In the Cathedral of Valencia (February 5, 2010)
My dear brothers and sisters:
Deeply engraved on my memory is the affection that St. Josemaría felt for this city of Valencia. He expressed it publicly in 1972, during his last stay among you, when he said that he looked upon Valencia “with a predilection that is not an offence to any other city in Spain or outside of Spain.” This affection has very deep roots. As early as 1936 St. Josemaría had planned to begin the apostolic activities of the Work here and in Paris. But the disasters that we all know about obliged him to postpone those plans. It was only in 1939, once the Spanish conflict had ended, that he was able to carry out the first of them. Thus Valencia was the first city, outside Madrid, to receive the spiritual message of St. Josemaría. And so, as he said, “it seems that God our Lord wanted me to love Valencia in a special way.”
With these precedents, you can well understand how great is my joy in celebrating the Holy Sacrifice in this Cathedral. I owe heartfelt gratitude to your Archbishop, my beloved brother Carlos Osoro, who invited me.
We are celebrating the votive Mass of St. Josemaría. The texts for the readings were proposed to the Holy See by my predecessor, the Servant of God Bishop Álvaro del Portillo. He chose them because these passages from Holy Scripture contain some of the fundamental points of the spirit that St. Josemaría, spurred by God, set out to preach after October 2, 1928. These texts illumined the mind of that holy priest, who brought them repeatedly to his prayer to draw out all the divine meaning that they contain.
2. The first reading is taken from Genesis. It narrates how our first parents—created by God out of love and loved for themselves—were placed in paradise ut operarentur (cf. Gen 2:15), so that they would assist in the work of creation.
The sacred author writes that Yahweh walked in the garden in the cool of the day (Gen 3:8). With these words, the book of Genesis seeks to express the familiarity with which God followed the steps of Adam and Eve, how much he delighted in them and in their work. Indeed, before original sin, our first parents praised God by faithfully fulfilling the command to dominate the earth (cf. Gen 1:26). Work did not involve tiredness or fatigue for them, but rather great joy, since “according to God’s plans work was to be a permanent feature of man who, through work, would cooperate in the immense task of creation.”
Unfortunately, “Adam’s sin destroyed the divine balance of creation; but God the Father sent his only Son to reestablish peace, so that we, his children by adoption, might free creation from disorder and reconcile all things to God.” Let us never forget it: this is why we have to know how to rightly love the world, work, and all noble human realities. Thus we will give glory to God and be happy. As the Founder of Opus Dei preached, we will find God in our daily life if we seek him; otherwise, we will never find him.
St. Josemaría taught us that Christians shouldn’t carry out their work with the mentality of a hired employee, but rather with a filial spirit, fully convinced that it is a divine task received from their Father God. This is the teaching that underlies the second reading of the Mass, taken from the Letter to the Romans, a song of joyful gratitude for the gift of our divine filiation. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship… [in which] we cry, “Abba! Father!” (Rom 8:14-15).
This reading is preceded by Psalm 2, the psalm of the kingship of Christ, in which God the Father proclaims the universal dominion of his Incarnate Son—and of us with him—over all creation: Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession (Ps 2:8).
Our Lord wants Christians, with the grace of the Holy Spirit, to finish their work well, working diligently, in order to place Christ at the summit of all noble human activities. Thus we will help to restore his eternal plan for society, which so many persons today are trying to undo. But we should not be cowards. Jesus encourages us to act with absolute trust in his power and his grace, in spite of the empty plans that so many have mapped out on earth, fighting in vain against the Lord and against his Anointed One (Ps 2:1-2), since nothing can succeed that tries to oppose him. Let us pray this Psalm with great confidence, as the early Christians did. And let us bring it to our personal prayer, so that we will always have the supernatural optimism that comes from God. Because God, as St. Josemaría liked to say, does not lose battles.
3. The Church expects of her children, at the present time, a vibrant and hope-filled testimony to their faith. But let us not imagine great exploits, nor think that this endeavor—placing Christ at the summit of all human realities—concerns only a small group of people. We all have to feel ourselves committed to the new evangelization, to this marvelous mission of helping many people discover the Christian roots of the society in which we live. As Pope Benedict XVI has emphasized on many occasions, it is “indispensable to give concrete, practical content to Christian witness, examining how it can be carried out and developed in each of the great areas of human experience. We will therefore be helped by not losing sight . . . of the link between faith and daily life, between the Gospel proposition and the preoccupations and aspirations that most people have at heart.”
