Detachment | A Homily by St. Josemaria Escriva
Now that we are at the beginning of Holy Week, and so very close to the moment when the Redemption of the whole human race was accomplished on Calvary, it seems to be an especially appropriate time for you and me to reflect on how Our Lord Jesus Christ saved us, and to contemplate this love of his — this truly inexpressible love — for poor creatures like us, who have been made from the clay of the earth.
Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris. Thus did our Mother the Church admonish us at the beginning of Lent so that we might never forget how very little we are, and that some day our bodies, now so full of life, will dissolve like a cloud of dust kicked up by our footsteps on a country road and will pass away ‘like a mist dispersed by the rays of the sun’.
The Example of Christ
But after this stark reminder of our personal insignificance, I would also like to put before you another splendid truth: the magnificence of God who sustains and divinises us. Listen to the words of the Apostle: ‘You know the graciousness of Our Lord Jesus Christ, how, being rich, he became poor for our sakes, that by his poverty you might become rich.’ Reflect calmly on this example of Our Lord, and you will see at once that here we have abundant material on which we could meditate a whole lifetime and from which to draw specific and sincere resolutions to be more generous. We should never lose sight of the goal which we have to reach, namely, that each one of us must become identified with Jesus Christ, who, as you have just heard, became poor for you and for me, and suffered, that we might have an example of how to follow in his footsteps.
Have you never wondered, out of a holy curiosity, just how Jesus carried through to its conclusion this outpouring of his love? Once again it is St Paul who gives us the answer: ‘though being by nature God… he emptied himself, and took the nature of a slave, fashioned in the likeness of men’. My children, fill yourselves with wonder and gratitude at such a mystery and learn from it. All the power, all the majesty, all the beauty, all the infinite harmony of God, all his great and immeasurable riches, God whole and entire! was hidden for our benefit in the Humanity of Christ. The Almighty appears determined to eclipse his glory for a time, so as to make it easy for his creatures to approach their Redeemer.
‘No man,’ St John writes, ‘has ever seen God; but now his only-begotten Son, who abides in the bosom of the Father, has himself revealed him,’ appearing to the astonished gaze of men: first, as a new-born babe, in Bethlehem; then, as a child just like other children; later on, in the Temple, as a bright and alert 12-year old; and finally in the lovable and attractive image of the Teacher who stirred the hearts of the enthusiastic crowds that accompanied him.
We have only to consider a few traits of God’s Love made flesh and our souls are touched by his generosity; they are set on fire and feel gently impelled to contrition for having been petty and selfish on so many occasions. Jesus does not mind lowering himself in order to raise us from our destitution to the dignity of being children of God and brothers of his. You and I, unlike him, often pride ourselves stupidly on the gifts and talents we have received, to the point of making them a pedestal from which to impose our will on others, as if the merits of our few relatively successful efforts derived from ourselves alone. ‘What do you have that you have not received from God? And if what you have, you have received, why do you boast as if you had not received it?’
When we think of God’s self-giving and the way he humbled himself — I am saying this so that each one of us can meditate on it and apply it to himself — then the vainglory and presumption of the proud man stands out as a truly hideous sin, for the very reason that such conduct is poles apart from the model given us by Jesus Christ. Think about it slowly: He, being God, humiliated himself; man, puffed up with self-love, tries to build himself up at any cost, without recognising that he is but a creature of clay, and poor clay at that.
“Detachment” is an excerpt from the homily given by St. Josemaria Escriva on April 4, 1955. The homily is published by Scepter Publishers in the book “Friends of God”.
Reproduced by the St. Josemaria Institute courtesy of the Studium Foundation. The content is intended for the free use of readers, and may not be copied or reproduced without permission from ©The Studium Foundation (www.escrivaworks.org).
St. Josemaria Escriva, priest and founder of Opus Dei, was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2002 and declared the “saint of the ordinary” for his example and teachings on the value of work and daily life as the path to holiness in the middle of the world.