At the Thanksgiving Mass for the canonization of the Founder of Opus Dei, at the Cathedral of Granada, Spain (November 16, 2002)
My beloved and esteemed Archbishop Cañizares,
My dear brothers in the priesthood,
My dear brothers and sisters:
1. Allow me to make a short digression before beginning the homily. In the Eucharist that we are celebrating, my mind has been drawn to memories of that unique day, October 6. At the end of that ceremony, during which one could sense the active presence of the entire Church (for that is what the Eucharist is), my eyes met the friendly look of our beloved Archbishop of Granada. He spontaneously told me, as something coming deep from his heart, that we had to fix a date for coming to Granada and celebrating this Mass of thanksgiving.
I thanked him with my whole soul for his invitation. Such was his expression of affection, and I say this with all sincerity, that I neither could nor wanted to refuse. I feel very honored to be here with this brother who has served the Church so effectively, who has given such honor to the Church in Spain. The homily I have prepared also contains words of thanks. There is a Latin proverb that goes: when things are said with sincerity they are never repetitive. Rather they are clear manifestations of friendship, of affection, of the fraternity that the children of God should live with those in the Church and with everyone.
2. Accepting the cordial invitation of my beloved brother, Archbishop Cañizares, I have come to Granada to take part in this Mass of thanksgiving for the canonization of Saint Josemaría Escrivá, and to assist in the dedication of a chapel to the new saint in the Church of Saint Ildefonso, entrusted to the pastoral care of priests of the Prelature of Opus Dei. I wholeheartedly thank Archishop Cañizares for this fraternal gesture and I wish him much spiritual fruit in the fulfillment of the new pastoral charge that the Holy Father has entrusted to him in giving him the care of the Primatial See of Spain. I know that you are going to miss him deeply, although he will be keeping you in mind in a very special way.
My visit to this city brings to mind the beginning of the apostolic work by the faithful of Opus Dei in Granada, which I often heard the founder speak about. It was this zealous priest who personally laid the foundation for Opus Dei’s service to souls in this city, and he followed its early steps very closely, preceded and accompanied by a lot of prayer and generous sacrifice. After many years, almost at the end of his earthly life, he recalled with great affection his first trip in 1945: “Granada is very beautiful,” he said. “It’s a marvelous city, one that I love a lot. I can imagine myself now being up in Albayzin, in the “Marvelous Manor,” from which you can see the city, the bull ring, the gypsies on Sacromonte.”
During Holy Week in 1945, he made a long and tiring journey through all of Andalucia, to consolidate the apostolic work of Opus Dei that was already being done in Seville, and to explore the possibility of beginning in other cities. He arrived in Granada on April 2, Easter Monday, and went to greet Archbishop Agustin Parrado. He spoke to the Archbishop about his desire to start a student residence here. Archbishop Agustin liked the idea very much and encouraged him to begin as soon as possible. He also said he was pleasantly surprised that the first steps would be taken in Albayzin, one of the poorer sections of the city.
Thus there began a cordial and fruitful relationship between the Diocese of Granada and what is now the Prelature of Opus Dei, which has continued down to our own times. Since that time, how many graces God has showered upon people here, through the spirit and teachings of St. Josemaría! We thank him for this today in this Eucharistic Sacrifice and ask him that, through the mediation of our Mother, our Lady of Sorrows, he continue showing his benevolence to all men and women.
3. The liturgy of the Mass in honor of this saintly priest offers abundant material for our meditation. The proper prayers contain a summary of the spirit that he spread throughout his life. This includes the universal call to holiness and apostolate, professional work and ordinary life as the place for one’s encounter with God, a lively awareness of divine filiation as the basis of a Christian’s dignity and actions. I would like to consider for a moment the miraculous catch of fish recounted by St. Luke in the Gospel, which Saint Josemaría frequently meditated on and used in his preaching.
The Gospel account shows us the zeal for the salvation of souls that burned in Christ’s heart. It is easy to imagine the crowd, hungry for the truth, that “pressed upon him to hear the word of God” (Lk 5:1) This scene is renewed in our own times. Today also countless persons, and I cite words written by the founder of Opus Dei, “want to hear God’s message, even though outwardly they may not show it. Some perhaps have forgotten Christ’s teachings. Others, through no fault of their own, have never known them and they think that religion is something odd. But of this we can be sure, that in every man’s life there comes a time sooner or later when his soul draws the line. He has had enough of the usual explanations. The lies of the false prophets no longer satisfy. Even though they may not admit it at the time, such people are longing to quench their thirst with the teachings of our Lord.”
