On the Feast Day of St. Josemaría, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome, June 25, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters,
As you can well imagine, my heart is filled with gratitude to the Most Holy Trinity for the gift of the life of this holy priest, St. Josemaría. All over the world, hundreds of thousands of people (I don’t think I would be exaggerating if I said millions) go to his intercession for help to sanctify their ordinary life.
We have anticipated by one day the celebration of the liturgical feast of St. Josemaría, because tomorrow, the anniversary of the day he went to heaven, coincides this year with the feast of Corpus Christi. However, this circumstance can help us to prepare better for that great solemnity. St. Josemaría used to look forward to Corpus Christi with great love, and he continued to celebrate it for the whole of the liturgical Octave, adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, thanking him for having stayed with us under the Eucharistic species, making reparation for the offences he receives, and praying for the Pope, the Church and the whole world.
I invite you to unite yourselves in a heartfelt way to the feelings that filled St. Josemaría’s soul to overflowing when he was physically among us. Let us appeal to his intercession, begging him to obtain for us from the Blessed Trinity the grace of being truly “Eucharistic souls”: men and women who really pledge ourselves to make the Holy Eucharist, day after day, into the center of our work, our aspirations and our whole lives.
I am also overjoyed that today is the anniversary of the first ordination to the priesthood of faithful of Opus Dei: my beloved predecessor Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, Fr. José María Hernández Garnica, and Fr. José Luis Múzquiz. The causes of canonization of all three of them are now under way.
2. The liturgical texts of the Mass of St. Josemaría summarize the basic points of the spirit which, inspired by God, he began to spread from October 2, 1928 on. The Opening Prayer sums it up clearly: “proclaiming the universal call to holiness and apostolate” as children of God, in one’s ordinary work and daily life, in order to “serve the work of Redemption with burning love.” Today I would like to dwell on the last aspect, considering the scene of the miraculous catch of fish that we have just listened to.
In this Gospel passage, which tells of the calling of Jesus’ first disciples to the apostolate, we discover the exemplar for the apostolic calling of the Christian faithful whom our Lord seeks out in the practice of their profession. Back in the 1930s, St. Josemaría wrote in The Way: “What amazes you seems natural to me—that God has sought you out in the practice of your profession! That is how he sought the first ones: Peter and Andrew, James and John, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the custom-house....”
Like the good father Jesus talks about, St. Josemaría drew new lights from God’s word, showing how to aspire to holiness in ordinary life, as our beloved Pope Benedict XVI highlights in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini. At the same time, St. Josemaría’s preaching follows the furrow opened up by the Fathers of the Church. St. Augustine, commenting on this Gospel scene, said that the Apostles “received from Jesus the nets of the word of God, and cast them into the world as into a deep sea, gathering in the huge number of Christians that we see with astonishment” St. Cyril of Alexandria added that “the net is still being cast even now, as Christ calls to conversion people who, in the words of Scripture, are in the middle of the sea—in the middle of the stormy waves of the concerns of this world.” Now it is our turn to continue in this divine catch of fish, in obedience to Jesus’ command, under the guidance of Peter, the captain of the ship. Now, as then, the fruits will be abundant: They netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear (Lk 5:6).
Perhaps at times, as St. Josemaría said, there may come into our head the thought that all of this is very beautiful, but it is only a utopian dream that can never come true, because the sea of the world we live in is so turbulent. No, my brothers and sisters: optimism, assurance, faith! If ever that thought should arise we must reject it right away, and ask our Lord to increase our faith, “in the absolute certainty that our longings will be satisfied by the wonders of God.” The liturgical solemnity of Pentecost, which we celebrated two weeks ago, shows us that nothing is impossible for God: he will fill the nets with fish if we on our part put in first place the supernatural means—prayer, mortification and work done with supernatural and human perfection—and use all the opportunities that arise to bring souls closer to God.
3. Let us now turn to Simon Peter’s reaction. After his initial hesitation—he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything—he put his trust in our Lord: At your word I will let down the nets (Lk 5:5). Then the miracle was worked. Benedict XVI points out that “Peter could not yet imagine that one day he would arrive in Rome and that here he would be a ‘fisher of men’ for the Lord. He accepted this surprising call; he let himself be involved in this great adventure: he was generous. He recognized his limits but believed in the one who was calling him and followed the dream of his heart. He said ‘yes,’ a courageous and generous ‘yes,’ and became a disciple of Jesus,” as each of us can do.
The same thing happens to us if we listen to our Lord and put into practice what he tells us, which St. Josemaría paraphrases for us: “‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men’; you will be effective and attract souls to God. We should therefore trust our Lord’s words: get into the boat, take the oars, hoist the sails and launch out into this sea of the world which Christ gives us as an inheritance. ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.’”
The attitude of St. Peter, who places more trust in Jesus than in his own experience, is a valuable lesson for all of us. “We too have a desire for God, we too want to be generous, but we too expect God to be strong in the world and to transform the world on the spot, according to our ideas and the needs that we perceive.” In these words Pope Benedict puts us on guard against the only thing that could lead us to complete failure: placing our trust only, or mainly, in human possibilities or human efforts, and neglecting to have recourse to the supernatural means. This would be a very serious mistake, because God our Lord normally “chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and in humility. And we, like Peter, must convert, over and over again.”
St. Josemaría urged us to have recourse to our Lady, Queen of Apostles, asking Mary that the nets—our ordinary work, our projects, our relaxation, our friendships—may be filled with effectiveness in the service of the Church. Our Lady will teach us to “live by faith; to persevere with hope; to remain very close to Jesus; to really, really love him; to live out and enjoy our adventure of Love, for we are in love, in love with God; to allow Christ to come aboard our poor boat, and take possession of our souls as Lord and Master.” Mary, Mother of God and our Mother, help us!