I never got to know Joseph while he lived on earth, but in preparation for this homily, I talked to Helen, his wife of 51 years, and his daughter, Vicky, and asked them what sort of person Joseph is. They described a man who lived faithfully, piously, and with high standards. These qualities expressed themselves in a certain perfectionism throughout his life.
He worked his farm for 35 years. Not only did he keep to the cows’ daily milking schedule, but I’m told his field rows were perfectly straight and cleared every stone. Even the barn (the barn) was clean! After retiring from farming, Joseph turned his efforts to working the flower garden and cleaning the house, two activities that pleased Helen greatly. Their house was always clean and his nails were always dirty. Sometimes Joseph would be work in the garden until 11:30 at night. There wasn’t any light to see, but he still kept at it. Joseph also worked in the kitchen at the Knights of Columbus hall. They called him “Scrubby” because he never quit on cleaning the pans. He would talk to you while he worked, but he wouldn’t stop scrubbing.
Joseph’s attitude was, ‘If you start a job, get it done, and get it done right.’ In this, Joseph bears a likeness to an attribute of our Lord, Jesus Christ. The Lord works as a perfectionist too. Jesus says, “Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and I will not reject anyone who comes to me… …This is the will of the one who sent me, that I should not lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it on the last day.” Jesus is not content to save just some of what the Father gives Him. He is not willing to save only some of those who come to Him. ‘For this is the will of His Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and He shall raise them on the last day.’ There is hope and consolation for us in this: we are the Lord’s field, we are His house, we are His garden, we are His pans, and Jesus does not willingly give up on His work.
It is a good thing that Christ is a perfectionist, for nothing imperfect can bear to stand in God’s fully unveiled presence. The fact is that you and I will refuse to enter Heaven until we are perfect, so Christ must make us so. Even if we are good and faithful, the pan-bottoms of our souls may still need some hard scrubbing at the end of our lives. This is what we call purgatory, the joyful but challenging time after death when our souls are scrubbed clean of every imperfection.
Now I am confident that Joseph is bound for Heaven, since Jesus does not reject those who are His own. But I think we do well to assist Him with our prayers to help Him get his last job done and to get it done right—the job of perfecting His soul for Heaven. So talk to Joseph, for he can hear you, and pray for Joseph, especially at this Mass, so that he may have eternal rest and fully enjoy the reward of his labors.