Continuing his catechetical series on Saint Joseph, Pope Francis looks at his role as a loving father and a reflection of God’s tenderness, which allows us to feel loved and welcomed in all our weaknesses.

Pope Francis is pictured with nuns during his general audience in the Paul VI hall at the Vatican Jan. 19, 2022. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

January 19, 2022

Speaking to pilgrims in the Paul VI Audience Hall, Pope Francis explored the role of Saint Joseph as a “father in tenderness.”

Recognising that the Gospels do not offer details on how he excercised his paternity, the Pope said we can be sure that Joseph being a “just” man translated into the education he gave to Jesus, and the loving care he showed Him.

God as Father

The Pope recalled how the Gospels attest that Jesus always used the word “Father” to speak of God and His love.

As an example, he said the parable of the prodigal son not only recounts the experience of sin and forgiveness, but the way the merciful father forgives his son, not through punishment but a loving embrace.

“Tenderness is something greater than the logic of the world. It is an unexpected way of doing justice. That is why we must never forget that God is not frightened by our sins, our mistakes, our falls, but he is frightened by the closure of our hearts, by our lack of faith in his love.”

The tenderness of God’s love

Recalling excerpts from his Apostolic Letter Patris corde, the Pope went on to say that “there is great tenderness in the experience of God’s love,” and it is “beautiful to think that the first person to transmit this reality to Jesus was Joseph himself.”

It would help us to reflect on our own experiences of this tenderness, and to ask ourselves if we have become witnesses to it.

The Pope encouraged us to mirror Joseph’s paternity, and allow ourselves to be transformed by God’s tender love for us.

“For tenderness is not primarily an emotional or sentimental matter: it is the experience of feeling loved and welcomed precisely in our poverty and misery, and thus transformed by God’s love.”

Redeemed weakness

God relies on our talents, but also our own fragilities to experience His grace and grow in love, the Pope said.

He also recalled the experience of Saint Paul when he wrote to the community of Corinth, when the Lord told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Pope Francis added that this experience of God’s tenderness through our weaknesses requires that we be “converted from the gaze of the Evil One who ‘makes us see and condemn our frailty,’ while the Holy Spirit ‘brings it to light with tender love.'”

“That is why it is so important to encounter God’s mercy, especially in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, where we experience his truth and tenderness…We know that God’s truth does not condemn, but instead welcomes, embraces, sustains and forgives us.”

We need a “revolution of tenderness,” the Pope added, calling for a justice system that does not confuse redemption with punishment.

For this reason, he called to mind those in prison, recalling that it is right they should pay for their crimes, “but it is even more right that those who have done wrong should be able to redeem themselves from their mistake.”

In conclusion, the Pope offered this prayer:

St Joseph, father in tenderness,
teach us to accept that we are loved precisely in that which is weakest in us.
Grant that we may place no obstacle
between our poverty and the greatness of God’s love.
Stir in us the desire to approach the Sacrament of Reconciliation,
that we may be forgiven and also made capable of loving tenderly
our brothers and sisters in their poverty.
Be close to those who have done wrong and are paying the price for it;
Help them to find not only justice but also tenderness so that they can start again.
And teach them that the first way to begin again
is to sincerely ask for forgiveness.

By Vatican News staff writer

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