Lent: Praying for the Living and the Dead
By Most Rev. Javier Echevarria
Lent—a special time for prayer, for penance, for practicing works of charity—should leave a deep impact on our soul. The fact that now it coincides with a year destined to especially proclaiming divine mercy, is a new spur to strive more diligently to behave as better daughters and sons of our heavenly Father, who looks with mercy on each of us. Perhaps this could be a good moment to stop to consider how each of us personally is following the Pope’s recommendations for this Holy Year, in union with the whole Church.
I would like to pause here to consider, among the various Lenten practices, one of the spiritual works of mercy: praying for the living and the dead. Prayer for those closest to us and, in general, for those we encounter during our day, is so necessary. In first place, because that prayer expands our heart, seeking to become more like Jesus; and also because it prevents, or at least makes more difficult, falling into an excessive concern for personal things.
It was striking to see how Saint Josemaría strove to pray more for the people he came across; and likewise his constant prayer for the dead caught one’s attention, also when he saw a cemetery or a funeral: a disposition he kept up day after day.
He has passed on to us a marvelous example. Whenever he spoke with someone, he would begin the dialogue by going to their guardian angel. If he was going from one place to another, on foot or in a means of transport, he would pray to our Lord for the people he came across on the way, even though he didn’t know them and perhaps would never see them again. Each prayer for others meant for him progress on the constant conversion that he aspired to, in order to identify himself more closely with Christ. In his soul he felt deeply that “we cannot think we are already fully oriented towards God; successive conversions are needed that bring us closer to holiness.”
This disposition makes clear and reinforces the response to the call to seriously seek holiness that we have all received. Pope Francis reminds us of our Lord’s encounter with Matthew. “Passing by the tax collector’s booth, Jesus looked intently at Matthew. It was a look full of mercy that forgave the sins of that man, a sinner and a tax collector, whom Jesus chose—against the hesitation of the disciples—to become one of the Twelve.”
The forgiveness of sins is always joined to an invitation to follow Christ. God does not limit himself to erasing our faults, when we sincerely ask his forgiveness, or when we go to sacramental Confession; he also infuses in us the grace of the Holy Spirit, which consolidates the presence of the Holy Trinity in our soul. “Each vocation in the Church has its origin in the compassionate gaze of Jesus. Conversion and vocation are two sides of the same coin, and continually remain interconnected throughout the whole of the missionary disciple’s life.”
Most Rev. Javier Echevarria. From the Letter from the Prelate (February 2016). Reprinted from www.opusdei.org. See the original article here.
Most Rev. Javier Echevarria is the present prelate of Opus Dei. He worked closely with St. Josemaria Escriva as his personal secretary from 1953 until the latter’s death in 1975. Bishop Echevarria was ordained as a priest on August 7, 1955. He was elected and appointed by John Paul II as prelate of Opus Dei on April 20, 1994. The Pope ordained him as a bishop on January 6, 1995.