At the Mass for the Anniversary of the Death of Venerable Álvaro del Portillo, St. Eugene’s Basilica, Rome (March 23, 2013)
My dear brothers and sisters:
We have come here, filled with gratitude to our Lord, to raise our prayer to heaven, uniting ourselves to the incessant praise that my beloved predecessor, the Venerable Alvaro del Portillo, is addressing to the Most Blessed Trinity. In doing so, we also recall the many times that he celebrated various liturgical functions in this basilica.
There come to mind many recollections of the morning of this very day, nineteen years ago, and of various events during the following hours. I cannot fail to recall here at least two of them, especially the simplicity, the peace of Don Alvaro when the doctor told us, in his presence: “he is going to heaven”; and with the same simplicity he entrusted his soul to God. Hours later, in the midst of the sorrow of losing such a good father, we received the consolation of John Paul II’s visit, who came to pray before the body of my predecessor with his habitual recollection, and to say farewell to him. When I expressed my thanks for his visit he repeated twice: “Era una cosa dovuta,” he had to do it.
We are now on the threshold of Holy Week and we want to prepare ourselves to live the Easter Triduum very well. I’ve used the word “live” here, following the advice of St. Josemaria, who frequently said that, since we are children of God, we cannot be content with commemorating those mysterious moments as if they belonged to a time long past. They are always timely and, precisely for this reason, men and women of all eras can receive the salvation that Christ won for us on the Cross.
It is always a good moment to turn our eyes to the Crucifix, both in the happy events of ordinary life, and when difficulties arise. But during these days our soul should feel a greater need not to leave Jesus alone, since we can live in peace only thanks to his holocaust on the holy wood of the Cross, on which, in words of St. Josemaria, “he offered to the Father the very last drop of his blood, the last gasp of his breathing.”
Let us make an effort to repeat often those words formulated by Christian piety: adoramus te Christe et benedicimus tibi, quia per Crucem tuam redemisti mundum. And let us not forget that on the Cross, raised up by our sins, Christ was and is awaiting us.
The Entrance Antiphon for the Mass we are celebrating invites us to invoke God. I recall how the founder of Opus Dei put great stress on the words of the prophet, clama ne cesses, cry out without ceasing (Is 58:1), keeping up a dialogue with our Lord who at every moment holds out his hand to us if we have recourse to him.
In this Year of Faith, let us be filled with hope, repeating this aspiration: adauge nobis fidem, spem, caritatem, increase our faith, hope, and charity. The words of the first reading, taken from the prophet Ezekiel, also bolster our hope:
“Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all sides, and bring them to their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer divided into two kingdoms” (Ezek 37:21-22).
Almighty God himself, Deus ad salvandum (Ps 68:20), comes to meet us so that we will recognize him, so that we will converse with him in the midst of all the circumstances of ordinary life. Let us be filled with supernatural and human joy because God is seeking us; he is waiting for us and never tires of listening to us.
We are the People of God, women and men who have to manifest, with their own conduct, the need to address the Trinity untiringly, without getting used to it. We are the People of God and we have to invite others—first of all our relatives, friends, colleagues, and all those we encounter each day—to realize that they are called to share in the immense good fortune of being God’s friends. We can remind them of Pope Francis’ encouraging words, who insists that God never tires of forgiving us, of loving us, of coming to meet us. We are the ones who, at times, fail to take advantage of the refuge that our Lord is offering us.
We are reminded of this also by the words of the responsorial psalm: Dominus custodiet sicut pastor gregem suum, the Lord will watch over us as the shepherd does his flock (Jer 31:10). It is very important that each and every one of us truly desires to be a friend of God, because on your behavior, on mine, as St. Josemaria wrote, depend many great things for the Church, for all humanity.
Naturally, our thoughts turn to the Roman Pontiff, Shepherd of the universal Church, while we invoke toto corde God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, asking that they assist the Successor of Peter in his work of service to the flock of Christ. We promise him all of our veneration and filial obedience, and we will pray without ceasing that his petrine ministry may produce abundant fruit, as we did so intently on the very day of his election as well as in the first weeks of his Pontificate. The great expectation throughout the world before the Conclave and the interest shown everywhere in his first words as Supreme Pastor can be seen as yet another “motive for credibility” in the Church, ever young and ever beautiful.
The Gospel scene we have just contemplated (see Jn 11:45-56), like all the others found there, is quite striking. Christus vincit, Christus regnat. The Master did not lack calumniators who declared themselves his enemies, although he answered them with love, in spite of the sufferings they wanted to inflict on him. This is an invitation for us, also when unfortunately we have not behaved as faithful children, to return to the One who is the source of love and forgiveness and carry out an apostolate of the sacraments, living them first of all ourselves. Let us frequently think of the fact that we can become the hand of Jesus that cures, that opens the eyes of the blind, that helps others to walk in Christ’s footsteps.
I don’t think I am exaggerating in the least if I say that the Venerable Alvaro del Portillo made this aspiration a reality in his own life: to serve God totally in order to truly serve souls. He never hesitated to ask our Lady’s help to let himself be guided by her to Jesus. He used to repeat—and would that we might do the same!—Gentle mother, do not turn away, / do not take your gaze from me; / come with me everywhere / and never leave me alone. / Since you protect me so much, / as a true Mother, / let me be blessed by the Father, / the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Praised be Jesus Christ.