On the Feast Day of St. Josemaría, St. Eugene's Basilica, Rome (June 26, 2012)
Thirty-seven years ago we gathered in this basilica for Holy Mass on the occasion of St. Josemaría’s passage to heaven. In those first years we offered suffrages for his soul, in spite of our conviction that he was the one who was interceding before God for us. Since his beatification and canonization we now celebrate the Mass in honor of this great servant of God, who wanted to always place himself at the service of the Church and all souls.
In 1975 we came with our hearts overwhelmed by the sorrow of our physical separation from St. Josemaría, despite the fact that all of us who knew him were fully convinced that our Lord had taken his soul to rejoice in his presence. A clear sign of this, among other expressions, was the large number of people—cardinals, archbishops, bishops and so many faithful—who came to pray before his body.
When his beatification was decreed, my beloved predecessor, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo, chose the texts that we had to present to the Congregation for Divine Worship for the Mass we are celebrating today, doing so with great devotion. St. Josemaría deeply loved Sacred Scripture, and Bishop del Portillo proposed readings and a Gospel text he had so often meditated on and recommended to others to do likewise, drawing out the richness of the Old and New Testament teachings. In these texts each of us can find the certainty that we are always accompanied by God, who will never abandon us. It is we, instead, who unfortunately sometimes distance ourselves from God’s love.
I would now like to look more closely at the content of these texts.
Back in 1948, when I first met Opus Dei, my attention was drawn to the acuteness and sensitivity with which St. Josemaría read that passage from Genesis about the love that God infused into the creation of the world. All the material creatures were at the service of the first human pair, Adam and Eve, who were called to take an active role in the divine endeavor: precisely so that they would maintain their dialogue with the Lord, Yahweh commanded them to work. Sacred Scripture says that man was put into Paradise “ut operaretur” (Gen 2:15), so that he work.
Following this divine inspiration, St. Josemaría repeated untiringly that work is not a punishment. After the original fall of our progenitors, we experience fatigue, which is a punishment; but work in itself is a dialogue with our Lord, it is the hinge on which the ordinary life of every man and woman turns. It is possible, therefore, to sanctify oneself in work, to sanctify work, and to sanctify others with our work. This is a responsibility that no one should forget. I can tell you that St. Josemaría not only struggled to live this commandment of God with exquisite refinement, but that he sought to be a contemplative with unity of life. That is to say, he sought union with God not only in prayer, but turned work into prayer: in those moments he raised his heart to God to express his gratitude and offer even his exhaustion for the salvation of his soul and that of all people. And let us not forget that looking after one’s own family in household tasks is also work.
The second reading is a passage from St. Paul’s epistle to the Romans (see Rom 8:14-17) which reveals the marvel of our divine filiation. We have to consider this splendid reality every day with gratitude and a desire to correspond to God’s love, who loves us more than any earthly father, more than all the fathers and mothers of the world put together. And he tells us: “you are my daughter, you are my son” (see Ps 2:7).
Let us meditate on this nearness. Let us reflect on this love of God, who is always with us and follows closely all that we do. We have to try to fulfill our various duties with the certainty that, if we correspond to God’s love, we can carry them out in any circumstance. I recall perfectly well how St. Josemaría told us—referring also to people who don’t belong to Opus Dei—that in any circumstance, at any moment, we should keep God present, with an ever greater gratitude for having become children of our Father God in Christ, and sustained by the help of grace, sanctify everything we are doing at each moment.
Our beloved Don Alvaro, a great servant of the Church and souls, suggested that among the texts approved (as I said earlier) by the Congregation for Divine Worship, the Gospel reading should be the narrative of the first miraculous catch of fish. St. Josemaría’s face and eyes—and I can say this with full certainty, because I witnessed it so often—lit up when he considered that our Lord asks us, as he did Peter, for our poor boat, for our life.
We cannot excuse ourselves, saying: I am so weak, I am so miserable. No. It is God who is asking for our boat in order to speak to everyone, so that we can lead them to discover that they can and should aspire to intimacy with God, to sanctity. St. Josemaría would stop to consider this scene, where Jesus gets into Peter’s boat and from there begins to speak as a Teacher, but as a Teacher who does not humiliate, as a Teacher who provides light, who addresses all the concerns of his brothers, of his sisters. Afterward he turns to Peter with that marvelous request: “Put out into the deep!”(Lk 5:4).Row out into the sea, pull the oars, head far out to where the fish are. At the beginning, Peter’s thoughts were the same as ours sometimes are. He was an expert in fishing and usually worked at night to try to catch fish. That night they had not caught anything, absolutely nothing. But on seeing Christ’s concern and confidence in us, he obeyed; he rowed with all the others towards the open sea and followed the Teacher’s suggestion: “Let out your nets for a catch” (ibid.).
We cannot hide behind false excuses. With all our limitations, we can cast our Lord’s net, so that many people discover his friendship. And the miracle will be repeated. In that sea in which they had not caught anything, “They enclosed a great shoal of fish; and their nets were breaking” (Lk 5:6). So many fish that they could not haul in the nets alone, and called to those in the other boat for help. St. Josemaría drew out from this episode this teaching: obedience leads to fraternity, and fraternity leads to obedience, to docility, it opens the path to grace.
My brothers and sisters, let us strive to carry out our work with docility to grace. If we live in this way, if we act faithfully, we can be certain that not only will we ourselves come closer to our Lord, but we will bring others closer too. For they will see our happiness, our peace, our confidence—because our Lord will never leave us—and they will ask themselves and ask us: How do you manage to live like that? And we will explain to them that living as children of God brings a great advantage, not only for us, but also for other people. If they too try to live in this way, they will experience in their own lives that they never lose the peace and joy that comes from being close to our Lord.
We have seen how Peter, astonished at the miracle he had just witnessed, tells Jesus, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” (Lk 5:8). I recall how St. Josemaría, understanding perfectly Peter’s astonishment, put it differently: “Lord, don’t leave me, follow me closely, because without you I can’t do anything.” He also understood why Peter, in his bewilderment, told our Lord that he wasn’t worthy to be with him. But thanks to his mercy, to God’s love, all of us have become worthy of being with God, because he has given us the sacraments to provide a remedy for our mistakes and weaknesses. Try to carry out the apostolate of Confession; speak with your friends, with your relatives, about the marvel of a God who forgives because he loves, because he understands.
I ask you finally to pray, as always, for the Holy Father Benedict XVI. As his daughters and sons, we have the duty to support him, to help him with our prayer, with our work, with our joy and peace.
I also ask you to pray for the bishops and priests of the whole world, and to raise your voices as daughters and sons to tell our Lord: “send us many seminarians who want to be saints through their priestly ministry.”
We also go to our Lady, Mother of God and our Mother, to tell her that we want to be faithful to our Lord’s commands, that we want to always be united to Christ, and that we want to be men and women who know how to turn their life into a constant apostolate. People are waiting for us. With Mary we can reach the furthest corner of this earth of ours, so thirsting for God’s mercy and love.
Praised be Jesus Christ!
Romana, No. 54, January-June 2012, pag. 89-92.