Monthly Meditations on the Works of Mercy

January: Visiting and Caring for the Sick

The first corporal work of mercy the Church recommends to us is centered on visiting and caring for the sick: an effort we see Jesus carrying out frequently during his earthly journey. Among many such scenes from the Gospel, we see Him curing Peter’s mother-in-law (see Mt 8:14-15), raising the daughter of Jairus (see Mk 5:21-43), attending to the paralytic by the pool of Bethsaida (see Jn 5:1-16) and pausing before the blind men waiting for Him at the entrance to Jerusalem. The suffering of these people shows us how God goes out to encounter them, announcing to them the salvation He has come to bring all men and women.

In the sick, our Lord contemplates humanity in its clearest need of salvation. It often happens that, when we enjoy good health, the temptation to forget about God can arise; yet when sorrow or suffering come into our lives, perhaps then we recall the cry of the blind man Jesus met on leaving Jericho: “Son of David, have pity on me!” (Mk 10:47) In our weakness, we feel ourselves to be especially needy creatures.

Let us too pay attention to the hardships of others, as we see Christ doing. The Holy Spirit, infinite Love, will console other people through our company, our conversation, our respectful and constructive silence when a sick person needs it. We are all busy with many activities each day and our tasks multiply without ceasing, but we shouldn’t let a demanding schedule cause us to forget about the sick.

There are many examples of saints who have imitated Jesus in this work of mercy. For example, Saint Josemaría used to say that Opus Dei was born—as a necessity—in the hospitals, and among the sick. After he moved to Madrid in 1926 or 27 and up until 1931, he worked intensely assisting several charitable institutions (the Foundation for the Sick, the confraternity of Saint Philip Neri, etc.) that cared for sick people in the hospitals and in the peripheries of the capital. Madrid[1] at that time had over a million inhabitants; the suburbs were spread out distance-wise, and good means of transportation were lacking. With a desire to serve the sick in their houses or shacks, he would go wherever needed, always on foot, bringing them the encouragement of Christ and the forgiveness of God the Father. How many people must have gone to Heaven through this priestly work of Saint Josemaría!

In these hospitals and other places, above all from 1933 on, he went accompanied by some of the young people he was helping spiritually. With them, he would offer patients words of affection or various material services, such as washing them, cutting their nails, combing their hair or giving them something worthwhile to read. Many of these young people, through their encounter with suffering and poverty, discovered Jesus in a profound way in the sick and destitute.[2]

My daughters and sons, and friends who take part in the apostolic activities of the Prelature, this care for the sick shouldn’t be reduced to a characteristic of the beginnings alone. Opus Dei continues to be born and to grow each day in you and in me, when we practice mercy with the destitute, when we discover Christ in the souls of those around us, especially those afflicted by some special suffering.

Like Christ, let us bring them God’s mercy by our care, our presence, our service—even by a simple telephone call. That way we can distract them a little from their suffering or loneliness, listen patiently to the worries that weigh on them, and transmit to them affection and strength so that they may react with dignity in the circumstances they face. And we can remind them that illness is an opportunity to unite themselves to Jesus’ Cross.

In The Way, a book known all over the world, Saint Josemaría wrote: “Children. The Sick. — As you write these words, don’t you feel tempted to use capitals? The reason is that in children and in the sick a soul in love sees Him.” Already in his youth, Saint Josemaría saw Christ in those who were suffering, because Jesus not only cured the sick but also identified Himself with them. The Son of God suffered tremendously. We can recall, for example, his physical and spiritual exhaustion in the Garden of Olives; the indescribable agony of each lash during his scourging; the pain and physical weakness that must have overwhelmed Him during the hours of the Passion....

For those who are suffering from a disease, this painful situation could perhaps be viewed as a dark and meaningless burden; life could seem grim and senseless. Therefore, if God allows us to experience suffering, let us accept it. And if we have to go to the doctor, let us docilely obey the instructions we are given and be good patients: with the help of Heaven, let us strive to accept the situation and seek to regain our strength in order to generously serve God and others. But if his will is otherwise, we should say with our Lady, fiat, be it done unto me! Thy will be done....

