Murcia -- November 12, 2005
Homily of Bishop Echevarría in the Cathedral of Murcia
At the Mass celebrated in connection with the International University Eucharistic Congress organized by the UCAM (the Catholic University of Murcia) November 12, 2005.
1. My dear brothers and sisters:
I am very grateful to have this opportunity to be here with you. I would especially like to thank Jose Luis Mendoza, rector of the Catholic University of St. Anthony, and Msgr. Ureña, the Apostolic Administrator, for organizing this Eucharistic Congress in Murcia. I am convinced that it will do great good for the Church and for souls.
As we approach the end of the liturgical year, the Church reminds us with great insistence of the reality of our eternal destiny. God has promised us a happiness without end, which Jesus has won for us through his passion, death and resurrection. The Holy Eucharist is a pledge of that future blessedness, reserved in the Tabernacles of our churches. There, beneath the sacramental species, one finds truly present the same glorious Christ who ascended into heaven: the same whom one day we will have the joy of contemplating face to face, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, if we are faithful to our Christian vocation till the end of our earthly life. The words of the entrance antiphon are truly a consoling reality: “I have plans of peace and not of affliction; you will call upon me and I will hear you. I will gather you from the lands where you are dispersed.”
How good is our Father God. How pleased he is with each of his sons and daughters, who have been reborn in Baptism and fed with his grace in the other sacraments, especially Penance and the Eucharist. Let us turn to him then, filled with gratitude, with the words of the collect from today’s Mass: “Lord, our God, grant us to live ever joyful in your service, because in serving you, the Creator of all that is good, we find our true joy.”
This joy, which saturates the lives of Christians, filling us with peace and serenity, is compatible with the thought that, at the end of our earthly days, our Lord will ask us for an account of the use we have made of his gifts. St. Paul reminds the faithful at Thessalonica and all Christians that we need to remain vigilant: “For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thess 5:2). Perhaps some will be surprised when that moment comes, because their steps have not been guided by the light brought by Jesus, who is the light of the world (Jn 8:12). “But you are not in darkness, brethren,” St. Paul continues, “for that day to surprise you like a thief. For you are all sons of the day; we are not of the night or of darkness. So then let us not sleep, as others do, but let us keep awake and be sober” (1 Thess 5:4-6). Let us set aside all fear, because our God is the Lord of peace, who looks with predilection on those who fight to be faithful Christians day after day.
2. We find the same teaching in the parable of the talents in today’s Gospel. Let us consider it carefully.
Jesus speaks to us of a man who, before undertaking a long trip, entrusts the administration of his estate to his servants. He expects each of them, during his absence, to strive to make his goods bear fruit. Some earn more, others less, according to their capacities and the amount they have received. But all of them act with a sense of responsibility: all, except one, whom the owner calls negligent and lazy, because instead of investing the capital he received he hides it in the earth, leaving it unproductive. And thus when the others receive the recompense merited by their efforts, he does not receive a reward, but is thrown out of the kingdom of heaven into the exterior darkness, a place of moaning and grinding of teeth, of eternal sadness and sterile lament, because the time for meriting is over.
The teaching contained in this passage is clear. It is not enough to have received Baptism, to be in the Church, and then allow the years to pass; rather, one needs to work hard every day, with sincere joy, in a struggle for sanctity, both for oneself and for all men and women. Where? In the midst of the affairs of the world. How? By conversing with Jesus in the Bread and in the Word, in the Eucharist and in prayer, and fulfilling conscientiously the duties of one’s state, with human and supernatural effort, striving to draw profit from the talents we have received. The Christian vocation does not separate us from the noble battles that our fellow men and women are immersed in; rather it places us in the midst of those activities, strengthened by grace, with the great and marvelous mission of converting them into instruments of personal sanctity and apostolate.
This truth was proclaimed forcefully by the Second Vatican Council and by the ecclesiastical magisterium in the years following, directing itself especially to the lay faithful. It is a teaching founded on the living experience of the Church, witnessed by the lives of some great saints, among whom we must in all justice recall St. Josemaría Escrivá. Indeed, since 1928, the Founder of Opus Dei untiringly preached this truth, while showing in practice how to carry it out. Basing himself on Sacred Scripture, with a special help from our Lord, he reminded Christians of the universal call to sanctity and told them, following St. Paul: all things are yours, you are Christ’s and Christ is God’s. As he himself said: We have here an ascending movement which the Holy Spirit, infused in our hearts, wants to call forth from this world, upwards from the earth to the glory of the Lord. And to make it clear that in that movement everything is included, even what seems most commonplace, St. Paul also wrote: ‘in eating, in drinking, do everything as for God’s glory’ (cf 1 Cor 10:32. (Conversations, no. 115).
