Rev. John P. Cush is a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn. He serves as Academic Dean and as a formation advisor at the Pontifical North American College, Vatican City-State. Fr. Cush holds the Doctorate in Sacred Theology (STD) from the Pontifical Gregorian University, where he also teaches as an adjunct professor of Theology and U.S. Catholic Church History. He has served as a parish priest, high school seminary teacher, and as a Censor Librorum for his Diocese, as well as a theological consultant for NET TV. Fr. Cush is a regular contributor to the Brooklyn Tablet and the Albany Evangelist.
This homily was given at the Station Church of San Vitale in Rome, on the Friday of the Second Week of Lent (March 2, 2018).
The story of Joseph and his brothers from the Old Testament’s Book of Genesis is no doubt familiar to all of us. Joseph is the favorite of their father, Jacob, who after wrestling with the Angel is now Israel. He, along with his brother, Benjamin, are the sons from his favorite wife, Rachel. No doubt, Jacob loved all of his sons, but he adored these two youngest. They reminded him of his own dear wife, now long dead, having passed in childbirth.
And the symbol of his father’s love, of the father’s favor for Joseph was that luxurious coat, that cloak, that gift of the father that was so identified with this younger brother and which became the symbol of everything that the brothers were angry about; all their rage, all their jealousy — that coat, that gift of the father, if only Joseph would stop wearing it. Maybe, perhaps his half-brothers would be able to get over their feelings of hurt and see him for who is, namely their loving brother, someone who genuinely loves them. If only he would take off that coat!
And yet, Joseph persists. He wears that coat and when his brothers do that terrible deed, when they allow their jealousy to turn violent against Joseph, it is precisely that coat that they bring back to the father, allowing their father to believe that his son has been killed.
Joseph never stop wearing that coat, a gift of the father, even when he knows it makes him obnoxious to his brothers, and his brothers, filled with rage, with jealousy, infuriated, just want to see him gone. But Joseph never stops wearing that coat, that gift of the father.
The secularized world, so often combative toward the Christian, wants us to take off our coat, our gift of faith from our Father in heaven. The coat that keeps us warm and well is the garment of our baptism, and, for those of us in the priesthood, our ordinations symbolized by our sacred vestments, and for those in religious life, your consecration, symbolized by your habit. For all of us who hold the Catholic faith, it is the dignity of our Christian faith and the living out of that faith in the world today as it clearly, unequivocally, expressed in the Church in all she consistently teaches. Be covered in that coat, that gift of the Father. This is the way to life, true life in the Spirit, in and through Christ and his Church.
We need to cease to follow the “Way of Death” which so pervades the contemporary American mindset. The Didache, one of the earliest Christian writings describes the “Way of Death” as follows:
And the way of death is this: First of all it is evil and full of curse: murders, adulteries, lusts, fornications, thefts, idolatries, magic arts, witchcrafts, rapines, false witnessings, hypocrisies, double-heartedness, deceit, haughtiness, depravity, self-will, greediness, filthy talking, jealousy, over-confidence, loftiness, boastfulness; persecutors of the good, hating truth, loving a lie, not knowing a reward for righteousness, not cleaving to good nor to righteous judgment, watching not for that which is good, but for that which is evil; from whom meekness and endurance are far, loving vanities, pursuing requital, not pitying a poor man, not laboring for the afflicted, not knowing Him that made them, murderers of children, destroyers of the handiwork of God, turning away from him that is in want, afflicting him that is distressed, advocates of the rich, lawless judges of the poor, utter sinners. Be delivered, children, from all these.
Children of God, be delivered from this way of death and embrace the way of life.
The world tells you that right is wrong, that there is no such thing as objective truth, that nothing really matters, and begs you to take off that coat, that mantle of truth that surrounds us in the Church that is our faith so that you will not be obnoxious to them. Do not do it. Do not do it ever, for the cold wind from the world will chill us to the bone. Wear your coat given to you in your baptism by our Father in Heaven and put on Christ Jesus — even when it infuriates the world.