At the blessing of an altarpiece dedicated to St. Josemaría in the parish of St. Nicholas in Córdoba, Spain (November 20, 2009)

Homily at blessing of an altarpiece with a portrait of St. Josemaría

My dear Archbishop, my dear brother—and this is not just a formality—I thank you for the words you have addressed to me, well aware of how unmerited this praise is in my case. I want only to follow in the footsteps of St. Josemaría, who served the Church so well, and who loved all the local churches so greatly, and specifically that of Cordoba.

My dear brothers in the priesthood, my dear sisters and brothers: in blessing the image of St. Josemaría and placing there this relic, it gives me special joy to have an opportunity to speak with you. I would like to focus especially on the words we have just heard about the Good Shepherd.

Although we are all already doing so, I think we can always improve in this area. Let us pray a lot for the Holy Father, the Supreme Shepherd of the Church. Let us in our heart, in our soul, keep constantly present the triple petition he addressed to us in the homily inaugurating his Petrine ministry: “Pray for me, pray for me, pray for me.” May there not be lacking in our lives daily prayer for the Vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, with the awareness that by our prayer and our mortification we can help the Pope to continue bearing with great generosity the cross, the burden that our Lord has placed on his shoulders.

In this ceremony in which we have read the Gospel passage of the Good Shepherd, it also gives me joy to ardently ask all of you to continue praying for the person who is the Shepherd of this particular church. There will come a time when he will cease to be your Shepherd, but you will never cease to be in his prayers. Pray for Juan José Asenjo, our beloved Archbishop of Seville, who has worked so much as bishop of this diocese. Keep him present in your soul, in your prayer, in your joy. Ask our Lord to bless him and to give him the broad shoulders needed to embrace the cross of the burden of government. Because in the Church positions of government are burdens. They are burdens that help one to feel more forcefully the need to be anchored in Jesus Christ, the Master who did not hesitate to embrace the Cross of exhaustion, of total self-giving for the salvation of each one of us.

At the same time, I ask you to pray that each and every one of us may incarnate in our lives—and it is within our reach—the image of the Good Shepherd. Good shepherds through our behavior; good shepherds through the doctrinal preparation that we should be acquiring every day; good shepherds so that, like the Master, we strive to guide with our prayer the sheep, all the people around us, without thinking ourselves better than the others; on the contrary, feeling the need that they pray for us.

Let us be contemplative souls who—fulfilling the message of St. Josemaría—try to turn our ordinary life into a prayer rising to heaven, like the incense we have just seen incensing the book of the word of God. We have to be, with our lives, God’s word, a word that sustains, that encourages, that provides assistance to others.

Upon arriving at this Church of San Nicolas, where St. Josemaría gave expression to his ardent love for the Eucharist, on making the visit to our Lord, I encountered other ways of blessing that belong to the Good Shepherd: illness and limitations. Have a great love for all the sick of the diocese and the Church. They are a true support so that others, with the health our Lord has granted us, can work more and better. May we feel supported by the self-giving of those who are suffering from sickness or disability. We all form a closely united mystical Body—the sick and the healthy, the young and the not so young, professionals and laborers—and we want to carry Christ’s cross in order to place it at the summit of all human activities. Also in the midst of sickness.

I express once again my gratitude to the Archbishop and to you, and I ask with all my heart, as something truly needed, that you pray for me so that I may be a good minister of the Good Shepherd. I need your prayer, your help, your support. If we truly want to build up the Church, let us sustain one another. Lend support to all the pastors. I repeat the request with which I began: don’t neglect a single day to pray for the one who is and has been such a good Shepherd of this diocese. Accompany him so that he may always and in all circumstances find the support of your prayer and your affection.

As in only natural, we place our prayers at the feet of our Lady, the “woman of the Eucharist,” as our beloved Pope John Paul II called her. A woman who knew how to make her life into a constant fiat (Lk 1:38), loving God’s will at every moment. May we all learn from Mary’s example how to spend our lives each day for the Church, which means spending our lives for all our brothers and sisters, also for those who do not have the joy, or do not want to have it, of sharing in the faith, of wanting to submit to this God of ours who gave his life for all souls.

Let us love everyone, including those who do not want to love Christ. May he never be placed “in parenthesis” in society; may he always have the honor that belongs to him as King, as Creator of the world, of the heavens and the earth.

With the prayer of Mary, uniting myself to your prayer, I give thanks once again to your Archbishop, and I tell him that he has attributed to me merits that I don’t deserve. Pray that we may always keep the whole Church very much present and realize that our prayer can reach the furthest corner of the world, holding tightly to the hand of holy Mary, Mother of the Church and Mother of each one of us. Our Lady will place us in the hands of her Son Jesus, and with Jesus we will reach the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Romana, No. 49, July-December 2009, p. 276-278.