In December Bishop Joe Vásquez proclaimed a Year of the Domestic Church for the Diocese of Austin. One day later Pope Francis recalled the sesquicentennial of the declaration of St. Joseph as patron of the Universal Church, and subsequently proclaimed a Year of St. Joseph. Why are these providential proclamations so important at this time for us, and what do they have to do with social justice?
Recently, I gave a talk at Holy Cross Parish during Black History Month reflecting on the importance of these year-long observances of the home as the first school of Christian life, and St. Joseph as the exemplar of the love of a father for his family. As we recognize the importance of the domestic church and its implications for our families, our Christian households are challenged to contribute fully to the flourishing of our parishes, schools and communities.
What does the Lord require of us this year?
Evangelization is both a call and a response, which means our responsibility is not only preaching and teaching but also witnessing. As the Christian faithful are commissioned to make disciples of all nations, we are to conduct ourselves in a way worthy of the Gospel of Christ. Modeling Christian witness begins in our homes, the first schools of love for God and neighbor. Our homes are where we learn and model love, compassion, respect, mercy and forgiveness.
Our communities are experiencing progressively more degradation of the family. There are far too many competing voices attempting to redefine the family under the guise of “equality” and civil rights. Parents have an awesome responsibility to combat the many ideologies that run contrary to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Modeling St. Joseph, the tender and obedient father, parents can express their responsibilities by offering themselves in love at the service of the Gospel. This is, in part, what it means to pursue an upright life in our increasingly secular society. Being present in the family, encountering our children and accompanying our neighbors are ways we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.
Again, what does the Lord require of us?
The Year of the Domestic Church and the Year of St. Joseph encourage us to live authentically the Gospel of Jesus Christ by living lives of active witness. In doing so we allow our families to genuinely influence our communities. At the same time, we can find inspiration in the words of the prophet Micah, “…to do justice and to love goodness, and to walk humbly with your God” to help us live worthy of the manner of Christ.
Committing to justice, loving goodness and walking with God are how we become disciples and active witnesses of Christ. As active witnesses we become as the Book of James says: “doers of the word and not hearers only… [for we know] faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” By virtue of our baptism, we are people of life sent to evangelize the world. The application of Gospel values begins in our homes, and thus emanates to the very real situations in our communities.
As we continue our observances of the Year of the Domestic Church and the Year of St. Joseph, let us be encouraged to continue to live and work for the well-being of all God’s children, especially in our families. The great works of charity, mercy, forgiveness and love we teach in our homes will further the kingdom of God in our midst.
May the Mother of God and St. Joseph, through their never-failing intercession, always watch over our families as we strive to do the work of Christ, the Son, in our world.
F. DeKarlos Blackmon, OblSB, is the director of the Secretariat of Life, Charity and Justice for the Diocese of Austin. Contact him at (512) 949-2471 or firstname.lastname@example.org.