Continues in His Role as Protector of the Body of Christ
Homily of H. H.
John Paul II
Stadium of Monterotondo, Rome, Italy
March 19, 1993
say to me, 'You are my Father'" (Ps 88:27).
The word of God which the liturgy offers us on today's
Solemnity of St. Joseph is very rich. It presents to us the
words of the Gospel of St. Luke but, at the same time, it
draws from the great treasury of the Old Testament, in
particular from the Second Book of Samuel and the Book of
Psalms. There is an intimate bond between the Old and the
New Testament, which is illustrated clearly and profoundly
by St. Paul in the passage from the letter to the Romans
proclaimed a short while ago.
Who is the one who, in the words of the Psalm, cries out:
"You are my Father"? It is Jesus Christ, the Son of the
living God. Before these words were spoken by Jesus of
Nazareth, however, the psalmist had spoken them precisely in
the context of the covenant which Yahweh made with his
people. Therefore, they are words addressed to the God of
So, you see, it is precisely God, the rock of mankind's
salvation to whom Jesus cries out: "You are my Father"! He
says this using the word which expresses a son's greatest
degree of confidence in his father: "Abba", my father!
2. Abba, my Father! This is what Jesus calls his heavenly
Father, thus making it possible for us also to address in
like manner the One whose eternal, consubstantial Son he is.
Jesus authorizes us to use this expression, to pray to the
Father in this way. Today's liturgy introduces us in a
significant way into the prayer which the Son of God
ceaselessly addresses to the heavenly Father.
At the same time, from his prayerful invocation which sheds
light on the fatherhood of God, in some way emerges a
special salvific plan concerning the man called Joseph, to
whom the eternal Father entrusted a singular participation
in his own fatherhood.
Joseph participates in God's fatherhood
"Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your
wife in to your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that
this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son
and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his
people from their sins" (Mt 1:20-21).
By these words the heavenly Father calls Joseph, a
descendant of the house of David, to participate in a
special way in his eternal fatherhood. The Son of God, Son
of Mary, conceived by the Holy Spirit, will live at Joseph's
side. He will be entrusted to his loving fatherhood. He will
address Joseph, a human being, as a "father".
3. When Jesus was only 12 years old, did not his mother say
in the temple of Jerusalem: "Son, why have you done this to
us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great
anxiety" (Lk 2:48)? Mary, speaking of Joseph, uses the
expression "your father". On that occasion the response the
boy Jesus gave to his parents is quite singular: "Why were
you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my
Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).
In this way Jesus reveals the profound truth of his divine
Sonship: the truth concerning the Father who "so loved the
world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who
believes in him might not perish but might have eternal
life" (Jn 3:16). The boy Jesus responds to Mary and Joseph:
"I must be busy with my Father's affairs". Although at first
glance these words in a certain sense seem to cast a shadow
on Joseph's "fatherhood", in reality they show it even more
clearly as the loving fatherhood of that singular
"descendent of David", Joseph of Nazareth.
4. This, dear brothers and sisters, is the heart of today's
liturgical solemnity: the loving fatherhood of St. Joseph.
He is the guardian and protector who, together with his
vocation to be the foster-father of the Redeemer, received
from divine Providence the mission of protecting his growth
in wisdom, age and grace.
In the Litany to St. Joseph, we invoke him under wonderful
titles. We call him the "Renowned offspring of David",
"Light of Patriarchs", "Spouse of the Mother of God",
"Chaste guardian of the Virgin", "Foster-father of the Son
of God", "Diligent protector of Christ", "Head of the Holy
In an expression which so well summarizes the biblical truth
about him, we invoke him as the "Protector of holy Church".
This invocation is deeply rooted in New Testament
revelation. The Church is, in fact, Christ's Body. Is it not
logical then and necessary that he to whom the eternal
Father entrusted his Son, should offer the same protection
to the Body of Christ which, according to the teaching of
the Apostle Paul, is the Church?
We call upon you, St. Joseph
5. Today the community of believers throughout the whole
world entrust to St. Joseph themselves and their needs at
this difficult stage of history as we draw near the end of
the second Christian millennium. We invoke your aid, O
wonderful guardian of the Lord: "Diligent protector of
Christ", you who are "protector of holy Church".
