On the Feast of St. Josemaría, Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (June 26, 2010)
My dear brothers and sisters:
1. Today we celebrate the thirty- fifth anniversary of the dies natalis of St. Josemaría Escrivá. On celebrating this liturgical feast, with joy and gratitude to God, the passage from Genesis in the first reading seems particularly relevant for all of us. After finishing the work of creation, Sacred Scripture tells us, God took man, made in his image and likeness, and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it — ut operaretur!
There comes to mind the words of the Servant of God, John Paul II, on October 6, 2002, in his homily at the Mass of canonization for the Founder of Opus Dei. Referring to his teachings, the Pope said that “believers acting in the various realities of this world contribute to making this divine universal plan a reality. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, is converted into a means of daily sanctification.”
Let us give thanks to God because this message is already widely accepted, not only in theology but above all also in the lives of many men and women. Unfortunately, however, in so many other people, it is still only present at a theoretical level, without practical consequences in their daily lives. Therefore I would like to make reference today to some fundamental points of the teachings of St. Josemaría that can help us to put this into practice. Let us ask God’s help, with words from the collect prayer: O God, who raised up your priest Saint Josemaría in the Church to proclaim the universal call to holiness and the apostolate, grant that by his intercession and example we may, through our daily work, be formed in the likeness of Jesus your Son and serve the work of redemption with burning love.
2. In one of his homilies dedicated to the sanctification of work, St. Josemaría, making use of the verse from Genesis just cited, recalled that the duty of working “is not a consequence of original sin, nor is it just a discovery of modern times. It is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life’ (Jn 4:36).”
Jesus’ own example, who dedicated himself for thirty years to work that was arduous, but filled with joy, in the workshop of Nazareth, with Mary and Joseph, teaches us that God is also counting on our work to help further the salvation of the world. He wants us to show others clearly that it is possible to turn any honorable profession into prayer, into apostolate.
But we need to always keep in mind that we have to work with the greatest human perfection possible and with a right intention, in the service of God and neighbor, and never in order to satisfy our own selfishness. So let us ask “our Lord Jesus for light, and beg him to help us discover, at every moment, the divine meaning which transforms our professional work into the hinge on which our calling to sanctity rests and turns.”
In this regard, we might ask our- selves some questions in the silence of our hearts. Do I do my work with human perfection, taking care of the small details for love of God, or am I sometimes satisfied with finishing it quickly, in a “slipshod” way? Do I truly strive to unite my work each day to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, knowing that only in this way can it really be turned into God’s work? Do I frequently during the day rectify my intention and try to give God all the glory? Do I take ad- vantage of the opportunities that work offers me to strengthen the bonds of true friendship with the people around me, in order to bring them closer to God, serve them and learn from them?
3. In the homily of the Canonization Mass for St. Josemaría, John Paul II cited some words from a meditation of the Founder of Opus Dei that I would like to repeat here. “The ordinary life of a Christian who has faith, when he works or rests, when he prays or sleeps, at all times, is a life in which God is always present.” “This supernatural vision of life,” the Holy Father said, “unfolds an extraordinarily rich horizon of salvific perspectives, because, even in the only apparently monotonous flow of normal earthly events, God comes close to us and we can cooperate with his plan of salvation. So it is easier to understand what the Second Vatican Council affirmed: ‘there is no ques- tion, then, of the Christian message inhibiting men from building up the world ... on the contrary it is an incentive to do these very things’ ” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 34).
According to the teaching of this holy priest, I repeat, all honorable activities of men and women can be offered to God, sanctified, and trans- formed into a means and opportunity for apostolate. This certainly includes work, but also relaxation, which we need in order to recover the strength spent in supporting our family and serving society.
This consideration seems particularly timely at the moment, when many of you are about to enjoy a well-earned period of vacation. Remember that also during these days of rest we should live with our heart and mind focused on God. I will give you some specific advice that can help make these days a contribution to the spiritual growth of each of us, and not, as unfortunately happens more than a few times, an occasion for cooling off one’s Christian life.
First of all, there is the need to fulfill the regular duties of a Catholic: participation at Mass on Sundays and feast days; reception of the sacraments, especially Penance; and the good habits acquired during the course of the year: praying diligently, attending activities of spiritual formation, etc.
It is clearly not a good idea to choose for one’s vacation places where a consistent Christian—or any moral person—should never go because they are objectively contrary to the principles not only of Christian morality but also the natural law. We all have to be strong when it comes to making decisions of this type, resisting the prevailing current if necessary. In this way you will help your relatives and acquaintances to seek out healthy entertainment, as befits God’s children. There is no need to set God aside in order to have good time on vacation. Rather, the truth is just the opposite.
To conclude, I would like to recall a key point in the teaching of St. Josemaría about the sanctification of rest and relaxation. We can sum it up in words that he frequently voiced: “Rest means recuperation: to gain strength, form ideals and make plans. In other words it means a change of occupation, so that you can come back later with a new impetus to your daily job.” It is certainly true: simply changing our work and daily circumstances helps in a decisive way to recovering our strength.
We also have a duty to accompany the Holy Father, praying every day for his intentions, so that he feels the filial closeness of each one of us. Our Christian life requires never distancing ourselves from the teachings of the Good Shepherd, who is the head of the Holy Church. I will finish with another quote from St. Josemaría: “Lord, give us your grace. Open the door to the workshop in Nazareth so that we may learn to contemplate you, together with your holy Mother Mary and the holy Patriarch St. Joseph, whom I love and revere so dearly, the three of you dedicated to a life of work made holy. Then, Lord, our poor hearts will be enkindled, we shall seek you and find you in our daily work, which you want us to convert into a work of God, a labor of Love.” Amen.