Then we will be able to turn to our Lord in our prayer, saying: “I don’t understand what you want, but I don’t demand that you explain it to me. If You permit this disease, grant me the help to bear it: help me to unite myself more closely to You, and to those who are accompanying me and to all mankind.” And echoing some words of Saint Josemaría, let us place our trust in the Holy Spirit: "Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, I want it because you want it, I want it as you want it, I want it when you want it..."[3]

How much good it does to each one’s soul to be a bearer of mercy! Let us beseech our Lord, through his Blessed Mother, to sustain us so that we can convey God’s affection to those who are sick. And let us welcome God’s mercy peacefully, if his Will is that we unite ourselves to Him through the Cross.

February: Feeding the Hungry and Giving Drink to the Thirsty

Today we consider two more corporal works of mercy: feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty. God, Father of Mercy, has nourished his People down through the centuries and continues doing so each day, when He provides food for our table. That’s why it is very fitting to foster among families the custom of praying before meals and thanking God at the end for his blessings. Let us not fail to live this custom, including when we are away from home, since it is a deep manifestation of faith, and could be very effective apostolically for those around us.

In this extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, the daily gift of food should not only spur us to thank God, but also provoke in us a concern for the sisters and brothers of ours who lack daily sustenance. Think of the millions of people worldwide who have nothing, or practically nothing, to eat. By contrast, in other places food is wasted: to eliminate excess reserves, or out of negligence, or to keep prices high.

“Food that is thrown away,” the Holy Father said, “is food stolen from the table of the poor.”[4] Therefore on several occasions the Pope has asked that we improve the global distribution of produce, and thus help combat, by these and other initiatives, what he calls the “throwaway culture.”

Let us turn our eyes to Christ, and admire how he multiplied the loaves and fishes to feed the hungry multitude. A bit earlier, the Apostles had suggested to Jesus that He send the people away: “Let them go to the nearby villages and hamlets to look for shelter and food, because we are in a desert place,” (Lk 9:12) they tell our Lord. Surprisingly, the Apostles, after hearing the Word of God, wanted each family to seek sustenance on their own account. But our Lord shows with deeds that feeding the hungry is everyone’s responsibility. “You give them something to eat,” (Lk 9:13) Jesus tells them. And then He works the great miracle that fills everyone with awe.

The Twelve learned their lesson well, since later on in the early years of the Church they encouraged the distribution of food among the poorest of the faithful. This attitude has been present in the Church right to this day, and a great number of charitable initiatives have been brought forward by Christians. In underdeveloped countries, and also in the peripheries of developed ones, we find food banks, soup kitchens, culinary schools for the uneducated and many other service initiatives. Let us not settle for simply admiring these initiatives; at the very least, we can pray for them and lend a hand if we find ourselves in conditions to do so.

Filled with joy and generosity, let us be bearers of God’s mercy to everyone, and especially to the needy. We will find many different possibilities to do so if we practice charity: for example, dedicating time regularly to solidarity organizations or even devoting oneself to such a task professionally; donating money to these initiatives; working to amend laws that prevent fair food trade; avoiding wasting food at home, and so on.

Christ’s words should resonate in our souls: “I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink.” (Mt 25: 35) Let us ask ourselves: what can I do? How can I encourage others?

Jesus, the Giver of Life, not only distributed the loaves and fishes on a hill in Galilee, but when the sublime moment of the Last Supper came, we see Him distributing the bread that had become his Body and the wine that had become his Blood. If we ever find excuses for not committing ourselves to works of charity, or if selfishness leads us to look away from those who lack basic needs; if we waste money on ourselves; or if we think that hunger is a problem too complex to deal with personally, let us look more intently at Christ in the Eucharist: He, the fullness of Justice, has offered Himself as Food and given Himself completely. He came into this world so that his Life could be nourishment for our own. His generosity gives us vigor, and his death brings us life.

Jesus, “the face of the Father’s mercy,”[5] gives us the nourishment of his Body and Blood under the appearances of bread and wine, thus enabling us to share in eternal life. Let us imitate him: although we cannot give ourselves to that extreme, we do have the chance to give food and drink to the members of Christ’s Mystical Body, inviting them to the Eucharist as well as providing them with material assistance.

