Homily of the Mass of Thanksgiving for the Beatification Bishop Javier Echevarría, Prelate of Opus Dei, Madrid, September 28, 2014
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (Jn 15:12).
These words of the Gospel echo today in my heart with new joy at the thought that the vast crowd gathered here yesterday, in close communion with Pope Francis and with all who accompanied us from the four corners of the globe, was not so much a crowd but rather a family gathering, united out of love for God and for one another. This love is also strengthened today in the Eucharist, in this Mass in thanksgiving for the beatification of our beloved Bishop Álvaro, Prelate of Opus Dei.
1. Our Lord, by instituting the Eucharist, gave thanks to God the Father for his eternal goodness, for the creation sprung from his hands, for his mysterious plan of salvation. We give thanks for that infinite love made manifest on the Cross and anticipated in the Upper Room. And we ask our Lord: How can we learn to love as you have loved us, to love as you loved Peter and John, each one of us, and also Saint Josemaría and Blessed Álvaro?
Contemplating the holy life of Blessed Álvaro, we discover God’s guiding hand, the grace of the Holy Spirit, the gift of a love that transforms us. And we make our own the prayer of Saint Josemaría that the new Blessed repeated so often: “Give me, Lord, the Love with which you want me to love you,” and then I will be able to love the others with your Love, and with my poor effort. The others will discover in my life the goodness of God, as was the case in the daily path walked by Bishop Álvaro. Already here, in this beloved Madrid, divine mercy could be seen in his solidarity with those who were most poor and abandoned.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us give thanks to God by asking him for more love. In the prime of his youth, when he was 25 years old, Álvaro was saxum, rock, for Saint Josemaría. From the depths of his humility, he responded by letter to the Founder of Opus Dei with these words: “What I aspire to, in spite of everything, is that you may be able to have confidence in one who, rather than rock, is clay without any solidity whatsoever. But, God is so good!” That assurance of God’s goodness should imbue our entire existence. We prayed in the Responsorial Psalm, I thank you, Lord, for your faithfulness and love (Ps 137 :2). And our gratitude rises up to the Holy Trinity, because God continues to be with us, with his Word, Jesus Christ himself (cf. Col 3:16), and with his Spirit, who fills us with joy (cf. Jn 15:11; Lk 11:13) and enables us to turn to God, calling him, with complete confidence, Abba, Pater: “Father! Daddy!”
2. “The ‘trinity on earth’ will take us to the Trinity in Heaven,” Bishop Álvaro would often say, following the teaching and experience of the Founder of Opus Dei. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph bring us to the Father and the Holy Spirit. In the sacred humanity of Jesus we discover, inseparably united to it, his divinity.
The Holy Family! With words from the first reading, we bless our Lord who fosters men’s growth from their mother’s womb, and fashions them according to his will (Sir 50:22). The sacred text tells us that even before our birth God loved us. This reminds me of that poem in which Virgil addresses a newborn child: Incipe, parve puer, risu cognoscere matrem: “Little child, learn to recognize your mother by her smile.” At birth, children begin to discover the universe. In their mother’s face, full of love, in her welcoming smile, children newly born into the world discover a reflection of the goodness of God.
On this day, which our Holy Father Francis has dedicated to prayer for the family, we unite ourselves to the pleas of the whole Church for the communio dilectionis, the “communion of love,” the “school” of the Gospel that is the family, as Paul VI said in Nazareth. The family, with the “interior and profound dynamism of love,” has a great “spiritual fecundity,” open to life at all times, as taught by Saint John Paul II, to whom Blessed Álvaro was united by a filial friendship.
In giving thanks to Blessed Álvaro, we also give thanks to his parents who received him into this world and educated him, who prepared in him a simple and generous heart for receiving God’s love and responding to his call. That was Blessed Álvaro: a man whose smile blessed God, who has done wondrous things (Sir 50:22), and who counted on him to serve the Church by spreading Opus Dei, as a faithful son of Saint Josemaría.
Let us pray that there may be many families that form “bright and cheerful homes, as was that of the Holy Family,” in the words of Saint Josemaría. We raise our hearts in gratitude to God for the gift of the family, a reflection of the eternal trinitarian love, a place in which each person knows himself to be loved for his own sake, just as he is. Now we also give thanks to all the mothers and fathers who have gathered together here, and to all those who care for children, the elderly, and the sick.
Families: God loves you. God is present within your marriage, which images Christ’s love for his Church. I know that many of you dedicate yourselves very generously to helping other marriages along their path of fidelity, to helping many other homes go forward in a social context that is often difficult and even hostile. Keep up your effort! The whole world needs your witness and evangelizing work. Remember that, as our beloved Benedict XVI said, “Faithfulness over time is the name of love.”
3. Be thankful, Saint Paul exhorts us (Col 3:15). Blessed Álvaro, thinking of how much he owes to Saint Josemaría, said that “the best show of gratitude is a good use of gifts.” In his preaching, in family gatherings, in personal encounters, in all places, he never ceased to speak about apostolate and evangelization. If we are to keep alive the love of God that we have received, we must share it with others. God’s goodness tends to spread. Pope Francis has said that “it is in prayer that the Lord makes us understand this love, but it is also through so many signs that we can recognize in our life, in the many people he sets on our path.”
It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you (Jn 15:16). Our Lord, having insisted that the initiative is always his, in the primacy of his love, sends us forth to spread his Love to all creatures: I have appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain (ibid.). To bear fruit that in turn puts down deep roots, we need to remain in the Lord. Jesus had just said so to his disciples: Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me (Jn 15:4).
The stupendous multitude of people during these days, the millions of people all over the world, and so many who already await us in heaven, bear witness to the fruitfulness of Blessed Álvaro’s life. I encourage you, brothers and sisters, to abide and grow in God’s love: through prayer, through Mass and frequent Communion, through sacramental confession, so that, with the force of divine predilection, we may know how to transmit what we have received, and to implement it through an authentic apostolate of friendship and confidence.
In the letter which Pope Francis wrote to me on the occasion of yesterday’s beatification, he told us that “we cannot keep our faith to ourselves: it is a gift we have received to give away and share with others.” And he added that Blessed Álvaro “is encouraging us not to be afraid to go against the current and suffer for announcing the Gospel,” and that “he is also teaching us that in the simplicity of our daily lives we can discover a sure path to holiness.”
We are accompanied along this path by the Blessed Virgin, together with many angels. Mary is Daughter of God the Father, Mother of God the Son, Spouse and Temple of God the Holy Spirit. She is the Mother of God and our mother, Queen of the family, Queen of the Apostles. May our Lady help us, as she did Blessed Álvaro, to respond to the invitation of the Successor of Peter: “to let ourselves be loved by the Lord, to open up our heart to his love, and to allow him to be the one who guides our lives,” a desire Saint Josemaría so often entrusted to Our Lady of Almudena, so greatly loved and venerated in this Archdiocese. Amen.