Deo omnis gloria! I like to repeat: let us do everything for the glory of God, not to satisfy any paltry personal ambitions. The eagerness to prepare oneself as well as possible for professional life; the desire to acquire a deep formation, which will facilitate access to posts of responsibility in society; all noble and legitimate ambitions have to be measured by the standard of love for God and generous service to others. This is expressed by the responsorial psalm when it refers to the just man, the man who fears God, as Scripture says, and in the praise of the diligent woman, which we heard in the first reading. This fear is not something that terrifies us; rather it is the filial desire to never sadden our Father God.
3. This program of Christian life, although arduous like anything of great value, can be achieved thanks to the fact that our Lord Jesus Christ remains close to us in the Holy Eucharist. He is the Bread of Life, who offers Himself to us as food to strengthen our soul on the path towards heaven. As in Capharnaum, when he first announced this great mystery, he reminds us that although as human creatures we have a right to be concerned about material bread, it is more important to be concerned about our spiritual sustenance. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you, for on him has God the Father set his seal (Jn 6:27).
Unfortunately today, as in all epochs, a temptation lies in wait for us: seeing as incompatible the earthly goal of work and its transcendent motive; finding an opposition between the work that we carry out to supply our needs in this world and our eternal life. This is the great temptation that St. Josemaría forcefully denounced before thousands of people in a well-known homily given on the campus of the University of Navarre. No! We cannot lead a double life. We cannot have a split personality, if we want to be Christians. There is just one life, made of flesh and spirit. And it is this life which has to become, in both soul and body, holy and filled with God. We discover the invisible God in the most visible and material things (Conversations, no. 114).
Our Lord, when he lived on this earth in Palestine, worked with a human heart and hands, as we do. First in Nazareth, for many years; later, when traveling along the roads of that land, preaching the Kingdom of God, working miracles, forming the apostles and the disciples. Finally, on the Cross: his passion and death were the greatest “works” that he carried out, to win a new life for all men and women. These holy endeavors of our Lord have radically changed the perspective of human activities, restoring the transcendent dimension hidden by sin.
Isn’t the Eucharist the sacramental actualization of the sacrifice of Calvary? And is there anything more ordinary and simple than bread and wine? Nevertheless, they make up the material for the Most Blessed Sacrament. Thanks to the power of Christ’s words at Mass and the power of the Holy Spirit, these sources of nourishment, so much a part of this world of ours, are converted into the Body and Blood of the Incarnate Word. Beneath those appearances is truly hidden the King of kings and the Lord of lords. If we unite our tasks, even the most material ones, to the Eucharistic Sacrifice, they acquire value for all eternity.
Dear brothers and sisters. Many reflections can be made regarding the august Sacrament of the Eucharist, as you have heard during this International Eucharistic Congress. But no matter how much we try, we will never exhaust its content, for it is a prodigy of love that absolutely transcends our grasp. We can well apply to the Sacrifice of the Altar, with even greater reason, what theologians say about our Lady: de Eucharistia numquam satis. We can never reach an end in our knowledge of the Holy Eucharist; we can never adore Jesus adequately or thank him sufficiently for this proof of his love.
I offer you one specific practical suggestion, which might be a good conclusion to these days of greater intimacy with Jesus: the effort to put care into participation in Sunday Mass. In the words of the Holy Father, I encourage you to “rediscover the joy of Christian Sundays. We must proudly rediscover the privilege of sharing in the Eucharist, which is the sacrament of the renewed world. Christ’s Resurrection happened on the first day of the week, which in the Scriptures is the day of the world’s creation. For this very reason Sunday was considered by the early Christian community as the day on which the new world began, the one on which, with Christ’s victory over death, the new creation began” (Homily at the Italian Eucharistic Congress, Bari, May 29, 2005). These are the new heavens and the new earth that we are awaiting in accord with his promise, and that we are now preparing for with our work in the midst of the world, closely united to Christ in the Eucharist.
Let us go to the Most Holy Virgin, “the Eucharistic woman,” as John Paul II called her in his last encyclical, so that she, in heaven, where she lives for all eternity alongside her Son, will present to him our acts of thanksgiving, our resolutions, the deepest affections of our heart. Amen.
Romana, No. 41, July-December 2005, p. 263-266.