Saint Joseph the Worker – Readings

Commentary on Genesis 1:26 – 2:3 or Colossians 3:14-15,17,23-24; Matthew 13:54-58

The Gospel reading from Matthew describes a scene where Jesus, now engaged in his public ministry, returned to visit Nazareth, the place where he grew up.   When he speaks, the people of the town are amazed:

Where did this man get this wisdom and these deeds of power?

They could not understand because, to them, he was the son of Joseph the carpenter and of Mary, and did they not know all his relatives?  And, because they thought they knew him, they rejected him. 

In response Jesus told them that a prophet will find honour everywhere except in his own place. And as a result, Jesus did not do any ‘mighty deed’ there because of their lack of faith and trust in him.  

It is an example of the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”.  The townspeople thought they knew Jesus but, of course, they did not.  But many others had no problem in seeing the presence of God in the words and actions of Jesus.

It is a problem we ourselves can easily have when we fail to recognise the voice of God in the words and actions of people with whom we are very familiar.  Yet that is the way in which God most often communicates with us.

The passage has been chosen, of course, because of its mention of Joseph as the local carpenter, a man who worked with his hands, and so today we remember especially all those in our society who also work with their hands, people who in the past and sometimes in the present, too, have been abused and exploited.  It is Joseph who gives dignity to what they do.

There is a choice of two First Readings.  The first is from the beginning of the Book of Genesis, in the first account of the Creation.  On the sixth and last day of the creation, God created all the animals which inhabit the earth.  He then created Man “in our image, according to our likeness” and gave Man dominion over all living things – on the earth, in the sky and in the sea.  All plants and animals of all kinds were also given to Man for his food.  God the saw everything that he had made and it was very good.

With the completion of the work of Creation, God then rested on the seventh day (as the Jews also refrained from doing any manual work on the Sabbath):

So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation.

For countless generations humanity lived in harmony with the Creation entrusted to it – as do the rest of living things.  But in modern times, we have exploited our environment in ways that could bring about the destruction not only of ourselves, but of all life on our planet.  And, we have come to be more and more aware that ‘dominion’ does not mean exploitation and abuse, but ‘stewardship’ where, with our special abilities, we can not only preserve but enhance our environment. 

The Alternate First Reading from Paul’s Letter to the Colossians is a lovely description of the spirit in which we should live our lives and interact with other people, in other words, the spirit in which we should do our daily work. 

Paul says:

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

Whatever is done in agape-love is good; in fact, wherever there is such love, God is there.  Secondly, we should:

…let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body [the body of Christ himself].

And whatever we do – in word or action – should be done in the name of the Lord Jesus while at the same time giving thanks to God for his countless blessings.

And whatever is done should be done with the utmost sincerity and integrity and with the aim of giving glory to God and not simply to please the demands of other people. Paul says that, just as Jesus himself came to be our slave-servant, where service is love in action, we should be:

…slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the soul.
(Eph 6:6)

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