From the beginning of Opus Dei, Saint Josemaría instilled a great Christian zeal in those at his side, encouraging them to go out and encounter the indigent and those lacking material means; his affectionate concern embraced both the needy and those who try to cover up their poverty with dignity. He called them “our Lady’s poor” and would visit them regularly on Saturdays in Mary’s honor. He practiced this work of mercy without humiliating them. He encouraged the young fellows accompanying him to give these poor people a bit of money or something entertaining to read, simple toys for their children, some sweets that only the well-off could afford…. But above all, they tried to give them affection, conversation, a genuine concern for their needs and problems, because they saw in them—with great joy!—their brothers.[6]

Each of us has opportunities to do likewise in our daily lives. We can ask Saint Josemaría to help us discover them and follow his example of service, of charity, which is true affection.

March: Clothing the Naked and Visiting the Imprisoned

We reflect this month on two corporal works of mercy that address different types of poverty: those who lack clothes and those who lack freedom.

Clothing the naked means not only protecting the body from the weather; it also means helping a person to maintain his or her dignity. One’s way of dressing makes it possible, for every man and woman, to present oneself properly before others, and is often a reflection of a Christian’s inner beauty.

In meditating on the Passion of our Lord, it is evident that Christ suffers the injustices of men. No one, except his Mother and a few others, offers him a gesture of mercy at the hour of the crucifixion. They even take his clothes, and raffle them off among the soldiers (see Jn 19:23-24). When Jesus called us to clothe the naked, he knew that even this gesture of mercy would not be granted to Him. The nakedness of Christ on the Cross is the image of the absence of mercy on the part of us men and women: our lack of love, the coldness caused by our sins and selfishness.

We can somehow make amends now with our fellow men for what happened on Golgotha. Even in affluent societies, the number of people without the material means to have decent clothes and to dress normally is not small. This Jubilee offers us another opportunity to “open our eyes to the misery of the world,”[7] and to discover the people in need who are quite near to us. We can contribute in various ways, with our time or money, to charities that provide decent clothing to those in need, or even help to begin one.

Moreover, in a society that can tend to make people slaves to fashion, this is also a good opportunity to donate to charity money that might have been spent on clothes we don’t really need, while taking better care of the clothing we already have. We should also try to set a good example by our unpretentious and dignified appearance.

We can also practice this work of mercy by helping, with charity, respect and patience, those who lower their own dignity by their way of dressing, owing to a poverty of ideals or proper guidance. Suggesting to someone that they not follow certain styles that represent bad or doubtful taste is an especially important educational task for parents with respect to their children, and for any person with respect to his or her friends. Each of us is a daughter or son of God, and how we dress is part of how we recognize our own dignity. Let us make clear that clothing is meant to cover a body with a spiritual soul, the most important element, and that the body is destined for a glorious resurrection.

Another unmistakable work of mercy is going to visit the imprisoned. We again turn our eyes to Christ: the Lord of the Earth was held captive the night prior to his crucifixion. How bitter those hours must have been! They deprived Jesus of freedom as He awaited trial for an absolutely unjust and false condemnation. Paradoxically, in an act of complete freedom, that Prisoner, despised by all, was freeing us from sin. And he did not disdain to carry out this service because he is the Son of God, and brother to all men and women.

Those who are deprived of freedom need to be comforted in hope. Therefore the Popes, including Pope Francis, have often gone to visit prisoners, offering words of encouragement, and inviting them to take advantage of this situation to open their lives to God. “When Jesus becomes part of our life,” Pope Francis said while visiting a prison in Bolivia, “we can no longer remain imprisoned by our past. Instead, we begin to look to the present, and we see it differently, with a different kind of hope. We begin to see ourselves and our lives in a different light. We are no longer stuck in the past, but capable of shedding tears and finding in them the strength to make a new start.”[8]

Visiting prisoners, or helping them to reintegrate in society, is to serve those who have been alienated from society. What a beautiful work can be done by those who carry out or assist in this task! Especially by attending to those who are prisoners for religious reasons, which is so frequently the case today.

Let us also think of those who are enclosed in prisons not made of cement, but behind bars of another kind: bars that have their origin in alcohol, pornography, drugs, or other vices that shackle the soul and sink it in an abyss.

Let us bring to all these people our nearness, our understanding, our advice and, above all, our prayer. Let us remind them that God never ceases to extend his hand to everyone, and never abandons his children. He offers new opportunities to everyone, always, even until the last moment of one’s life.

