Praying Litanies

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2014/12/12 at 12:00 AM

Within our beautiful Catholic tradition of prayer we have litanies dedicated both to the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph. A litany, as you most likely know, is a form of prayer that consists of a series of invocations and responses meant to implore God’s grace and mercy or to ask for the intercession of a particular saint.

While there are a handful of saints with their own litanies as well, the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary (sometimes called the Litany of Loreto) and the Litany of St. Joseph are well known by Catholics and are often used.

The fact that the Church encourages the usage of these two litanies tells us not only that we should turn to both Mary and Joseph in our times of need, but that they are very willing and capable intercessors as well. That makes perfect sense, does it not?
If our Lord is going to grant the petitions of any of the saints in Heaven, isn’t it fitting that He should answer the prayers and petitions of Mary and Joseph above all others?

Of course it is fitting! Indeed, it is right and just that our Lord should give particular deference to His Immaculate Mother and His earthly father – and not just because they are His parents, but because of their heroic holiness.

We have focused a great deal on our Blessed Lady this Advent, and rightly so, for by having carried our Savior in her womb, Mary embodies the spirit of hopeful expectation for the Lord that is proper to Advent.

In her faith-filled yes to the Archangel Gabriel at the Annunciation, and through her patience as the mystery of our Lord’s Incarnation unfolded within her and around her, Mary – more than anyone else – teaches us how to live Advent and prepare for our Lord’s coming.
As the Litany of Loreto tells us, Mary is both Mother Most Pure and Virgin Most Faithful.

But today, through our Gospel story, Holy Mother Church focuses our attention on goodSt. Joseph, the just one who served as our Lord’s father during His earthly life.

While we often refer to St. Joseph as the foster father of Jesus, in Hebrew society andculture, there was no real distinction between an adoptive father and a biological father.

In Joseph’s time if a child was accepted by a man and taken into his home to be caredfor, that child became the real child of that man. The man’s acceptance of the child was the determining factor.

Adopted sons gained not only a father, but also the father’s ancestry. This is animportant point, for St. Joseph was of the house of David.
Thus, as St. Joseph was His earthly father, we can refer to Jesus as the Son of David,fulfilling the messianic prophecy that a Messiah would be born of David’s line, a prophecy that St. Paul mentions in our second reading today.

We hear a little bit about the messianic prophesies of Isaiah in our first reading today.This story of King Ahaz took place about 700 years before the birth of Christ, and Christian tradition has always interpreted it as a prophecy about Jesus and Mary.

Certainly, it seems quite right that our Lord, who by His Incarnation comes to redeemall mankind from sin, should be born of a sinless woman of virginal integrity.

But our Gospel story makes it clear that Mary could not carry out the task of bringing the Messiah into the world all on her own. She needed a husband, but not to conceive the child. Rather, she needed a husband to protect and guide her and her child.

Considering the circumstances surrounding our Lord’s conception, our Lady needed a husband who was a man of faith, a man of justice, a man who would be wholly obedient to the will of God. And so in his Litany, we pray to Joseph Most Just, Joseph Most Faithful, and Joseph Most Obedient.
Moreover, in his own holiness, St. Joseph recognized the holiness of the Blessed Virgin Mary, even though she was pregnant by means of someone other than himself. We can see St. Joseph’s holiness shine through the way he decided to deal with Mary.

St. Joseph decided to divorce our Lady, not out of anger, but simply because he was faced with an unexplainable situation. No doubt divorcing her seemed only logical to him. So he proceeded to do so, but in a charitable way that would not bring her shame.

Keep in mind that our Lady made no explanation for herself. In her humility and faithfulness, our Lady remained silent and did not defend her honor – even to St. Joseph. Mary simply surrendered herself to God’s providential care.

Because our Lord knew that Mary would act in this very virtuous way, He gave Mary to St. Joseph’s care – who was the man in all of history that our Lord trusted above all else – the man our Lord knew would do right by her and by His Son.

So what we see in our Gospel story today is the beauty of virtue, the beauty of true holiness being lived out in perfect accordance with God’s will – even through the terrible trial of emotions that both Joseph and Mary must have suffered in this situation.

And that’s precisely the point! Our Gospel story today shows us that in seeking God’s will and acting with virtue, our Lord rewards us with understanding and peace, just as he rewarded St. Joseph with these things in his dream, even though he must have had to suffer first.

Trials of faith are the ways our Lord tests us to see just how much we love Him. It’s the way that He strengthens us to be more like His Son.
Ultimately our Gospel story shows us that Christ is worth waiting for!

For the past three weeks, we have been preparing ourselves for Christ’s coming(hopefully) by our prayer, our fasting, and our penances. We’ve invited a little extra suffering and discomfort into our lives as a means of preparing for the Gift to come.

Very soon, my brothers and sisters, our Lord will come to us once again at Christmas.He will come as He always does with His mighty gift of salvation, with a peace that surpass all understanding, and with a love that surpasses all knowledge.

If we have placed all of our hopes in Him this Advent Season, then we will be filled withjoy at His coming, regardless of what may or may not be under our Christmas trees.

Following the example of Blessed Mary, Ever Virgin, the Mother of our Savior and yet the Virgin Most Powerful, as well as that of St. Joseph, the Spouse of the Mother of Godand the Diligent Protector of Christ, may we learn to be steadfast in our faith and hope in the Lord so that we may know His love for all eternity.
21 December 2013

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
To enable the audio, lease go directly to Fr. Reid’s homily homilies and select the matching date.

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