This Mass marked the publication of the "instrumentum laboris"
of the Second Special Assembly for Africa of the Synod of
Dear Brother Bishops,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Praised be Jesus Christ who has gathered us in this stadium
today that we may enter more deeply into his life!
Jesus Christ brings us together on this day when the Church,
here in Cameroon and throughout the world, celebrates the Feast
of Saint Joseph, Husband of the Virgin Mary. I begin by wishing
a very happy feast day to all those who, like myself, have
received the grace of bearing this beautiful name, and I ask
Saint Joseph to grant them his special protection in guiding
them towards the Lord Jesus Christ all the days of their life. I
also extend cordial best wishes to all the parishes, schools,
colleges, and institutions named after Saint Joseph. I thank
Archbishop Tonyé-Bakot of Yaoundé for his kind words, and I
warmly greet the representatives of the African Episcopal
Conferences who have come to Yaoundé for the promulgation of the
Instrumentum Laboris of the Second Special Assembly for Africa
of the Synod of Bishops.
How can we enter into the specific grace of this day? In a
little while, at the end of Mass, the liturgy will remind us of
the focal point of our meditation when it has us pray: "Lord,
today you nourish us at this altar as we celebrate the feast of
Saint Joseph. Protect your Church always, and in your love watch
over the gifts you have given us." We are asking the Lord to
protect the Church always -- and he does! -- just as Joseph
protected his family and kept watch over the child Jesus during
his early years.
Our Gospel reading recalls this for us. The angel said to
Joseph: "Do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your
home," (Mt 1:20) and that is precisely what he did: "he did as
the angel of the Lord had commanded him" (Mt 1:24). Why was
Saint Matthew so keen to note Joseph’s trust in the words
received from the messenger of God, if not to invite us to
imitate this same loving trust?
Although the first reading which we have just heard does not
speak explicitly of Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal
about him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to God’s command,
tells David: "I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from
your loins" (2 Sam 7:12). David must accept that he will die
before seeing the fulfillment of this promise, which will come
to pass "when (his) time comes" and he will rest "with (his)
ancestors". We thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most
cherished desires -- seeing the fruits of one’s labors -- is not
always granted by God. I think of those among you who are
mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to
give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to
see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this
"success" entails: what God asks David to do is to place his
trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have
a throne "firm for ever" (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced
under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in
God. In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his
messenger, the Angel, say to him: "Joseph, son of David, do not
be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is
through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in
her" (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who
gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of
such astonishing news.
Dear fathers and mothers here today, do you have trust in God
who has called you to be the fathers and mothers of his adopted
children? Do you accept that he is counting on you to pass on to
your children the human and spiritual values that you yourselves
have received and which will prepare them to live with love and
respect for his holy name? At a time when so many people have no
qualms about trying to impose the tyranny of materialism, with
scant concern for the most deprived, you must be very careful.
Africa in general, and Cameroon in particular, place themselves
at risk if they do not recognize the True Author of Life!
Brothers and sisters in Cameroon and throughout Africa, you who
have received from God so many human virtues, take care of your
souls! Do not let yourselves be captivated by selfish illusions
and false ideals! Believe -- yes! -- continue to believe in God
-- Father, Son, and Holy Spirit -- he alone truly loves you in
the way you yearn to be loved, he alone can satisfy you, can
bring stability to your lives. Only Christ is the way of Life.
God alone could grant Joseph the strength to trust the Angel.
God alone will give you, dear married couples, the strength to
raise your family as he wants. Ask it of him! God loves to be
asked for what he wishes to give. Ask him for the grace of a
true and ever more faithful love patterned after his own. As the
Psalm magnificently puts it: his "love is established for ever,
his loyalty will stand as long as the heavens" (Ps 88:3).
Just as on other continents, the family today -- in your country
and across Africa -- is experiencing a difficult time; but
fidelity to God will help see it through. Certain values of the
traditional life have been overturned. Relationships between
different generations have evolved in a way that no longer
favors the transmission of accumulated knowledge and inherited
wisdom. Too often we witness a rural exodus not unlike that
known in many other periods of human history. The quality of
family ties is deeply affected by this. Uprooted and fragile
members of the younger generation who often -- sadly -- are
without gainful employment, seek to cure their pain by living in
ephemeral and man-made paradises which we know will never
guarantee the human being a deep, abiding happiness. Sometimes
the African people too are constrained to flee from themselves
and abandon everything that once made up their interior
richness. Confronted with the phenomenon of rapid urbanization,
they leave the land, physically and morally: not as Abraham had
done in response to the Lord’s call, but as a kind of interior
exile which alienates them from their very being, from their
brothers and sisters, and from God himself.