Saint Josemaría would sometimes visit the Model prison in Madrid, during the 1930s. Some young people he looked after spiritually were imprisoned there, exclusively for political reasons. Dressed in a cassock, at a time where priests were often assaulted, he helped them to pray and encouraged them to take advantage of their time, studying languages or reviewing the catechism. He even invited these young people to play soccer with other prisoners who had opposing and even antichristian ideas, so that from a friendship formed while playing sports, a mutual respect could arise.[9]

Saint Josemaría knew that prisons, physical or moral, can also be places for encountering Christ, places for a deep conversion. Therefore he recommended to the faithful of the Prelature that they not shy away from taking up this effort with a Christian sense and with true fraternity. If we Christians take the balm of God’s mercy to these places, many captives will experience true liberation: the realization that they are children of God and therefore loved unconditionally, and protected also by our Mother Mary.

April: Sheltering the Homeless

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” (Mt 25: 43). Those who heard Christ speak these words knew very well the dangers threatening those who ventured out on the roads: thieves, wild animals, adverse weather conditions and other hazards. Mary and Joseph also experienced the helplessness of being homeless when Christ came into the world. One after another, the doors of Bethlehem (see Lk 2:7) were closed to them. Only a stable would welcome our new-born God. Later on the Holy Family, pursued by King Herod, fled into exile in a foreign country, taking hardly anything with them in their haste. (see Mt 2:13-15)

The Holy Father said, “Jesus introduces us to these works of mercy in his preaching so that we can know whether or not we are living as his disciples.”[10] So it is fitting that we ask God in our prayer: Why is it, Lord, that you invite us to give shelter to the homeless? What do you want to teach us?

To shelter the homeless is to welcome the stranger; it is to make room in our safe and stable world for those who need help; it is to offer protection to those being threatened, risking our own comfort for their sake, sharing our well-being and giving up part of the tranquil life we enjoy, and doing all this with external and internal joy.

In recent months, we have been pained to see every day thousands of people struggling desperately and even losing their lives in the attempt to achieve a more dignified existence in a country or continent other than their own. This is nothing new in the world, but recent social inequalities and wars have reached such levels that neither the sea nor any other natural boundary can now contain this flow of migrants.

The stranger is now no longer a distant figure, but instead is increasingly present in the streets of our cities. The Pope said that if we look at the painful journey of these families with indifference, “we have lost the sense of fraternal responsibility.”[11]

Societies that have grown for centuries with the warmth of Christianity now face this great challenge. Therefore I dare to say that we will find the capacity to welcome all those who have been forced to emigrate only if we all strive to live each day with Christ’s charity. That mercy (which so often in the past brought consolation to these people in their homelands, through missionaries, religious men and women, and also many other people of good will to whom we should be very thankful) will inspire now the creativity of many people.

Various initiatives will be needed to distribute among everyone the well-being they require, with jobs, homes, education, etc. We realize very well that this is not just an economic problem, but above all a moral one, because when a brother or sister demands justice, Christians need to respond also with charity.

In the Gospel we see how our Lord enjoyed the hospitality of many of his friends as he preached throughout Judea and Galilee. And for those who opened the doors of their homes, Jesus transformed their lives. Martha, Mary and Lazarus shared in the Redeemer’s friendship (see Jn 12:1-11); Simon the Pharisee learned the value of forgiveness (see Lk 7:16-50); Zacchaeus left behind his selfish life (see Lk 19:1-10). In our own times, Christ continues looking for friends to welcome Him in migrants or the displaced.

You and I can shelter our Lord in our souls every day, when we receive the Holy Eucharist. Let us each consider: what kind of hospitality do we give to the Redeemer? Do we prepare our heart well like those people in the Gospel prepared their homes before the Master’s arrival? What small signs of affection do we show our Divine Guest?

In speaking now about the Eucharist, we are not digressing from the topic of mercy, since only a heart that strives to love Christ more each day will be able to welcome a brother who needs help, work, or simply special attention.

If we put care into our Communion, our Lord will make us more generous, more sensitive to the suffering of others, more available to offer our material means and time to those who lack the care they need.

