Christ in the House of His Parents by Sr John Everett Millias, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Joseph, a Man who Engaged with his Neighbours

Over these past few weeks, we have seen and experienced the gift of being a neighbour as Ukrainian families flee into neighbouring countries. Joseph, Mary and the child Jesus knew this experience when they were forced to go to Egypt fleeing the wrath of Herod.

In Australia we have seen neighbour supporting neighbour in the recent unprecedented floods that have ravaged communities in Queensland and New South Wales. We have heard stories of neighbours and friends looking out for one another and supporting each other during these tough days.

On the Feast of Saint Joseph (19 March), Joseph invites us to consider what it means to be a good neighbour.

Joseph knew the scriptures and knew the command given in Leviticus to ‘love your neighbour as yourself’ (Leviticus 19:17-18). There is an interesting piece of art Christ in the House of His Parents by Pre-Raphaelite artist Sr John Everett Millias. Here the artist depicts Joseph, Jesus and Mary in the carpenter’s shop working alongside their neighbours. I wonder what was happening within the community of Nazareth that inspired Jesus to tell the story of the Good Samaritan? This parable engages us in the experience of what it means to be a neighbour.

There in the district of Galilee, Joseph made his home in a town called Nazareth.
Matt 2:23

What makes a house a home? Many of us recall the movie The Castle and that famous line “It’s not a house it’s a home”. It is the memories, the stories, that feeling of being ‘at home’ that turns a building into a home and causes so much grief as we see floodwaters inundate homes. It is the pain of loss of all that is dear as homes are destroyed in the violent acts of war. For Joseph to make his home among the people of Nazareth meant creating treasured memories, hopes and stories for Jesus. The wisdom and insight Jesus gained within this circle of love shaped and formed his ministry. Here too he learned that to ‘make one’s home in God’ (John 15:4) was central to all who he was to become.

On this Feast of Saint Joseph let us hold in love all those whose lives are being diminished through the act of war especially our brothers and sisters in Ukraine at this time. May they know the courage of Joseph who had to flee due to the violent acts of Herod and the hope that carried him through all his difficulties.

Let us encircle all those who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses through the floods, with compassion as they seek to rebuild their lives. May they, like Joseph, find a place to call home again through the support and encouragement of neighbours and community groups.

Like Joseph let each person bring the gifts that are theirs, to lift the spirits of the downtrodden, bring hope in time of loss and wisdom to those entrusted with leadership in these troubled times.

May the creative courage and daily homeliness of Joseph be yours on this feast day.

Sr Monica Cavanagh
Congregational Leader

View Sr Monica’s video message for the Feast of St Joseph below: