On the anniversary of the dedication of a square to St. Josemaria, Cathedral of Chieti (February 12, 2006)
On the anniversary of the dedication of a plaza to St. Josemaria, Cathedral of Chieti, Italy
My dear brothers and sisters:
I am deeply grateful to God for having given me the possibility of celebrating this Sunday Liturgy with all of you. I also thank God for the affection that you have shown towards St. Josemaría to whom you wished to dedicate a plaza of your city, a gesture for which I thank the civil and religious authorities and all of the citizens of Chieti.
The Liturgy of the Word for this sixth Sunday of ordinary time helps us to go deeply into some of the central aspects of our Christian faith. In the first reading, taken from the Book of Leviticus, we are shown, in all of its ugliness, the miserable condition of the leper. The one suffering from this disease had to cry, “Unclean, unclean!” whenever he met anyone, and he was forced to live far from the community. Leprosy, in its dramatic expressiveness, is a figure of a much graver evil: sin, the one really deadly sickness for the soul.
For this reason, dear brothers and sisters, the first grace that I ask of God, for me and for each of you, is that of truly understanding the malice of sin. This is a theme that our Holy Father Benedict XVI invites us to confront with courage. At times we run the risk of thinking, the Pope teaches us, that “a person who does not sin is, basically, boring; that something is missing in his life.” On the contrary, it is precisely sin which is the cause of that boredom which deprives our life of meaning, which gives rise to separation and sadness, and which makes us egoists and incapable of carrying out actions which have a human and divine value. With the grace of God, on the other hand, we can discover, once more in the words of the Holy Father, that “only the person who entrusts himself totally to God finds true freedom, the great, creative immensity of the freedom of good” (Homily, December 8, 2005).
“I have acknowledged my sins,” we recited in the responsorial psalm, “my guilt I did not hide. I said: ‘I will confess my offence to the Lord.’ And you, Lord, have forgiven the guilt of my sin” (Psalm 31). Jesus, with his passion and death, with his Blood shed for love of us, has blotted out the malice of our sin—mine and yours; sin is always personal. He has opened wide the portals of forgiveness, of his friendship, making us rise from our prostration. Because of this we can exclaim, in the words of the Psalm, “You fill me, Lord, with the joy of salvation” (Ibid.). A true, deep happiness which nothing of the world can give. A happiness which, born of the soul, is reflected upon every aspect of our life. St. Josemaría loved the Sacrament of Reconciliation to such a point that he called it “the Sacrament of Joy.” Especially in his last years on earth, he was not afraid to admit—even in the presence of the numerous and varied public that attended his catechetical gatherings—the joyful experience of his own confession, which he made each week. I have had the opportunity of noting how the beloved Pastor of this diocese, in a recent letter to you about this sacrament, gave a moving testimony to this experience, when he spoke of a joy which “arises from feeling myself loved in a new way by God each time that I attain his forgiveness through the priest, who gives this to me in God’s name” (Bruno Forte, Confessarsi, perché? A letter for the pastoral year 2005–2006, no. 2).
Yes, it is precisely through his forgiveness that God shows his merciful love to us. We have just heard it in the Gospel which the Liturgy of today places before us. We should try to contemplate the scenes of the life of Jesus following the advice of St. Josemaría, that is, living them as though one of those present (cf. St. Josemaría Escrivá, The Forge, no. 8). If we approach him as did the leper, asking forgiveness with sincere repentance, we will see how Jesus is moved with compassion for each of us and will say the same words to us: “Of course I want to. Be cured” (Mk 1:41). Jesus has come to earth above all to save that which was lost, and also for a single sinner who is converted there is great joy among the angels of God (cf. Lk 15:10). Each time that we return to our Father’s house in the Sacrament of Penance, we discover “the face of a God who knows better than anyone our human condition and who approaches us with the most tender love” (Bruno Forte, Confessarsi, perché? A letter for the pastoral year 2005–2006, no. 2), as your Archbishop recalled in the pastoral letter already cited.
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor10:31). Let us try to put into practice this exhortation of St. Paul that we heard in the second reading. We have all been called to meet our Lord nel bel mezzo della strada, in our everyday life, in the plazas and streets of your city in work and in rest, in health and in sickness. I like to think that St. Josemaría has made himself your traveling companion, on your habitual paths, in this common road towards the house of the Father. A road in which, as the Pope reminded us at the beginning of his Pontificate, “we are not alone, we are surrounded, led and guided by the friends of God” (Homily of the Mass for the initiation of the Petrine Ministry of the Bishop of Rome, April 24, 2005), by the saints who are in heaven. Every instant of our life, in fact, can have an eternal value, if we try to fill it with love: with love of God, of those we encounter, and of all humanity.
A sincere joy cannot be hidden. It is shared, in our everyday life with others, beginning with our loved ones, our families and by our friends and colleagues. May the family, “the domestic Church,: become each day more a place of peace, of forgiveness, of reconciliation. Let us know how to free ourselves from all rancor, envy, and jealousy, with concrete and deeply felt gestures of reciprocal forgiveness. And let us learn to approach the sacrament of joy with greater frequency and with a more contrite spirit, especially during the Lenten season which is now so close.
I don’t want to end these words without imploring, before this beloved community, for the alms that I consider most precious: the alms of your prayer, for me and for each of the faithful of the flock of Opus Dei which God has entrusted to me so that they know each day how to serve the Church with humility and joy, as the Church wishes to be served.
I return, together with each of you, to the intercession of our Lady, the mother of God and our Mother. If we approach her, if we frequent her, she will teach us to grow in love of God and to behave among ourselves as good sisters and brothers, as apostles always looking for opportunities to lead souls to God. Amen