Saint Josemaría also suffered the trial of having to flee and seek shelter. Because of the religious persecution in Spain in 1936, he had to take refuge for long periods of time in various places throughout Madrid, in attics and tiny rooms, and other strange places. And if he thought the people who had taken him in would not denounce him, he would reveal his status as a priest. Without fearing to place his life in danger, he would offer them the possibility of the sacraments, such as Confession or the Eucharist, true consolations in those difficult months. Thus, amid the hatred and fear of wartime, Christ made his way once again into the hearts of those people.

Before ending this dialogue with you, let us ask our Lady and Saint Joseph, strangers in Bethlehem and migrants in Egypt, to teach us to open the door of our life to Christ, who is asking us to be generous towards those who need to be welcomed.

May: Burying the Dead

The last corporal work of mercy is to bury the dead. Let us turn our eyes once again to Christ, who speaks to us in the Gospels. In his Passion, the cruelty of men denies the slightest gesture of mercy towards our Lord, whom we see as captive, thirsty, sick, naked and rejected by his people.

However, soon after Christ dies on the Cross, we witness a gesture of mercy towards his Body, the mercy that God has sown in human hearts. Devout hands remove our Lord from the Cross, deliver Him to his mother, wrap Him in a clean shroud and bury Him in a new tomb.

I have often considered this passage, and I understand perfectly that the only arms worthy to receive the Body of Christ were those of his Mother, with her spotless life filled with generosity towards her Son and all men and women. Meditating on this scene, a ray of hope is enkindled in our hearts, when we realize that mankind, while we failed to welcome the Savior at his birth and mistreated Him on his earthly journey, at least offered Him a decent burial.

This is how Saint Josemaría describes this episode: “Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea, who are hidden disciples of Christ, intercede for Him making use of the high positions they hold. In the hour of loneliness, of total abandonment and scorn, it is then that they stand up for Him audacter, boldly (Mk 15:43): heroic courage!”[12]

The founder of Opus Dei continues his prayer with these words: “With them I too will go up to the foot of the Cross; I will press my arms tightly round the cold Body, the corpse of Christ, with the fire of my love. I will unnail it, with my reparation and mortifications. I will wrap it in the new winding-sheet of my clean life, and I will bury it in the living rock of my breast, where no one can tear it away from me. And there, Lord, take your rest! Were the whole world to abandon you and to scorn you... serviam! I will serve you, Lord.”[13] As he himself advised us, Saint Josemaría lived the Gospel scenes, placing himself in them as one more character there.

Christ was born to die and thus save us. This scene should stir our hearts, for death is part of our lives and helps to give meaning to the time we spend on this earth. In the encyclical Spes Salvi we read that only Christ “shows us the way beyond death; only someone able to do this is a true teacher of life... The true shepherd is one who knows even the path that passes through the valley of death.”[14]

My sons and daughters, and friends: knowing how to die is just as important as knowing how to live, and in both cases we can be helped. Christians must face this moment — for oneself or when it comes for others — with hope and serenity. On some occasions, we might be tempted not to talk about death to a person who is sick or very weak. But let us not fail to recognize that some words of help and comfort can be a real caress for the soul.

Offering the Anointing of the Sick does not have to be a cause for anguish or dismay: in those moments, the grace of God sustains the soul of a person who may be confronting, with understandable anxiety, the unknown. Let us allow God to act. Time and again, we priests are witnesses to how God’s mercy alleviates the dying person’s suffering when given this sacrament. On these occasions, we can all pray with the patients, talking to them in a natural way about Heaven, sustaining them with our faith, and reminding them that they will not be alone, because God’s infinite Love awaits them in eternal life.

One day in 1932, Saint Josemaría was accompanying a dying man in the General Hospital of Madrid. That person, facing his approaching death, remembered all the mistakes in his life; and his offenses against God disturbed his soul.[15] The founder of Opus Dei recalled this scene years later, “He said to me loudly, before I could stop him: ‘I can't kiss our Lord with this filthy mouth of mine!’ ‘But listen, very soon you are going to embrace him and give him a big kiss, in heaven!'”[16] The man died in peace, sustained also by the faith of this holy priest, who was at his side at the moment of the final test.

Burying the dead is a work filled with possibilities to strengthen the faith of the living. Those who experience the death of someone close to them will appreciate being accompanied with our prayer and serenity; if we have to offer a few words of condolence, we can make sure to give them a supernatural tone, so that our faith can be a comfort to those in need. Perhaps many people today lack a friend who can remind them that God is a Father who also cares about those who have gone on to the next life.

