Mass in suffrage for Don Alvaro March 23 2011
My dear brothers and sisters:
Scio quod Redemptor meus vivit! (Job 19:25). I know that my Redeemer lives. These words of Job are an invitation to hope. We have to live and act with the confidence of Christ’s definitive victory over sin and death, which the coming Solemnity of Easter will make present to us. Jesus is the surest Rock of our hope, especially when we have to confront difficult circumstances, at the personal, family, or collective level.
The story of Job is an example for us. That pious man, diligent in offering God sacrifices for sins and in giving alms to the needy, suddenly began to suffer all kinds of evils: from the death of all his children to his complete financial ruin, illness, and the scorn with which he is treated by those closest to him. As the Pope says in one of his encyclicals, “Certainly Job could complain before God about the presence of incomprehensible and apparently unjustified suffering in the world.”
In the face of the suffering that we are often witnesses to, we could be tempted to react in the same way: couldn’t God, who is omnipotent, completely eliminate physical and moral evil, especially when it afflicts those who are most innocent? How can he permit this? As the Holy Father writes: “Often we cannot understand why God refrains from intervening. Yet he does not prevent us from crying out, like Jesus on the Cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? (Mt 27:46).”
The Book of Job does not resolve the problem of suffering, but it encourages us to abandon ourselves into the hands of our heavenly Father. As St. Josemaria often said, “God knows more!” And oftentimes—always!—what at first seemed absurd, if we make the effort to discover divine Providence behind the appearances, ends up becoming something good. Job too, even without understanding the cause of his misfortunes, accepted God’s will and made the act of faith that we heard in the first reading. “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another”(Job 19:25-27).
2. These considerations are and always will be very timely. In the face of the sorrowful events which we have witnessed in recent weeks, only faith in our Father God enables us to shed a bit of light on those sorrowful vicissitudes. In reality, as the Second Vatican Council teaches, it is only “through Christ and in Christ [that] the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from his Gospel, they overwhelm us. Christ has risen, destroying death by his death; He has lavished life upon us so that, as sons in the Son, we can cry out in the Spirit; Abba! Father!”
We still have vivid images of the tragedy suffered in Japan as a result of the terrible earthquake and the tsunami that followed it. None of us has been unmoved by those events affecting millions of people. We have prayed, and continue to pray, for the victims, for their families, and for all the people who in one way or another have suffered the consequences of the catastrophe.
These natural disasters, as also the wars that affect so many defenseless people (in the Ivory Coast, in Libya, etc., to recall only a few conflicts) can and should help us to raise our eyes to heaven and focus on our definitive dwelling place, on Paradise, where—as Sacred Scripture teaches—God himself will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away (Rev 21:4).
It is humanly logical that such tragedies strike the depths of our heart and awaken in us—as in Job—the question of why. But, at the same time, it is supernaturally logical that we grasp more firmly to our faith. “Our protest,” writes Benedict XVI, “is not meant to challenge God, or to suggest that error, weakness, or indifference can be found in him. For the believer, it is impossible to imagine that God is powerless or that ‘perhaps he is asleep’ (cf. 1 Kg 18:27). Instead, our crying out is, as it was for Jesus on the Cross, the deepest and most radical way of affirming our faith in his sovereign power. Even in their bewilderment and failure to understand the world around them, Christians continue to believe in the ‘goodness and loving kindness of God’ (Titus 3:4). Immersed like everyone else in the dramatic complexity of historical events, they remain unshakably certain that God is our Father and loves us, even when his silence remains incomprehensible.”
3. Today, the anniversary of the death of the Servant of God Bishop Alvaro del Portillo offers us an opportunity to consider a facet of his rich Christian personality, as a priest and bishop. I am referring here to his great heart, which led him to share the sufferings of all who drew close to him and to transmit a great peace to their souls. We have the testimony of so many people who, after an encounter with my beloved predecessor, after entrusting to him their concerns, left with their peace and tranquility restored.
The source of Don Alvaro’s deep interior peace, and of his capacity to communicate it to others, was his deep faith in God our merciful Father, his trust in Jesus Christ our Savior and in the action of the Holy Spirit. In the “school” of St. Josemaría, he acquired much experience of God’s love for his creatures. He learned, by personal experience, that God permits suffering, trials and sorrows in our lives, because he wants us to become more and more like his Only Begotten Son, who died on the Cross out of love of us.
In a homily given during a Mass at the Youth Jubilee in 1984, Don Alvaro said: “Another cause of sadness can be one’s own suffering and that of others: the sorrows and setbacks, in small and large things, that—in one’s personal life and in human history—are hard to accept and that we don’t seem to be able to find a merely human solution or meaning for. How is it possible to be cheerful when faced with others’ sickness and one’s own, when faced with injustice towards others and when suffering injustice oneself? Wouldn’t cheerfulness here be a false illusion or an irresponsible escapism? No! The answer is given to us by Christ, only Christ! Only in him do we find the true meaning of our own life and the key to human history. Only in him—in his teaching, in his redemptive Cross, whose salvific power becomes present in the Church’s sacraments—will you always find the strength needed to improve the world, to make it more worthy of man, the image of God.”
In the school of St. Josemaría, as I said before, Don Alvaro learned to see Christ’s passion and death as an act of love, the greatest love in history, because it was the love of God made man. We too, in the upcoming days of Easter, and always, want to follow that path: the path of the Cross. As the Founder of Opus Dei said in a homily, “We will not be able to share in our Lord’s resurrection unless we unite ourselves with him in his passion and death. If we are to accompany Christ in his glory at the end of Holy Week, we must first enter into his holocaust and be truly united to him, as he lies dead on Calvary.” Let us meditate therefore on this “Lord, wounded from head to foot out of love for us . . . At the sight of Christ bruised and broken—just a lifeless body taken down from the Cross and given to his Mother—at the sight of Jesus destroyed in this way, we might have thought he had failed utterly. Where are the crowds that once followed him, where is the kingdom he foretold? But this is victory, not defeat. We are nearer the resurrection than ever before; we are going to see the triumph which he has won with his obedience.”
Christ’s love for us was shown not only by his death on the Cross. “Jesus gave this act of oblation an enduring presence through his institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. He anticipated his death and resurrection by giving his disciples, in the bread and wine, his very self, his body and blood as the new manna (cf. Jn 6:31-33).”
We are now in the time of Lent. Let us prepare ourselves as well as possible to share in Christ’s great victory over sin, suffering, and death. It is the moment to renew the resolutions that perhaps we have made at the beginning of this Liturgical time: more love and attention in our prayers, more perseverance in the fulfillment of our small mortifications, more generosity in offering alms and in practicing other forms of charity. Special emphasis could be given to receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation more fruitfully, with a more diligent preparation and a greater sorrow for our sins. Let us strive to make better use of confession and encourage many people to have recourse to this sacrament.
Let us contemplate Jesus suffering on the Cross, who assures us that he does not want to leave us alone in our sorrows. He suffered for us because he loves us, and to teach us that there is no Christianity, no true supernatural and human happiness, if we are not ready to embrace the Cross quotidie, every day.
Let us go, as always, to the intercession of our Lady so that she might obtain for us form Jesus, with greater abundance, the grace of contrition. Amen.