Pope Francis called on all people to be “protectors,” like Saint Joseph, by watching over and caring for the poor, families, friendships, the environment and their own emotions and hearts.
“In the end, everything has been entrusted to our protection, and all of us are responsible for it. Be protectors of God’s gifts!
“Whenever human beings fail to live up to this responsibility, whenever we fail to care for creation and for our brothers and sisters, the way is opened to destruction and hearts are hardened,” Pope Francis said in his March 19 homily in St. Peter's Square.
The homily was delivered in Italian and focused on St. Joseph, whose feast is celebrated every March 19.
“How does Joseph respond to his calling to be the protector of Mary, Jesus and the Church?” Pope Francis asked.
“By being constantly attentive to God, open to the signs of God’s presence and receptive to God’s plans, and not simply to his own.
“Joseph is a ‘protector’ because he is able to hear God’s voice and be guided by his will; and for this reason he is all the more sensitive to the persons entrusted to his safekeeping. He can look at things realistically, he is in touch with his surroundings, he can make truly wise decisions,” the Pope explained.
Today’s ceremony and Mass are being attended by 132 delegations from around the world, including representatives from the Buddhist, Jain, Jewish and Muslim communities.
Pope Francis, aware of the audience and reach of his message, said that being a protector “is not just something involving us Christians alone; it also has a prior dimension which is simply human, involving everyone.”
“It means protecting all creation, … respecting each of God’s creatures and respecting the environment … it means protecting people, showing loving concern for each and every person, especially children, the elderly, those in need, who are often the last we think about.
And it also means “caring for one another in our families: husbands and wives first protect one another, and then, as parents, they care for their children, and children themselves, in time, protect their parents. It means building sincere friendships in which we protect one another in trust, respect, and goodness,” the Pope said.
Thirty-three heads of state are present at Pope Francis’ inauguration, and he made an appeal to them and all men and women of goodwill to be “‘protectors’ of creation, protectors of God’s plan inscribed in nature, protectors of one another and of the environment.”
“Let us not allow omens of destruction and death to accompany the advance of this world!” he exclaimed.
Moving to the individual level, Pope Francis stated, “we also have to keep watch over ourselves!”
“Let us not forget that hatred, envy and pride defile our lives!
“Being protectors, then, also means keeping watch over our emotions, over our hearts, because they are the seat of good and evil intentions: intentions that build up and tear down!”
He also pointed out that maintaining personal vigilance “demands goodness” and “calls for a certain tenderness.”
“In the Gospels,” the Pope noted, “Saint Joseph appears as a strong and courageous man, a working man, yet in his heart we see great tenderness, which is not the virtue of the weak but rather a sign of strength of spirit and a capacity for concern, for compassion, for genuine openness to others, for love.”
Pope Francis ended his homily by reflecting on how his ministry as Pope is one of service.
“To protect Jesus with Mary, to protect the whole of creation, to protect each person, especially the poorest, to protect ourselves: this is a service that the Bishop of Rome is called to carry out, yet one to which all of us are called, so that the star of hope will shine brightly,” he said.
In contrast with his previous addresses, Pope Francis did not speak off the cuff during today’s homily, but he did continue to ask people to pray for him as he finished his reflection.