Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary - Homilies


4th Sunday of Advent
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
December 22nd, 2013
Year A

The St Vincent de Paul Society is something very familiar to us, but few of us are familiar with St Vincent de Paul himself - a man who swept through seventeenth-century France like a tornado of holiness. During one of his many visits to the galley slaves in the French city of Marseilles, he met one man who seemed sadder than all the rest. Galley slaves were criminals condemned to serve their punishment by forced labor as rowers on board ships. “My friend,” St Vincent asked the man, “what makes you so sad?” “I have a wife and family far away,” the slave replied, “and my heart aches to see them. But it will be a long time before I have that happiness - if I ever do. St Vincent went to the overseer and asked permission to take the poor man's place. Not recognizing the saint, the overseer agreed. The chains were taken off the slave and put on St Vincent, who was forced to work in the place of the man he befriended. A short time later, however, when it was discovered who he was, the saint was set free. St. Vincent displays for us an extraordinary example of unselfish love. Without even knowing the slave, he offers to take his place. We find a similar example of unselfishness in St. Joseph, on whom the gospel of today centers.

St. Matthew describes Joseph as a “righteous” man or in some translations we hear the term ‘just.’ The dictionary defines it as a person who is “morally upright.” I would venture to say, however, that Joseph is more than just a man who observes moral principles. In Hebrew a just man refers to a person who is a good and faithful servant of God. In his case, we are speaking of a man of virtue, indeed a moral man who is honorable, honest, and pure. He is a man who did exactly as God had commanded him in every event of his life. In this way, he proves his love for God by keeping His commandments and directing his entire life in service of the divine will.

While St. Matthew highlights the fact that it is the virgin that is with child and from her is born the Christ, this gospel passage – in comparison to Luke – has Joseph as the protagonist. By calling him the Son of David, the angel reminds Joseph that he is the link that joins Jesus to the family of David according the messianic prophecy made by the Prophet Nathan to King David. The angel tells him that he, Joseph, is not to be afraid to take Mary into his home and that he is to name the child. It may seem like Joseph stands somewhat outside the mystery yet is invited by the angel to participate in it – to engage fully in God’s plan of salvation. As such, Joseph shows himself to be remarkably unselfish. He is a man who loves both God and his wife. So much so, that gives of himself completely for them. For God gives the light of understanding to those who are upright, trust in His divine power and wisdom. Indeed, this is what makes him truly a just man.

Reflecting on the birth of the Messiah through the eyes of Joseph can teach us many things about this season of Advent and Christmas, and for our faith in general. While it may seem like we too stand outside the mystery of the incarnation of God – since by our sin we distance ourselves from Him – we too are invited to be a part of it, to engage in it. Joseph teaches us just how to respond to God’s invitation to be a part of the mystery. By being unselfish, Joseph is thus more than just an upright man – he proves that he is selfless, generous, noble, and a man of great magnitude. As such, Joseph is a man of deep humility and love. This is precisely the core of the teachings of the savior and they attributes already found in his earthly father. Being unselfish means thinking of ourselves less and more about the needs and welfare of others. We often recognize that one of the major features of the Christmas Season is a spirit of unselfishness. The Salvation Army collects money outside department stores and malls, toys for tots, we had our giving tree to help needy families, and the list goes on. But there is far more to being unselfish than just buying something and giving a few coins. This is where Joseph’s virtue is so amazing because he gives of himself totally in obedience to the divine will – for love of God and Mary. He surrenders his heart. This is what he teaches us. If we wish to be a part of this mystery, we have to give totally of hearts and souls to God and neighbor. For this is the greatest commandment: Love God and Love Neighbor. For God gives Himself to us each and everyday. The mystery of the Word made Flesh becomes food for us in the Eucharist everyday. He surrenders Himself for us – in what ways have given to Him? How have we demonstrated a life of selflessness, generosity, moral living? In these last days before Christmas, let us reflect on how we can be more like Joseph or like St. Vincent – unselfish, noble, kind, honorable, morally upright, honest and pure – truly righteous in the eyes of God – so that we may respond to God’s invitation to be a past of this mystery and enjoy a deeply held communion with Him.





Fr. Jon Reardon

Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at Sacred Heart Parish in Pittsfield, MA.



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