It is also very Christian to care for the physical places where the dead are buried, by cleaning their graves and placing some flowers. This is not only for the sake of remembering them and praying for their souls; this care for the deceased also shows the respect we should give to the body. We firmly believe in the resurrection of the flesh, and the places where the remains of those we have known rest remind us that they will come back to life.

Anyone who has prayed before a tomb knows that love does not die out, but stays alive. Faith gives us the certainty that God’s mercy is able to overcome in a mysterious way the wall of death. How great is the power of his mercy by which, through Christ’s resurrection, our love can reach beyond the confines of this life!

Naturally we turn to Mary, the Mother of the Crucified One. When unnailed from the Cross, He rested on her lap. Mary continued caring for Him, even while heartbroken. "No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary,” says Pope Francis. “Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of his love.”[17] As the Holy Father invites us, let us imitate our Lady of Sorrows in our daily service to the living and the dead.

June: “Instructing the ignorant” and “offering good advice”

Among the spiritual works of mercy, I want to consider today the first two: instructing the ignorant and offering good advice to the one who needs it. Teaching others is one of the most beautiful works all of us can carry out. For example, the work of mothers in educating their children. What great patience, joy and generosity they show in their attention to their children, to help them reach human and supernatural maturity! As Pope Francis said: “A mother, above all, teaches the right path in life and guides her children. She doesn’t learn this from books but from her own heart.”[18]

I would like to add here that the father too has to learn each day, with an upright heart, to be a good husband, a good father, doing all he can every day — just as his wife does — to maintain and enkindle the loving atmosphere in his home. The heart: this is the secret of the works of mercy, which involve the will and are born of charity, of God’s love that can reach out to others through you and me.

In the Gospel, we hear the words that Christ addresses to those who come to arrest him in the Garden of Olives: “Every day I sat teaching in the Temple” (Mt 26:55). Indeed, his public life consisted primarily in teaching us the path of the children of God, bringing light to our intellect, and opening up the way to reach God the Father, with the help of the Paraclete.

In the same vein, the forceful words in his Sermon on the Mount (see Mt 5), in his parables describing the Kingdom of Heaven (see Mt 13:1-55)and in his dialogues with various people still inspire wonder in us: scenes in which the Master transmits to everyone — also to us today — different ways to follow the paths of salvation. Therefore, as the Pope also points out, “to be capable of mercy, we must first of all be ready to listen to the Word of God. This means rediscovering the value of silence in order to meditate on the Word that comes to us.”[19]

The only one who can carry out the role of a good teacher, and advise others rightly, is a person who is always willing to learn. We should all open ourselves with docility to the Master’s teachings if we really want to help others sincerely. Therefore, reading the Gospel carefully and with recollection (a custom that I invite you to practice every day, reading calming, quietly, pondering what God is telling us) makes us more sensitive to experience the mercy of our heavenly Father and thus capture the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. Then, when we have to orient someone or give advice, we will immediately ask ourselves: what would Christ do here? And we will act accordingly.

On many occasions (on all of them!), our good example will also be the best way to help others. Saint Josemaría reminds us in his book Furrow: “Jesus began to do and then to teach. You and I have to bear witness with our example, because we cannot live a double life. We cannot preach what we do not practice. In other words, we have to teach what we are at least struggling to put into practice.” (no. 694) Indeed, our struggle, our own desire for conversion, will become a spur for others to notice the effort we make to live with Christian faithfulness. If we want to help them, we must be personally demanding on ourselves first.

On the other hand, giving opportune and helpful advice entails an act of generosity, because it calls for setting aside our own ego and placing ourselves in the situation of others, trying to understand them more deeply, always taking into account their personal circumstances, in order to give the best advice. This advice will always flow from friendship and often have a supernatural tone, since that is how we can help others to see things with a wider perspective that includes God.