Is this an irreversible, inevitable development? By no means!
More than ever, we must "hope against all hope" (Rom 4:18). Here
I wish to acknowledge with appreciation and gratitude the
remarkable work done by countless associations that promote the
life of faith and the practice of charity. May they be warmly
thanked! May they find in the word of God renewed strength to
carry out their projects for the integral development of the
human person in Africa, especially in Cameroon!
The first priority will consist in restoring a sense of the
acceptance of life as a gift from God. According to both Sacred
Scripture and the wisest traditions of your continent, the
arrival of a child is always a gift, a blessing from God. Today
it is high time to place greater emphasis on this: every human
being, every tiny human person, however weak, is created "in the
image and likeness of God" (Gen 1:27). Every person must live!
Death must not prevail over life! Death will never have the last
Sons and daughters of Africa, do not be afraid to believe, to
hope, and to love; do not be afraid to say that Jesus is the
Way, the Truth and the Life, and that we can be saved by him
alone. Saint Paul is indeed an inspired author given to the
Church by the Holy Spirit as a "teacher of nations" (1 Tim 2:7)
when he tells us that Abraham, "hoping against hope, believed
that he should become the father of many nations; as he had been
told, ‘So shall your descendants be’" (Rom 4:18).
"Hoping against hope": is this not a magnificent description of
a Christian? Africa is called to hope through you and in you!
With Jesus Christ, who trod the African soil, Africa can become
the continent of hope! We are all members of the peoples that
God gave to Abraham as his descendants. Each and every one of us
was thought, willed and loved by God. Each and every one of us
has a role to play in the plan of God: Father, Son and Holy
Spirit. If discouragement overwhelms you, think of the faith of
Joseph; if anxiety has its grip on you, think of the hope of
Joseph, that descendant of Abraham who hoped against hope; if
exasperation or hatred seizes you, think of the love of Joseph,
who was the first man to set eyes on the human face of God in
the person of the Infant conceived by the Holy Spirit in the
womb of the Virgin Mary. Let us praise and thank Christ for
having drawn so close to us, and for giving us Joseph as an
example and model of love for him.
Dear brothers and sisters, I want to say to you once more from
the bottom of my heart: like Joseph, do not be afraid to take
Mary into your home, that is to say do not be afraid to love the
Church. Mary, Mother of the Church, will teach you to follow
your pastors, to love your bishops, your priests, your deacons
and your catechists; to heed what they teach you and to pray for
their intentions. Husbands, look upon the love of Joseph for
Mary and Jesus; those preparing for marriage, treat your future
spouse as Joseph did; those of you who have given yourselves to
God in celibacy, reflect upon the teaching of the Church, our
Mother: "Virginity or celibacy for the sake of the Kingdom of
God not only does not contradict the dignity of marriage but
presupposes and confirms it. Marriage and virginity are two ways
of expressing and living the one mystery of the Covenant of God
with his people" (Redemptoris Custos, 20).
Once more, I wish to extend a particular word of encouragement
to fathers so that they may take Saint Joseph as their model. He
who kept watch over the Son of Man is able to teach them the
deepest meaning of their own fatherhood. In the same way, each
father receives his children from God, and they are created in
God’s own image and likeness. Saint Joseph was the spouse of
Mary. In the same way, each father sees himself entrusted with
the mystery of womanhood through his own wife. Dear fathers,
like Saint Joseph, respect and love your spouse; and by your
love and your wise presence, lead your children to God where
they must be (cf. Lk 2:49).
Finally, to all the young people present, I offer words of
friendship and encouragement: as you face the challenges of
life, take courage! Your life is priceless in the eyes of God!
Let Christ take hold of you, agree to pledge your love to him,
and – why not? – maybe even do so in the priesthood or in the
consecrated life! This is the supreme service. To the children
who no longer have a father, or who live abandoned in the
poverty of the streets, to those forcibly separated from their
parents, to the maltreated and abused, to those constrained to
join paramilitary forces that are terrorizing some countries, I
would like to say: God loves you, he has not forgotten you, and
Saint Joseph protects you! Invoke him with confidence.
May God bless you and watch over you! May he give you the grace
to keep advancing towards him with fidelity! May he give
stability to your lives so that you may reap the fruits he
awaits from you! May he make you witnesses of his love here in
Cameroon and to the ends of the earth! I fervently beg him to
give you a taste of the joy of belonging to him, now and for
© Copyright 2009 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana
March 17-23, 2009. Visit to Cameroon and Angola, Vatican Coverage...
at the One they Pierced!