From the Prelate - At the Diaconal Ordination of Faithful of the Prelature, Parish of St. Josemaría, Rome (February 27, 2016)
My dear brothers and sisters,
Beloved deacons being ordained:
1. Undoubtedly, today there will be great joy in heaven because of the ordination of these faithful of the Prelature of Opus Dei. It is part of God’s answer to that petition: “pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Lk 10:2).
The liturgical texts for the third Sunday of Lent revolve around God’s mercy, which always comes out to meet us. Thus they are a good occasion for us to ask ourselves how we are preparing ourselves for Easter, in this Year of Mercy.
The Collect prayer is addressed to God, as source of all good, and beseeches for us the grace of confessing our sins to obtain his forgiveness. The recognition of our faults is the key that opens the doors to divine clemency. The responsorial psalm invites us to pray: “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Ps 103: 1-2). God’s hand, both fatherly and motherly, is always ready to cancel out our faults if we have recourse to confession.
The first reading also speaks to us of mercy. The sacred author tells us that Almighty God, moved by his pity, appeared to Moses and gave him the mission to free the Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh: “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry . . . so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the hands of the Egyptians and lead them out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey” (Exod 3:7-8).
Let us pause to consider these words, because, as St. Paul wrote, “these things” (that is, the events narrated in the Old Testament) “happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction” (1 Cor 10:11). Our Lord knows very well our spiritual and material needs, and is ready to remain with us. It is enough that we do not close our heart to the gentle impulses of his grace and that we beseech the Holy Spirit to open our minds and our lives to the words of Jesus.
2. What is our Lord teaching us today? Let us meditate attentively on the Gospel passage we have just heard. It reminds us, first of all, that the events seen as misfortunes with human outlook, are for a person with faith an invitation to conversion. Jesus alludes to certain events in Jerusalem that had left a mark on everyone’s memory, and he explains their deeper meaning: “Those eighteen upon whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Lk 13:4-5).
It is an exhortation to remain ever vigilant, to not forget that God is, indeed, merciful, but also a judge. Although during our earthly pilgrimage he always offers us the possibility of rectifying and converting, at the opportune moment he will judge with justice those who have not wanted to repent of their sins. This is the teaching of the second part of the Gospel passage we have read. Faced with the sterility of the fig tree planted in his vineyard, the owner of the field wanted to remove it: “Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?” (Lk 13:7).
Thanks to the intercession of the vineyard worker, the owner granted the fig tree some time to remedy its unproductiveness. God is ready to pardon our faults; even more, he is ready to give a new impulse to our spiritual life. Therefore he instituted the sacrament of Penance. But we need to accept this gift and put it into practice.
In Pope Francis’s book entitled The Name of God is Mercy, among other topics, the Pope speaks about the forgiveness of sins. “It is true that I can talk to the Lord and ask him for forgiveness, implore him. And the Lord will forgive me immediately. But it is important that I go to confession, that I sit in front of a priest who embodies Jesus, that I kneel before Mother Church, called to dispense the mercy of Christ . . . It is true that there is always a certain amount of judgment in confession, but there is something greater than judgment that comes into play. It is being face-to-face with someone who acts in persona Christi to welcome and forgive you. It is an encounter with mercy.”
3. I would now like to speak directly to you, the new deacons in the Church. From today on, our Mother entrusts to you the power of preaching the Word of God with authority, of distributing the Body of Christ in Communion, of carrying out works of charity in the name of our Lord himself. We all have to keep present, and remind our brothers and sisters of it, what today’s liturgy teaches us: within the goodness of God, mercy and justice are intertwined. The message is clear. Let us take advantage of the time of mercy, to prepare ourselves for our future face-to-face meeting with God’s love.
In your preaching, my sons, explain the great truths of our faith in a positive way, especially those that refer to the eternal salvation of souls. This is a service of great importance in today’s world. “There is a great tendency among worldly souls,” St. Josemaría wrote, “to think of God’s mercy, and so they are emboldened to persist in their follies. It is true that God our Lord is infinitely merciful, but he is also infinitely just; and there is a judgment, and He is the Judge.”
Certainly love, and not fear, is the principal spur for conversion. But the Church’s magisterium teaches that, in many cases, the fear of God—that is, the fear of separating ourselves from Him—is also of help, which the Holy Spirit uses to stir up in souls repentance and conversion.
I end with my congratulations to the new deacons, to their relatives and friends, and I once again ask all those present to pray for the Pope, for the Cardinal Vicar of Rome, and for all the bishops, priests and deacons of the universal Church. Let us go with faith to our Lady intercession, so that we ourselves may draw closer to our Lord, during the remaining weeks of Lent. A deeper confession, with greater sorrow for our sins, can be the spur we need to produce greater fruit, both in our personal life and in our apostolic work, always with Christian joy.
Praised be Jesus Christ.