01May 1st May. Thursday in Week 2 of Easter

Saint Joseph the Worker.

The feast of Saint Joseph the Worker was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955 in order to emphasise the dignity of labour and to propose a model and protector to all working people.

First Reading: Acts 5:27-33

(The witness of Peter and the apostles before the Jewish council.)

When they had brought them, they had them stand before the council. The high priest questioned them, saying, “We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and you are determined to bring this man’s blood on us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than any human authority. The God of our ancestors raised up Jesus, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Saviour that he might give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey him.” When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them.

Gospel: John 3:31-36

(The Father loves the Son and has put all things in his hands.)

The one who comes from above is above all; the one who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things. The one who comes from heaven is above all. He testifies to what he has seen and heard, yet no one accepts his testimony. Whoever has accepted his testimony has certified this, that God is true. He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.

Speaking our truth with love

It can be hard to distinguish inner strength from a stubborn spirit of confrontation. How can we know if our convictions are from God and must be obeyed at all costs, or could our resistence to authority be rooted merely in pride? Very few have had direct revelations from above, so how can we tell if God is really prompting us? To follow Jesus and speak in his name presumes that we are ready to walk the way of the cross with him. Jesus was nailed to a tree, the most public and painful of deaths.

One clue for deciding if we are following Jesus is in today’s text from Acts: “We testify and so does the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is invited into our hearts through personal prayer, on a regular basis. We also consult the Holy Spirit by checking out our ideas with honest advisors. It is good to have someone who will tell us the plain truth. Prayer and some spiritual guidance can make demands upon us to grow beyond our own obsessions and comfort zones. Another test of Christian truth is suggested in Peter’s reference to the God of our ancestors. Do I pay heed to the Bible and hear it in the liturgy, so as to have my spirit formed in line with the early church’s faith? We need this so as to acquire a valid, integral spirituality. If we just pick and choose, we may simply reenforce our own oddities and stubborness. We must respect earlier beliefs and devotion, so that our present position can be a flowering of the seed that was planted in the past. Then our word, like Jesus’ own, will witness to what we have seen and heard.

Today we also honour the memory of Saint Joseph the Worker, and pray for working people everywhere. Some words about responsibility which were spoken by Pope Francis’ on Saint Joseph’s other feast-day (19 March 2013) may be useful here: “The vocation of being a guardian is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone. It means respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment in which we live. It means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about…. In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be guardians of God’s gifts! I would like to ask all those who have positions of responsibility in economic, political and social life, and all men and women of goodwill: let us be guardians of creation, guardians of God’s plan inscribed in nature, guardians of one another and of the environment… I would add one more thing: caring, protecting, demands goodness, it calls for a certain tenderness. In the Gospels, Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love. We must not be afraid of goodness, of tenderness!”