14th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Ezk 2: 3-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Mk 6:1-6
Sunday, July 4, 2021
As our province has entered Stage 3 of its reopening, our shrine church is able to prudently open its doors to more and more visitors and pilgrims, with the hopes that soon we will see its first visitors from not only those in Canada but also the US and from around the world.
This means we will have more freedom to explore this beautiful church, to learn about all the liturgical features within the shrine and finally allow us to have time to socialize after Mass in the narthex and parish hall.
It is my great hope and desire that while we now have the freedom to visit and socialize, that we will all work together to assure that when we are inside the actual church portion of this building, that a spirit of silence, prayer and devotion will continue, so that those who wish to spend more time in prayer after Mass is complete are able to do so.
For this reason, I would ask that you please refrain from social visits while inside the church proper and wait until you are in the narthex, parish hall or outdoors to reconnect with people we have not been able to socialize with and to welcome those who are visiting our shrine church.
It is my hope that as this spirit of silence, prayer, and devotion continues to be the prevailing spirit within our church, that it will allow many to have profound encounters with God and the various saints who are honoured in this shrine church, notably on those occasions when it happens that the scriptural readings of a given Sunday provide an insight into some of the art or statuary you will find in this shrine church.
It just so happens that today’s Gospel reading provides such an opportunity, though it might not be immediately detected!
If you turn your attention to the west transept of the church, you will see that remarkable image of the death of St. Joseph. Many people when they first see this statue think it is actually a depiction of the resurrection of Lazarus. That is a wonderful guess but it is a scene of the final moment that the Holy Family spent together while on earth.
But many rightly ask can the Church actually depict such an image, since there is nowhere in the Bible that describes the death of St. Joseph or if he was still alive when Jesus was involved in his public ministry.
But the Gospel reading today give us our strongest scriptural proof that St. Joseph had died before Jesus was publicly proclaimed as the Messiah. The proof comes from the fact that Jesus today was called the Son of Mary.
In 1st century Jewish society, you were always referred to in relationship to your father if he was still alive, meaning Jesus, of whom people thought St. Joseph was his biological father even though his true father is God the Father, should have been formally known as Jesus, son of Joseph. But when your father passed away and if your mother remained a widow, then you would be referred to in reference to her, thus Jesus, Son of Mary.
This scriptural clue allows the Church to confidently allow the depiction of the death of St. Joseph, typically when Jesus was a grown man and about to begin his public ministry. It is fitting that God would call St. Joseph to his eternal rest at this moment since his guardianship over Jesus had come to end, having protected him from dangers and concealed his identity as the Messiah until the appointed time when Jesus would proclaim himself Saviour and the Son of God, and no longer the Son of Joseph.
It is my profound hope that this statue will become beloved by many in this shrine church. I hope it is place where people can come to pray for their beloved ones who are close to death, that they might pass from this world as St. Joseph did, in the presence of Jesus and Mary.
This statue reveals why St. Joseph is the patron of a holy death, for he was the example per excellence of persevering until the end. Unlike the rebellious children of Israel that the prophet Ezekiel chastised today, St. Joseph remained faithful to God in all things, being like St. Paul who relied on God’s grace in the insults, hardships, persecutions and calamites St. Joseph faced in courageously taking Mary as his wife when many would have looked with suspicion of their union, of boldly escaping to Egypt and returning to Nazareth to keep Jesus safe from the murderous intentions of Herod and humbly keeping secret Jesus’ true identity, forgoing any honour or prestige in being the guardian and foster father of the Son of God.
Like St. Joseph, may we pray for many to persevere in the faith to the very end, not giving into the temptations in our world today to enter our lives though euthanasia or MAID but embracing the final challenges of this life so as to know we were faithful to the end and ready to be glorified alongside St. Joseph as a saint of the heavenly kingdom.
If you remain unable to receive Holy Communion at this time, I invite you today to make a Spiritual Communion, using the following formula or one of your own choosing:
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen."
St. Alphonsus di Liguori
In Jesus through Mary, Fr. Nathan