in realtor's offices as well as Protestant bookstores and the World Wide Web. Nice. We take an image of the man who accepted God's call to raise His Son and we turn him into a "magical" trinket? Something is wrong here. St. Joseph is an icon of faith not magic.

By my comments you can tell what I think about this practice. I do not say these things in order to offend. I say these things in order to draw us out of superstition into a deeper understanding of St. Joseph. What a blessing to see how St. Joseph was willing to adopt Jesus as his very own and raise him and love him. We should be celebrating the great example of family and parenthood that St. Joseph lived.

I firmly believe that the Saints hear our prayers and intercede for us. I have complete faith in the intercessions of the Saints. What I do not believe is that we have to pay $5.95 for a plastic statue and carry out a real estate hoopdy-doo in order for our prayers to be heard.

St. Joseph is a model for us to imitate. St. Joseph was willing to answer God's call and live a life of devotion and to nurture God's Son. St. Joseph received God's Son as his own and prepared the way for Jesus to bring us all salvation. What a fantastic example of faith! What an amazing example of family devotion!

Let us strive to follow St. Joseph's example of faith. Let us ask for St. Joseph to aid us in being faithful disciples. Let us pray for St. Joseph to intercede on our behalf. But please, let's not bury him in the back yard.