Homily for the Feast of St Josemaria Escriva – June 26, 2011
Dear brothers and sisters,
We have anticipated by one day the celebration of the liturgical feast of St Josemaria, because tomorrow, the anniversary of the day he went to Heaven, coincides this year with the feast of Corpus Christi. However, this circumstance can help us to prepare better for that great solemnity. St Josemaria used to look forward to Corpus Christi with great love, and he continued to celebrate it for the whole of the liturgical Octave, adoring Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, thanking him for having stayed with us under the Eucharistic species, making reparation for the offences he receives, and praying for the Pope, the Church and the whole world.
I invite you to unite yourselves to the feelings that filled St Josemaria’s soul to overflowing when he was physically among us. Let us appeal to his intercession, begging him to obtain for us from the Blessed Trinity the grace of being truly “Eucharistic souls”: men and women who really pledge ourselves to make the Blessed Eucharist, day after day, into the centre of our work, our aspirations and our whole lives.
I am also overjoyed that today is the anniversary of the first ordination to the priesthood of men of Opus Dei: Msgr. Alvaro del Portillo, Fr. Jose Maria Hernandez Garnica, and Fr. Jose Luis Muzquiz. The causes of canonization of all three of them are under way. Let us have recourse privately to the intercession of these three first priests of the Work, asking them to intercede for each and every one of us.
The liturgical texts of the Mass of St Josemaria summarize the basic points of the spirit which, inspired by God, he began to spread from October 2, 1928 onwards. The Opening Prayer sums it up clearly: “proclaiming the universal call to holiness and apostolate” as children of God in the middle of ordinary work and in the situations of daily life, in order to “serve the work of Redemption with burning love” through a personal apostolate of friendship and trust. Today I would like to dwell on that last aspect, considering the scene of the miraculous catch of fish that we have just heard about.
In this Gospel passage, which tells of the calling of Jesus Christ’s first disciples to the apostolate, we discover an exemplary model of the apostolic calling of the Christian faithful whom our Lord seeks out in the practice of their profession. Back in the 1930s, St Josemaria wrote in The Way: “What amazes you seems natural to me – that God has sought you out in the practice of your profession! That is how he sought the first ones: Peter and Andrew, James and John, beside their nets, and Matthew, sitting in the custom-house….” (St Josemaria, The Way, no. 799).
Like the good father of the household whom Jesus talks about (cf. Matthew 13:52), St Josemaria drew new lights from God’s Word, showing how to aspire to holiness in ordinary life, as is highlighted by Benedict XVI in his Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, 30 September 2010, no. 48). At the same time, St Josemaria’s preaching lay within the context of the furrow opened up by the Fathers of the Church. St Augustine, commenting on this Gospel scene, said that the Apostles “received from Jesus the nets of the Word of God, cast them into the world as into a deep sea, and gathered the huge number of Christians that we see with astonishment” (St Augustine, Sermon 248, 2). St Cyril of Alexandria added that “the net is still being cast now, as Christ calls to conversion people who, in the words of Scripture, are in the middle of the sea, in other words in the middle of the stormy waves of the things of this world” (St Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on St Luke’s Gospel, Homily 12). Now it is our turn to continue with this divine catch of fish, in obedience to Jesus’ command, under the guidance of Peter, the captain of the ship. Now as then, the fruits will be abundant: “They netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear” (Luke 5:6).
Perhaps, as St Josemaria noted, there may sometimes come into our heads the thought that all of that is very beautiful, but it is a mere utopia, a dream that can never come true, because the sea of the world we live in is so turbulent! If ever that thought arises we should reject it straight away, and ask our Lord to increase our faith, “in the absolute certainty that our longings will be satisfied by the wonders of God” (St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, no. 159). The liturgical solemnity of Pentecost, which we celebrated two weeks ago, shows us that nothing is impossible for God: he will fill the nets with fish if we for our part apply the supernatural means in the first place – prayer, mortification and work done with supernatural and human perfection –, and use all the opportunities that arise for bringing souls closer to God.
Let us look at Simon Peter’s reaction. After his initial hesitation – he had been fishing all night and hadn’t caught anything – he put his trust in our Lord: “At your word I will let down the nets” (Luke 5:5). Then the miracle was worked. Benedict XVI points out that “Peter could not yet imagine that one day he would arrive in Rome and that here he would be a ‘fisher of men’ for the Lord. He accepted this surprising call, he let himself be involved in this great adventure: he was generous; he recognized his limits but believed in the one who was calling him and followed the dream of his heart. He said ‘yes’, a courageous and generous ‘yes’, and became a disciple of Jesus” (Benedict XVI, General audience, 17 May 2006).
The same thing happens to us if we listen to our Lord and put what he tells us into practice, as paraphrased by St Josemaria: “ ‘Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men’; you will be effective and attract souls to God. We should therefore trust our Lord’s words: get into the boat, take the oars, hoist the sails and launch out into this sea of the world which Christ gives us as an inheritance. ‘Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch’ ” (St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is Passing By, no. 159).
The attitude of St Peter, who places more trust in Jesus than in his own experience, is a valuable lesson for all of us. Because “We too have a desire for God, we too want to be generous, but we too expect God to be strong in the world and to transform the world on the spot, according to our ideas and the needs that we perceive” (Benedict XVI, General Audience, 17 May 2006). In these words Pope Benedict puts us on our guard against the only thing that really could lead us to complete failure: placing our trust only, or mainly, in human possibilities or human efforts, and neglecting to have recourse to the supernatural means. That would be a very serious mistake, because God our Lord normally “chooses the way of the transformation of hearts in suffering and in humility. And we, like Peter, must convert, over and over again” (ibid.).
St Josemaria urged us to appeal to our Blessed Lady, Queen of Apostles, that the nets – i.e. our ordinary work, our projects, whether personal or collaborative – may be filled with effectiveness in the service of the Church. May she teach us to “live by faith; to persevere with hope; to remain very close to Jesus; to really, really, really love him; to live out and enjoy our adventure of Love, for we are in love, in love with God; to allow Christ to come aboard our poor boat, and take possession of our souls as Lord and Master” (cf. St Josemaria, Friends of God, no. 22).
Most Rev. Javier Echevarria
Prelate of Opus Dei
Basilica of Sant’Eugenio (Rome)
The St. Josemaria Institute was founded in 2006 to promote the life, teachings, and devotion to St. Josemaria Escriva among all men and women who desire to find meaning and happiness in their daily lives by growing closer to God. The St. Josemaria Institute produces and distributes digital and print media as a means to spread Christian values around the world and to help people navigate and live well in the digital age.