Today the Church of Sabina also entrusts to you herself and
her pastoral plans. Dear brothers and sisters, your Diocese
is preparing for the important spiritual appointment of the
year 2000 with the pastoral visit which your Bishop will
make to the 82 parishes comprising your ecclesial family in
the light of the diocesan Synod. May this providential
pastoral visit open up in all of you the path of a genuine
You are aware of the need to rediscover the mystery of the
"Church" as communion and mission, and the heart of your
pastoral plan is precisely this: to proclaim to all that
Jesus Christ is Lord!
6. With these sentiments I am happy to greet each of you
present at this solemn Eucharistic celebration and those who
have joined us in spirit. In particular I greet Cardinal
Camillo Ruini, my Vicar General for the Diocese of Rome and
President of the Italian Episcopal Conference. With
affection and esteem I greet the Pastor of your Diocesan
community, Bishop Salvatore Boccaccio, together with the
priests, his foremost coworkers in the pastoral service of
the brethren! To you, dear priests, I would like to offer a
word of heartfelt appreciation for the taxing apostolic work
you do, which is sometimes not very gratifying, humanly
speaking. Always be solidly founded in Christ; in all
circumstances you should remember that you are his heralds
and witnesses. With Gospel passion take care of the portion
of the Christian people entrusted to you and spread the
message of salvation, destined for every human person, all
about you. In order to have an abundance of joy and Gospel
hope to sow, may the communion between you and your Bishop
be strengthened so that your common pastoral activity may
become ever closer and more effective.
I offer an affectionate greeting to the Apostolic Nuncio in
Italy and to the Bishops of Lazio. I also greet you, the
dear religious who are actively involved in the various
areas of the apostolate in the service of the Gospel. May
the Lord reward your every effort and make you radiant signs
of his presence in the world.
I am also pleased to offer my deferential greeting to the
civil and military authorities, to the representatives of
the Provincial Administration of Rome and the Regional
Council of Lazio, as well as to all those who have helped to
organize this visit, giving me the opportunity in a single
day to get to know various interesting localities in the
With particular affection I address you, dear invalids, the
privileged witnesses of the cross of Christ, the elderly,
and you, the young people whom I see so numerous and so
inspired with courageous, ardent missionary enthusiasm. Dear
young people, the hope of the Church and the civil community
depends on you: Open your hearts to Christ; do not be
ensnared by the false allure of consumerism and selfishness.
Be apostles of a love without frontiers; be seekers of
authentic, liberating truth. Be enthusiastic about Christ
People have a right to dignified work
7. Dear brothers and sisters, my visit today cannot fail to
be concerned especially about the family and work, your
families and your work: your work in the fields, as well as
that done in the factories and workshops. Unfortunately, in
many respects the picture of current family conditions in
your region is planning. The crisis of the family
institution, connected with growing problems in work, is
making itself felt and has serious repercussions on the
whole of society. One part of your Diocese, the part closer
to Rome, especially is experiencing some of the difficulties
of the capital, pressed by "rampant immigration" to new
models of life, new demands, a new way of understanding
existence. Both parents working or people holding two jobs
and the time lost in traffic on overcrowded roads are like
so many termites gnawing away at the identity of the family
and contribute to the loss of direction among the young
people, ever more confused in their basic choices and
disappointed in their innermost hopes.
St. Joseph, guardian of the family of Nazareth, look upon
the families of this diocesan community! Help them to
resolve the many complex problems which make their future
uncertain and troubled. People have a right to work that
will assure nuclear families of a dignified life; children
must be able to enjoy the full, undivided affection of their
parents; newlyweds must be in a position to begin their
married life with serenity and commitment.
St. Joseph, help families to become the agents of a renewed
evangelization, one sustained and accompanied, as your
Bishop recalled at the beginning of this celebration, by the
witness of charity which begins with the lowly. Thus your
diocesan community will grow in missionary openness and
concrete solidarity towards those in need. In that context,
I thank you for the generous offering which you gave to me
on behalf of the African peoples particularly stricken by
poverty, violence and hunger.
8. As happened in the family of Nazareth, in St. Joseph's
family, make your families privileged places for Christ to
meet his brothers and sisters.
In the Litany of St. Joseph we pray as follows: "Glory of
home life" "Model of workers".
Under his protection may the family and labor here and
everywhere bear fruit to everlasting life, an expression of
that covenant which God has made with the whole of humanity
in Jesus Christ. "You are my father."
Joseph, most faithful, to you we turn. Do not cease
interceding for us; do not cease interceding for the whole