St. Josemaría called this strong consistency between faith and deeds, between doctrine and one’s behavior throughout each day, “unity of life,” because it is the fundamental demand of the life of a daughter or a son of God. Let us not think, however, that this attitude places limits to the legitimate aspirations of Catholics as citizens and members of civil society. As the Holy Father stressed, “the disciples of Christ recognize and gladly welcome the authentic values of the culture of our time, such as scientific knowledge and technological advancement, human rights, religious freedom, democracy. They do not overlook or undervalue, however, that dangerous fragility of human nature, which is a threat for man’s advancement in every historical context; in particular, they do not neglect the interior tensions and contradictions of our age. Therefore, the work of evangelization is never a simple adaptation to culture, but it is always also a purification, a courageous break that leads to maturation and healing, an openness that brings to birth that new creation (2 Cor 5:17: Gal 6:15) which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.”
4. I would like to say a few words regarding the miraculous catch of fish. St. Josemaría frequently commented on this Gospel text, stressing the urgency with which Jesus invites us to carry out apostolate. Duc in altum! Put out into the deep (Jesus is telling us now, as he did to Peter and his companions) and cast your nets for a catch (Lk 5:4). We all have to feel the responsibility of taking part in the Church’s evangelizing mission: laity and priests, manual workers and intellectuals, students, men and women, married and single, each in the place where God has placed us. In the barque of Peter each of us has a mission to fulfill. Some of us at the oars, others at the nets, or caulking the bottom of the boat, but the task is a common effort. Christ is the Master of this ship that has been sailing the seas of history for twenty centuries and that cannot sink because it is sailing under the impetus of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps it is the moment to ask ourselves, each in the intimacy of our personal conversation with God, whether we are carrying out responsibly our task within the Church; whether we are really doing everything within our power to assist her journey towards eternity.
Before concluding, I will suggest to you a point to examine yourselves on that the Pope placed before the pastors and faithful of the Diocese of Rome some time ago, and that is perfectly applicable to any place and situation. Benedict XVI emphasized that this is a point that is “supremely important for the Church’s mission and requires our commitment and first of all our prayer. I am referring,” he continued, “to vocations to follow the Lord Jesus more closely.”
This is a topic of great timeliness within the Year for Priests. We all have to ask the Lord of the harvest to send many workers into his fields (cf. Mt 9:38). But not only priests—who are very important—but also men and women who will follow him with full availability for the apostolate, according to each one’s specific circumstances. And the Holy Father concluded: “With delicacy and respect we must address a special but clear and courageous invitation to follow Jesus to those young men and women who appear to be the most attracted and fascinated by friendship with him.”
We shouldn’t think that this is more difficult now than in the past. Inter medium montium pertransibunt aquae (Ps103:10), the waters of grace will pass over all the obstacles if we pray, if we behave in a truly Christian way, if we set forth the teachings of the Church without fear of what others may think or say, if we carry out our work as perfectly as possible and offer it to God.
Et fui tecum in omnibus, ubicumque ambulasti (2 Sam 7:9). These are words from the Holy Scriptures that St. Josemaría once heard resounding in the depths of his soul. Our Lord was telling him that he would never abandon him, that he would always be at his side. He is now telling us the same thing. He wants us to act with absolute trust, loving his will, observing his commandments, which are not burdensome duties (although at times they may be difficult), but a help to overcome our disordered tendencies, wings to fly upwards to heaven.
Our Lord also wants us to discover his Providence in tribulation, in the small or great sacrifices of each day, because sacrifice is the touchstone of true love.
He wants us to love the sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist, and to speak of these gifts to our friends.
In sum, our Lord wants us to realize that in our daily life, in the apparently ordinary happenings of each day, there is hidden a “divine something”—as St. Josemaría assured us—that we have to discover and take advantage of for our own sanctification and that of others.
And pray with affection and perseverance for the Archbishop of Valencia and his intentions: may he be able to count on your help each day. Love him very much.
Let us go to the intercession of our Lady, Mare de Déu dels Desamparats (Mother of God of the Abandoned), asking her to present our petitions to her Son. St. Josemaría used to say that our Lady, like good mothers here on earth, has more love for the children who need her the most. So we shouldn’t worry if we ever feel ourselves to be especially needy. For our Mother will do everything possible for each one of us. Amen