These works of mercy should impel us to be generous in showing others the path that leads to Christ. Saint Josemaría said that “for a Christian, apostolate is like breathing. A child of God cannot live without this supernatural life-force. Our concern for souls is a response to a command of love given to us by our Lord that sends us out as his witnesses throughout the whole world.”[20]

Many people, perhaps without knowing it, are waiting for someone to introduce them to Christ. True happiness cannot be found without Him! Hopefully the graces from this Year of Mercy can help us overcome the obstacles that sometimes stop us from being apostolic: human respect, laziness, or simply the thought that the task is impossible. Nevertheless, let us invite those we encounter in our daily life to look at our Lord’s face; let us make known his teachings (I insist) in our own life; let us explain the doctrine of the Church when necessary and, of course, let us always conduct ourselves in a manner consistent with our faith. Thus we will show others that living in accord with the Gospel is attractive.

I once again want to quote Saint Josemaría: “We have to act in such a way that others will be able to say, when they meet us: this man is a Christian, because he does not hate, because he is willing to understand, because he is not a fanatic, because he is willing to make sacrifices, because he shows that he is a man of peace, because he knows how to love.”[21]

This is how the founder of Opus Dei always acted. His life primarily involved transmitting to others the spirit he had received from God. I am a witness to his zeal for showing us clearly, even in the smallest details, how to follow Christ by sanctifying ordinary life. He did so with a maternal and paternal heart, making use of small daily events, inspiring us with his example, reminding us patiently and sometimes forcefully, as often as necessary.

I suggest that, in this Year of Mercy, you read one of the biographies about Saint Josemaría’s life, even if you have already read them. His teachings come directly from the Gospel and contain, as our Lord said, “things both old and new,” and can always give a new impetus to our own spiritual life. In reading these biographies or his writings, our Lord will help us discover wonderful and attractive aspects of the Christian spirit for our personal conduct, which we can pass on to others.

Saint Josemaría defined Opus Dei as “the history of God’s mercies,”[22] since he always experienced God’s incomparable closeness while striving to make the divine will a reality. Thanks to God that history has not stopped, but continues today in the work of many men and women who are striving to assimilate this way of life and to follow Christ, putting themselves in the lowest position, as servants.

Truly, the possibility of being able to find God in the occupations of each day — isn’t this a great manifestation of divine mercy? Isn’t it a manifestation of God’s special tenderness that we can cooperate with Him in the great adventure of bringing the fruits of Redemption to all the crossroads of the world with our daily life?

[1] See Julio González-Simancas y Lacasa, "San Josemaría entre los enfermos de Madrid (1927-1931)," in the review Studia et Documenta, vol. 2, Rome, 2008, pp. 147-203.

[2] See Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Vol. I, Scepter, Princeton, 2001, pp. 323-353.

[3] St. Josemaría Prayer to the Holy Spirit composed in April of 1934, cited in Pedro Rodríguez, The Way, Critical-Historical Edition, Scepter, London-New York, 2009, p. 253.

[4] Pope Francis, Adress to a general audience, June 5, 2013.

[5] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus (April 11, 2015) no. 1.

[6] See, for example, José Luis González Gullón, DYA, La Academia y Residencia en la historia del Opus Dei (1933-1939), Rialp, Madrid, 2016, pp. 187-190, 349-352.

[7] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 15.

[8] Pope Francis, Adress in the Centro de Rehabilitación Santa Cruz-Palmasola, Bolivia, July 10 2015.

[9] See Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Vol. I, Scepter, Princeton, 2001, pp. 354-356.

[10] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 15.

[11] Pope Francis, Homily on the first apostolic trip of his ministry, Lampedusa Italy, July 8, 2013.

[12] St. Josemaría, The Way of the Cross, 14th Station, no. 1.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Pope Benedict XVI, Encyclical Spe Salvi (September 30, 2007), no. 6.

[15] This sick man who was dying was a Gypsy and died in the General Hospital of Madrid on February 14, 1932. See Andrés Vázquez de Prada, The Founder of Opus Dei, Vol. I, Scepter, Princeton, 2001, p. 327.

[16] St. Josemaría, The Way of the Cross, 3rd Station, no. 3.

[17] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 24

[18] Pope Francis, Adress to a general audience, September 13, 2013.

[19] Pope Francis, Misericordiae Vultus, no. 13

[20] St. Josemaría, Christ Is Passing By, no. 122.

[21] Ibid.

[22] See Romana, no. 61, 2016, A Study.

Romana, n. 62, January-June 2016, p. 103-116.

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