St. Joseph the Worker by Fr. Gerard Jonas

Homily of 1 May 2018

Col 3:14-15, 17, 23-24; Mt 13:54-58

It’s Mayday. For us Catholics, today, we commemorate St. Joseph, the worker. This commemoration was established by Pope Pius XII in 1955, as a reminder to us that human labor brings dignity to individuals and that work is for the good of everyone, according to the example of St. Joseph, the Foster Father of Jesus Christ.

Even before I was ordained a priest in 1991, I was tasked to help put up our archdiocesan publishing house in Batangas in the Philippines. We wanted it named after St. Joseph, our diocesan patron. But the Securities and Exchange Commission would not register it as such since the name was already taken. It was then that we thought of “Pepe.”

How or why has Pepe become the nickname for Joseph or Jose or Giuseppe? Saint Joseph is the foster father or the commonly accepted father of Jesus Christ, in Latin, pater putativus . In Spanish, the letter “P” is pronounced “peh” giving rise to the nickname Pepe for Jose. Thus, in the Archdiocese of Lipa, we now have the Pater Putativus Publishing House.

Our Gospel reading today affirms Pepe as the nickname for Joseph. Jesus was referred to as the “carpenter’s son.” Though not his biological father, Joseph gave Jesus Christ his social identity.

As a carpenter, Joseph labored to provide for Mary and Jesus, his family at Nazareth. He was not just an ordinary carpenter but regarded more as an artisan, giving attention not just to utility but also creatively to the finer artistic details in his projects. He did manual tasks of everyday life, as St. Paul wrote to the Colossians, with one’s whole being at the service of the Lord. Literally, he was serving the Lord.

Jesus took to his father. After his foster father Joseph, Jesus was a master builder of community, repairer of relationships, restorer of health and life; and after God the Father, Jesus was the master builder of God’s Kingdom here on earth.

Today’s commemoration of St. Joseph the Worker brings to the fore, the dignity of human labor. The dignity of work is not just in serving the Lord. More so, it is living up to our human dignity of being created in the likeness of God who never ceases to work. Our work is our participation in the life of God, in the work of God.

According to Pope John Paul II, “Work is a good thing for one’s humanity — because through work one not only transforms nature, adapting it to his or her own needs but also achieves fulfillment as a human being and indeed, in a sense, becomes more a human being.’

Through the example, guidance and intercession of St. Joseph the Worker, the foster father of Jesus, may all the work of all our faculties – be they physical, intellectual, spiritual, moral – become truly only and always an expression of love, an instrument of sanctification, and an efficacious means to follow the saving will of God, the Creator and Redeemer.