Rome, November 22, 2008

At the diaconal ordination

of faithful of the Prelature

Basilica of St. Eugene

My dear brothers and sisters.

My dear sons who are about to be

ordained as deacons.

Once more we are celebrating, with deep gratitude, the solemnity of Christ the King and, with it, arriving at the end of the liturgical year. It is not unusual that, on this date, faithful of the Prelature are ordained as deacons. Let us give thanks to God, first of all, for this gift of his to the universal Church and to this small part of the Church: the Prelature of Opus Dei.

I remind you that St. Josemaría, referring to his priest sons—and therefore also to you, who are preparing to receive this sacrament in six months—assured us that we are sons of his prayer and, while he lived on earth, of his mortification as well. Our gratitude to this holy priest, who loved us so much, has to be shown in firm resolutions of loyalty to Jesus Christ and to his Church.

The liturgical solemnity that we are celebrating today proclaims a key truth for all Christians: that Christ is the King of the Universe. St. John sets it before us in the book of Revelation, with words filled with poetry: I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True... He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is the Word of God... On his robe... he has a name inscribed, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev 19:11-16.).

At the present time, when so many people are trying to exclude Christ from the life of nations, it is a duty to proclaim—without fear or reticence—that Christ is King. “Against those who reduce religion to a set of negative statements, or are happy to settle for a watered-down Catholicism; against those who wish to see the Lord with his face against the wall, or to put him in a corner of their souls, we have to affirm, with our words and with our deeds, that we aspire to make Christ the King reign indeed over all hearts, theirs included.”[1]

Regnare Christum volumus, St. Josemaría repeated so many times. We want Christ to reign; and we want this because his reign is “eternal and universal: a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love, and peace.”[2] Therefore we want to “work always and in everything with sacrifice, in order to put Christ at the summit of all human activities,”[3] because we know that he is the only way to fill hearts with joy and to restore harmony among peoples so that humanity can truly progress on the path of justice and solidarity. Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Rev 22:13). Christians nourish the “certainty of hope,” as Benedict XVI recently emphasized. “The future is not a darkness in which no one can find their way.”[4] God’s light and grace sustain our faith and our optimism.

Jesus is not a despotic king who imposes himself by force. He wants to reign in our lives while respecting our freedom. He is not an overbearing ruler who lives apart from us, who does not know the needs and aspirations of the women and men of our time. Christ is “a King with a heart of flesh, like yours. He begs us to give him a little love, as he silently shows us his wounds.”[5]

Jesus’ desire to serve us is so great that, as St. Josemaría daringly says, “in the madness of his love he ‘gives up’—you know what I mean—his magnificent palace in Heaven, which you cannot yet reach, and waits for you in the Tabernacle.”[6]

Thus, as the Founder of Opus Dei always taught, we are convinced that “if we let Christ reign in our soul... we will serve everyone. How I like that word: service!... I really wish we Christians knew how to serve, for only by serving can we know and love Christ and make him known and loved.”[7]

The true Christian wants to serve others. The words of today’s Gospel reaffirm the reality that that our Lord grants us an eternal reward for serving our neighbor: “Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me” (Mt 25:34-36). And when he is asked—Lord, when did we do this for you? —Christ answers: “as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Mt 25:40).

“Only if I serve my neighbor can my eyes be opened to what God does for me and how much he loves me.... Love of God and love of neighbor are thus inseparable, they form a single commandment. But both live from the love of God who has loved us first.... Love is ‘divine’ because it comes from God and unites us to God; through this unifying process it makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28).”[8]

Any service performed for our neighbor, near or far, in the material or spiritual order, if it is carried out for love of God, is a service done to Jesus Christ himself, who has identified himself with his brothers and sisters—in a special way with those most in need. And this service is worthy of recompense.

St. Josemaría, using a very graphic expression, spoke of the need to “make oneself a carpet where the others can step softly.” He applied this metaphor in a special way to sacred ministers, but not only to them, because all Christians, in virtue of their baptism, participate in different ways in the one priesthood of Christ. To avoid having these words understood in a weak sense, as a poetic phrase, the Founder of Opus Dei used to add: “When I preach that we have to make ourselves a carpet... I am not simply being poetic: it has to be a reality!

“It’s hard, as sanctity is hard; but it’s also easy, because, I insist, sanctity is within everyone's reach.”[9]

In the light of these considerations, we can examine how we put into practice the spirit of service in our family, in our work environment, in our most ordinary social relationships. Let us ask ourselves: Can I consider myself to be a true servant of others? This diaconal ordination is one more invitation to be so effectively, for these brothers of ours are called to be, from now on, in a special way, servants of others through the preaching of the Word of God, participation in the service of the altar and the service of charity.

I now address the new deacons directly. To you, my sons, are applied in a special way the words of the prophet Ezekiel. Keep them always in mind: I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down.... I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the crippled, and I will strengthen the weak, and the fat and the strong I will watch over; I will feed them in justice. (Ezek 34:15-16). Always remember that you are ministers of Christ, who wants to bring his flock to heaven, making use of you as instruments: now by the assistance you give to the bishop and the priests; later, with greater reason, when you receive ordination as priests.

Our prayers for you will not be lacking as you strive to carry out your tasks. It is the duty of the Christian people to pray for their sacred ministers—from the Pope and the Bishops, to the most recently ordained deacon—asking our Lord that he send many workers into his vineyard. Let us unite ourselves also to the person and intentions of the Cardinal Vicar of His Holiness in Rome.

My brothers and sisters, do not neglect this duty. Especially you who are parents and relatives of the new deacons: pray and ask others to pray for them. This is the best way of thanking God for the gift he has given to your families, to the Prelature of Opus Dei and to the whole Church.

I ask Mary our Mother, St. Joseph her most chaste spouse, and St. Josemaría, our most beloved Father, that they guide these sons of theirs with a sure hand along the path of ministerial service that they have begun to walk today. Amen.

[1] St. Josemaría, Furrow, no. 608

[2] Preface of the Mass of Christ the King.

[3] St. Josemaría, The Forge, no. 685.

[4] Benedict XVI, General Audience, November 12, 2008.

[5] St. Josemaría, Christ Is Passing By, no. 179.

[6] St. Josemaría, The Forge, no. 1004.

[7] St. Josemaría, Christ Is Passing By, no. 182.

[8] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, December 25, 2005, no. 18.

[9] St. Josemaría, The Forge, no. 562.

Romana, n. 47, July-December 2008, p. 278-281.

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