19 March 2009

The fruits of our labors

I was especially struck this morning by these words of Pope Benedict XVI in the homily he preached for the Solemnity of Saint Joseph, Husbund of Mary:

Although the first reading which we have just heard does not speak explicitly of Saint Joseph, it does teach us a good deal about him. The prophet Nathan, in obedience to God’s command, tells David: “I will raise up your heir after you, sprung from your loins” (2 Sam 7:12). David must accept that he will die before seeing the fulfilment of this promise, which will come to pass “when (his) time comes” and he will rest “with (his) ancestors”. We thus come to realize that one of mankind’s most cherished desires – seeing the fruits of one’s labours – is not always granted by God. I think of those among you who are mothers and fathers of families. Parents quite rightly desire to give the best of themselves to their children, and they want to see them achieve success. Yet make no mistake about what this “success” entails: what God asks David to do is to place his trust in him. David himself will not see his heir who will have a throne “firm for ever” (2 Sam 7:16), for this heir, announced under the veil of prophecy, is Jesus. David puts his trust in God. In the same way, Joseph trusts God when he hears his messenger, the Angel, say to him: “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Throughout all of history, Joseph is the man who gives God the greatest display of trust, even in the face of such astonishing news.
It is much the same in the life of a priest.

Only rarely do we see the fruits of our preaching, of our conversations, prayers and efforts on behalf of those to whom we are sent.

I often wonder if all of my efforts with the high school students will bear good fruit, if it will truly lead them ever closer to Jesus Christ, yet I keep at it nonetheless.

It is true that from time to time I do see signs of hope, of grace at work, but at other times I do not. This is true of all forms of priestly ministry.

This is why daily prayer for one's ministry is so vital. We must entrust each of our efforts to the Lord, trusting that he knows how to water the seeds that are planted.

I have already asked for the special guidance, protection and intercession of Damien of Molokai and John Bosco in my ministry with the high school students. Today I entrusted these efforts also to Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus and of each of us.

May Joseph teach me to trust ever more deeply in the Lord in full humility as he did. May he also teach me to care for those entrusted to me, as he cared so well for Jesus and Mary.

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