Posted by Catholic Outlook
on 8 July 2021
On 8 December 2020, Pope Francis published an Apostolic Letter Patris corde (With a Father's Heart), commemorating the 150th anniversary of the declaration of Saint Joseph as Patron of the Universal Church. To mark the occasion, the Holy Father has proclaimed a "Year of St Joseph", running from December 8, 2020 to December 8, 2021.
The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, to commemorate the Year of St Joseph, will be releasing a reflection on the various aspects of St Joseph's life and character each month throughout 2021.
Joseph as "Protector"
"Within days, or even hours, violent oppressors will occupy your town centre." For refugees around the world, this scenario typifies an immediate threat. With no time to respond, they abandon livelihood, community and homeland to escape civil war, political unrest, religious persecution, effects of climate change and exploitation or systematic abuse of basic human rights. Their desperate attempts to find refuge are often not final solutions but new beginnings. A long journey into the unknown is marked by fear, danger and daunting obstacles.
Mid-2020 data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimated that worldwide numbers of forcibly displaced people surpassed 80 million. According to their statistics, 26.3 million were refugees, an additional 4.2 million were recorded as asylum-seekers and tens of millions of others classified as internally displaced or stateless.
From Matthew's Gospel narrative of Jesus' birth and the roles of Joseph and Mary, we learn of the many challenges faced by this young family. Joseph followed the example of his ancient Biblical Fathers of Faith Abraham, Isaac and Jacob under the guidance of the angel's visionary message: "Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, 'get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you'" (Mt 2: 13).
Joseph's protective response to Herod's imminent threat to the life of his newborn son Jesus, mirrored that of many parents among today's displaced people. At short notice, Joseph got up to protect his young family from danger, "For Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him," and in the dark of the night, "took the child and his mother" (Mt 2: 14). He embarked on an escape into the unknown; a journey involving fear, danger and an uncertain future. At the same time, it was a venture filled with deep hope and trust in God's providence that it would lead to safety and a better place for Jesus, Mary and Joseph.