VATICAN CITY, 18 MAR 2009 (VIS) - This evening, in the minor basilica of Marie Reine des Apotres, in Yaounde, Cameroon, Benedict XVI presided at the first Vespers of the Solemnity of St. Joseph. Bishops, priests and religious, seminarians and deacons all participated in the ceremony, as did various ecclesial movements and members of other Christian confessions in Cameroon.
"Speaking to the crowd and to His disciples, Jesus declared: 'You have only one Father'", said the Pope in his homily. "There is but one fatherhood, that of God the Father, the one Creator of the world, 'of all that is seen and unseen'. Yet man, created in the image of God, has been granted a share in this one paternity of God. St. Joseph is a striking case of this. ... He is not the biological father of Jesus, Whose Father is God alone, and yet he lives his fatherhood fully and completely.
"To be a father means above all to be at the service of life and growth", he added. "St. Joseph, in this sense, gave proof of great devotion. For the sake of Christ he experienced persecution, exile and the poverty which this entails".
"You are called to live out this fatherhood in the daily tasks of your ministry", Benedict XVI told priests, recalling how the Constitution "Lumen gentium" exhorts them, "as their fathers in Christ", to "care for the faithful whom they have spiritually begotten by Baptism and instruction".
"The ministerial priesthood entails a profound relationship with Christ Who is given to us in the Eucharist" which, the Holy Father reminded clergy, must "be the centre of your ecclesial mission. ... In celebrating this Sacrament in the Lord's name and in His person, the person of the priest cannot occupy centre stage" for "he is a servant, a humble instrument pointing to Christ Who offers Himself in sacrifice for the salvation of the world".
Pastoral ministry, the Pope explained, "demands many sacrifices, yet it is also a source of great joy. Trusting in your bishops, united fraternally to the whole presbyterate and supported by the portion of the People of God commended to your care, you will be able to respond faithfully to the Lord who has called you, just as he called Joseph to watch over Mary and the Child Jesus!"
When Mary responded to the angel's call, she was already betrothed to Joseph, the Holy Father observed, adding: "In addressing Mary personally, the Lord already closely associates Joseph to the mystery of the Incarnation. Joseph agreed to be part of the great events which God was beginning to bring about in the womb of his spouse". Taking Mary into his home "he welcomed the mystery that was in Mary and the mystery that was Mary herself. He loved her with great respect, which is the mark of all authentic love. Joseph teaches us that it is possible to love without possessing".
Drawing inspiration from Joseph, all men and women can, then, "come to experience healing from their emotional wounds, if only they embrace the plan that God has begun to bring about in those close to Him".
The Pope then turned to address representatives of ecclesial movements, inviting them to "be attentive to those around you" so as to "reveal the loving face of God to the poor, especially by your works of mercy, your human and Christian education of young people, your programmes for the advancement of women, and in so many other ways".
"By your unreserved fidelity to your commitments, you are for the Church a sapling of life, springing up to serve the coming of God's Kingdom. At all times, and especially whenever your fidelity is put to the test, St. Joseph reminds you of the value and meaning of your promises".
Reflecting upon the husband of Mary "invites us to ponder his vocation in all its richness, and to see him as a constant model for all those who have devoted their lives to Christ in the priesthood, in the consecrated life or in the different forms of lay engagement. Joseph was caught up at every moment by the mystery of the Incarnation. Not only physically, but in his heart as well, Joseph reveals to us the secret of a humanity which dwells in the presence of mystery and is open to that mystery at every moment of everyday life. In Joseph, faith is not separated from action. His faith had a decisive effect on his actions. Paradoxically, it was by acting, by carrying out his responsibilities, that he stepped aside and left God free to act, placing no obstacles in His way. Joseph is a 'just man'".
"The life of St. Joseph, lived in obedience to God's word, is an eloquent sign for all the disciples of Jesus who seek the unity of the Church. His example helps us to understand that it is only by complete submission to the will of God that we become effective workers in the service of His plan to gather together all mankind into one family, ... one ecclesia".The Pope concluded his homily by addressing some remarks to followers of other Christian confessions: "This quest for unity among the disciples of Christ represents a great challenge for us", he said. "It leads us first of all to be converted to the Person of Christ, to let ourselves be drawn more and more to Him. In Him, we are called to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters, children of the same Father".