From the Prelate - At the Liturgical Solemnity of St. Josemaría, Basilica of St. Eugene, Rome (June 25, 2016)
Praised be Jesus Christ,
Dear brothers and sisters:
We are amazed and filled with gratitude on seeing the dialogue between Jesus and Peter in this Gospel. After making use of his poor boat, our Lord invites Simon to put out into the deep for a catch, and he accompanies him. Jesus knows that this man is an expert fisherman, who with great simplicity and trust tells him that during the whole night he has caught nothing.
Peter asks himself how his luck could possibly change now that it was daytime. Even so, trusting in the person advising him, he did what Jesus asked and cast forth the nets. The extraordinary quantity of the catch moves Peter to get down on his knees. And Christ answers him with an even greater gift; he tells him that, from then on, he and his companions will be fishers of men.
In this Jubilee Year of Mercy we see, in this gesture of our Lord, one more example of divine mercy. Jesus had pity on those fishermen whose work, by which they had to earn their living, had been fruitless. But he respects their freedom and, instead of carrying out a miracle that would have left them with their mouths open but without doing anything themselves, he suggests that they cast out their nets once more. Thus it was the apostles themselves who brought in “a great quantity of fish,” so great that “their nets were breaking.” It’s so natural! Our Lord, by showing them such compassion and understanding, stirred up in them a faith so great that it became palpable. The Master takes into account their capacity to work, to strive shoulder to shoulder to attain a goal.
We can say that God’s mercy, which Christ has brought to earth, gives wings to human freedom. How marvelous! God allows us to do something, and wants us to make our own contribution. He counts on the professional skill of each one: fishermen, teachers, masons, craftsmen, civil servants… and so many others. Each one of us—doctors, health workers, journalists…both young and old—can find here a teaching of St. Josemaría, who commented as follows on our Lord’s invitation: “Put out into the deep! Cast aside the pessimism that makes a coward of you.” For each and every one of us, it is good not only to receive, but also to give, to give our very selves, in order to be worthy to hear our Lord’s call: “Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.”
In giving our life in order to make Jesus known and loved—for this is what being a fisher of men means—we find our true dignity. As Vatican Council II teaches, man “cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.”
But let us return to the Gospel scene. We have seen how our Lord led Peter to a higher truth: from the material catch of fish to the fruitfulness of the apostolate.
“Depart from me,” exclaimed Peter, still in the boat, “for I am a sinful man.” We too, like Peter, recognize ourselves as sinners. And at the same time, we too, like Jesus, meet in our life people who inexplicably have been distanced, marginalized, rejected, and whose suffering has led them to close themselves up in their own misery and solitude.
St. Josemaría understood this reality right from his youth, and moved by his pastoral heart, he went to visit the sick lying abandoned by everyone in the hospitals or in their homes, going frequently to the poorest peripheries of Madrid.
Pope Francis, in the letter that he wrote on the occasion of the beatification of my predecessor, mentioned that Blessed Alvaro also had this readiness to go out in search of everyone. He too, said the Pope, “went to outlying districts to assist the human and Christian formation of so many needy persons.”
And St. John Paul II pointed to St. Josemaría as “a deeply human saint . . . who launched so many works of evangelization and human advancement for the poorest persons.” Today, following also the personal example of the Pope and taking up with joy his invitation to “announce the mercy of God,” I want to encourage all the faithful and friends of the Prelature to follow—as thanks be to God they are already doing—this path opened up by Christ and so loved by the saints: serving others, helping them in their needs, getting out of themselves, going like Christ “into the deep” and accompanying him there where so many people, perhaps without knowing it, are awaiting us.
We too, as Christ did with Peter, can bring about in others the surprise that everyone experiences when they encounter understanding, encouragement, and spiritual or material assistance. And like Peter, we can find in our daily witness of faith and our work the means to spread the mercy of God: the teacher, by teaching those who are ignorant; the doctor, by curing the sick in a refined way; the judge, by working with serious dedication; the cook, by preparing food for those who are hungry… And also in the marvelous “profession” of being parents: you fathers and mothers are witnesses to mercy in every moment of your day, from morning till night, helping each other mutually and educating your children in the joy of love.
Finally, we can say with St. Josemaría that Christian life develops in the atmosphere of God’s mercy. It is there that our struggle to behave as a child of our Father God takes place. “I will make . . . the ends of the earth your possession,” sings Psalm 2. Yes, the Lord gives us the earth as our inheritance, so that we may bring to the whole world the surprise, the love, and the joy of God’s children.
May our Lady, Mother of Mercy, give us a merciful heart in order to love others as children of God, and thus attain the joy that comes from placing ourselves at their service.
Praised be Jesus Christ.