Saint Josemaría Escrivá was constantly spurred by the zeal for souls, the desire that everyone, especially ordinary Christians, would find Jesus and follow him closely. This was the reason for his trip to Granada in 1945, and on other occasions. This longing spurred him to bring Christ’s doctrine everywhere, teaching Christians to seek sanctity in the midst of the ordinary circumstances of their life: in their family, their work, their friendships, their social relations.
All of you listening to me have often meditated on these ideas. You know that God is calling you to be saints—yes, saints, not simply good people—saints in your state and profession, in your specific situation in the middle of the world. I invite you to ask yourself, at the same time as I examine my own conscience: How am I responding to this divine call? Do I keep in mind always that our Lord is awaiting me precisely in my place of work, in my home, amid all the relationships that make up my life? Do I renew each day my decision to follow Jesus closely? Do I make an effort to get to know him better and to make him known to others? Do I keep away from the things that keep me away from God, even though others are not avoiding them? Am I faithful to the magisterium of the Church?
4. But let us continue considering the Gospel scene, led by the hand of Saint Josemaría. When our Lord “ceased speaking, he said to Simon, ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’ (Lk 5:4). Christ is the master of this boat. He it is that prepares the fishing. It is for this that he has come into the world, to do all he can so that his brothers may find the way to glory and to the love of the Father. It is not we who have invented the Christian apostolate. If anything, we get in its way, through our clumsiness and lack of faith.”
How clear these words are! We need more faith. Certainly, Christians will encounter many obstacles in striving to sanctify the world and earthly realities. Secular society is very distant from God. The prevailing environment is cold, when not frankly hostile to the teachings of the Church. So many people are only concerned about satisfying their material ambitions. All this is true, but it cannot act as a brake on the apostolic zeal of Christ’s followers. The history of the Church shows us clearly that in so many epochs (always, in fact) the Church has had to go against the current, as our Lord foretold. The life and example of the new saint confirms this. He assured us that “works of apostolate never fail to go ahead through a lack of means; they fail though a lack of spirit.” This is a very powerful truth: when the Christian spirit is alive in a person, in a family, in a society, things go forward. It’s a question of faith!, as this holy priest would say.
We can also savor another teaching in the Gospel passage that we are considering. When Christ asks Simon to cast off into the deep and let out his nets, the Galilean fisherman reacts with human outlook: “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing” (Lk 5:5). He was relying on his own proven experience. But he added immediately: “at your word I will let down the nets (Ibid.).” I will set out fishing again trusting in you, and not in my own judgment. And the result was evident. “They enclosed a great shoal of fish; and… their nets were breaking (Lk 5:6).
We have to trust in our Lord! We have to ask him to grant us an operative faith. This is the great “challenge” that the Vicar of Christ on earth, our beloved John Paul II, directed at all Christians on the threshhold of this new century: duc in altum! Cast off into the deep, impelled and sustained by the strength of Christ’s word. As he said at the end of his Apostolic Letter Novo Millennio Ineunte, “Let us go forward in hope! A new millennium is opening before the Church like a vast ocean upon which we shall venture, relying on the help of Christ. The Son of God, who became incarnate two thousand years ago out of love for humanity, is at work even today: we need discerning eyes to see this and, above all, a generous heart to become the instruments of his work.”
Put out into the deep! It’s a question of faith, of hope and of love. The Holy Father repeated this challenge a little more than a month ago, in St. Peter’s Square filled with people from all over the world, during the canonization for which we are now celebrating this Mass of thanksgiving. Recalling how Christ’s command always resounded in the soul of the founder of Opus Dei, the Pope concluded: “He transmitted it to his entire spiritual family so that they might offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. Today this invitation is extended to all of us: ‘Put out into the deep,’ the divine Teacher says to us, ‘and let down your nets for a catch’ (Lk 5:4).”
Let us go to Saint Josemaría. The collect of the Mass in his honor urges us to ask God that “By his example and prayers, grant that in faithfully carrying out our daily work in the Spirit of Christ, we may be formed in the likeness of your Son, and together with the most Blessed Virgin Mary, serve the work of redemption with an ardent love.”