December 2021 Allocutio
Fr. Paul Churchill
We are celebrating at this time of year a most extraordinary event, namely that God should come and live in and be part of his own creation. Because he was coming to carry out the greatest mission of history, the very point or location of immersion in his creation had to be “spot on” as they say, precise in its place and timing and the personages he would be with.
Because he would be entering the human race he had to be born of a woman, a woman prepared from the start as the Book of Genesis clearly hints, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers …”, a woman already hinted at in the Prophets where, for example it is said, “Behold, a virgin will conceive” (Is 4:14). As things were to show she is that creature, that human being, on whom God would depend almost completely for his mission here, taking her as his leader. We can say that in this she acted as leader also not just for the Church but also for the human family. God begins his immersion in our world as an embryo in her fallopian tubes, allows her body to feed and oxygenate him in his formation in her womb, to suckle and nurture him once born.
But his ministry is also subject to her decisions. When he sought to break out at 12 years of age her words brought him back to Nazareth to live the hidden life for 18 years before, at the wedding feast of Cana, she gave him the assent to begin his ministry. And I suspect that even as he hung on the Cross, it was something in her eyes, in her demeanour, that gave him the permission to say “It is consummated” and to give up his spirit. We should never underestimate the special relationship between God the Son and that human being he subjected himself to.
But as we look at the crib there is one other person there that we must not overlook. St. Joseph had also to be someone chosen by God for his mission involving no less a personage that the second person of the Blessed Trinity. Here I would refer you to Frank Duff’s own article on St. Joseph in Walking with Mary (first published 1956 with a reprint in 2021). Like Mary he must have been handpicked by God so as to show Jesus the best of fatherhood but also to provide God the Son, housed in a human body and soul, an image that would help him to form his human concepts on the fatherhood of God. And it is obvious that St Joseph also exercised a very strong human trait of the male, the protector and provider. When Our Lord once said, “Who is that faithful and wise servant whom the Master sets over his household to give them their portion of food at the right time.” (Mt 24:45; Lk 12:41ss). I cannot but think that this image comes from his own experience of St. Joseph who provided for his family in Nazareth. Perhaps his use of the image of the householder guarding against the burglar or the woman sweeping the house till she found the lost coin have their origins in what happened in his home in Nazareth?
I have sometimes looked into the crib and felt the love of a family speaking to me. We would do a wrong to Mary and Joseph were we to separate them and to treat them solely as two separate individuals. What Jesus found in them were his parents, a team, a couple from whom love emanated because there was love between them. Mary’s words to Jesus when he was twelve years of age speak of them as a team. “Your father and I have been anxiously looking for you …” The home of Nazareth where Jesus spent most of his life, albeit hidden from us for the most part, was a unity of persons in which human love, something to which both Mary and Joseph together contributed enormously by the help of the grace they were given. It could not be otherwise for a unit that was a work of the Blessed Trinity.
So, at this time of year, we might ask this special family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, to share their family love with us, even to invite us in to their home to enjoy the quality of love they have. But if so let us go out in the warmth of that love and bring it to our own homes and those we meet. At the Last Supper Jesus said: “If a man loves me he will keep my words: and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14:23). And given that Jesus spent most of his life in the home of Nazareth we can assume that that experience for him also feeds into these words he speaks.
I just end by asking you again not to separate Joseph and Mary as if they were poles apart, no matter how holy. They were a couple with much tender love between them. They gave Jesus the home of great love that humanly provided him with what he needed to complete his mission. Mary and Joseph, draw us into the warmth of your loving home where we can be brothers and sisters of Jesus. Amen.