As we continue this year of Saint Joseph, it is appropriate that during Respect Life month we reflect on his unique role as the guardian and defender of life. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Saint Joseph protected Jesus and Mary from a civil leader who promoted the slaughter of innocent human life.
King Herod was threatened by the prospect of the birth of the Messiah. He feigned a desire to pay homage to the child to be born. In truth, he was so threatened by this innocent human life that he ordered the massacre of all baby boys under the age of two years.
Joseph responded to this threat immediately and protected the baby Jesus and Mary: “The angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.’ Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” (Matthew 2:1-18)
Herod saw Jesus as a problem to be eliminated. Jesus would get in the way of his plans. So, he essentially put out a contract to kill all potential threats to his aspirations. A few weeks ago, Pope Francis used blunt language and compared abortion to hiring a hit man:
“It is a human life, and this human life must be respected. This principle is clear, to those who cannot understand it I would ask them two questions. (First,) is it right to kill a human life to solve a problem? Scientifically it is a human life. Second, is it right to hire a hitman to solve a problem? I ask: is it right to take it out to solve a problem? That’s why the Church is so tough on this issue, because if you accept this, you accept homicide daily.”
Joseph didn’t stop protecting Jesus after his infancy, but as a loving father he raised Jesus as he “advanced [in] wisdom and age and favor before God and man.” (Luke 2:52) Our call to protect innocent human life brings with it an obligation to provide support for all mothers and families as they say “yes” to bringing children into the world. We are blessed in the Diocese of Gary with four Women’s Care Centers and other apostolates that support mothers both before and after birth. For those who have chosen against life, we must also be ready to share the mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of Jesus.
There are many threats to human life that extend from the womb to the tomb. Pope Francis has spoken against the “throwaway” culture that treats the elderly and unborn as “disposable”:
“What is (deemed) useless is discarded. Old people are disposable material; they are a nuisance. Not all of them but, of course, in the collective subconscious of the throwaway culture, the old, the terminally ill, and unwanted children, too; they are returned to the sender before they are born.”
During Respect Life month, let us ask Saint Joseph, Defender of Life, to intercede for us to stand strong in defending all human life, regardless of the color of one’s skin or country of origin. May we give loving support for all those who choose life. Saint Joseph … pray for us.
The Most Reverend Robert J. McClory
Diocese of Gary