Papal Homily During Canonization of Josemaría Escrivá

«We Are Called to Holiness»

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 6, 2002 ( Here is a translation of John Paul II’s homily delivered during the solemn rite of canonization for Opus Dei founder Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. The canonization Mass was in St. Peter’s Square.

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1. «All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God» (Romans 8:14). These words of the Apostle Paul, which we just heard in our assembly, help us to understand better the significant message of today’s canonization of Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer. He allowed himself to be led docilely by the Spirit, convinced that only in this way can the will of God be fulfilled.

This fundamental Christian truth was a constant topic of his preaching. Indeed, he did not cease to invite his spiritual children to invoke the Holy Spirit so that the inner life, namely the life of relation with God, and family, professional and social life, totally made up of little earthly realities, would not be separated, but would constitute only one existence «holy and full of God.» He wrote, «We find the invisible God in the most visible and material things» («Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá,» No. 114).

This teaching of his is timely and urgent even today. The believer, in virtue of the baptism that incorporates him to Christ, is called to embrace an uninterrupted and vital relationship with the Lord. He is called to be holy and to collaborate in the salvation of humanity.

2. «The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it» (Genesis 2:15). The Book of Genesis, as we heard in the first reading, reminds us that the Creator has entrusted the earth to man, to «till» it and «keep» it. Believers acting in the various realities of this world, contribute to realize this divine universal plan. Work and any other activity, carried out with the help of grace, become means of daily sanctification.

«The usual life of a Christian who has faith — Josemaría Escrivá used to say — when he works or rests, when he prays or sleeps, at all times, is a life in which God is always present» (Meditations, March 3, 1954). This supernatural view of existence opens an extraordinarily rich horizon of salvific perspectives because, even in the only apparently monotonous context of normal earthly events, God comes close to us and we can cooperate in his plan of salvation. Therefore, one can understand with greater ease what the Second Vatican Council affirmed, namely, that «the Christian message does not remove men from the construction of the world […], but obliges them even more to engage in this as a duty» («Gaudium et Spes,» 34).

3. To raise the world to God and transform it from within: Herein is the ideal that the holy founder indicates to you, dear brothers and sisters, who rejoice today because of his elevation to the glory of the altars. He continues to remind us of the need not to allow ourselves to be frightened in face of a materialist culture, which threatens to dissolve the most genuine identity of the disciples of Christ. He liked to reiterate with vigor that the Christian faith is opposed to conformism and interior inertia.

Following in his footsteps, spread in society, without distinction of race, class, culture or age, the awareness that we are called to holiness. In the first place, force yourselves to be saints, cultivating an evangelical style of humility and service, of abandonment to Providence and to constant listening to the voice of the Spirit. In this way, you will be «salt of the earth» (see Matthew 5:13) and «your light will shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven» (Ibid., 5:16).

4. Of course there is no lack of misunderstandings and difficulties for the one who tries to serve the cause of the Gospel with fidelity. The Lord purifies and molds all those he calls to follow him with the mysterious force of the cross; but in the cross — the new saint repeated — we find light, peace and joy: «Lux in Cruce, Requies in Cruce, Gaudium in Cruce!»

Ever since Aug. 7, 1931, when, during the celebration of holy Mass, the words of Jesus echoed in his soul: «I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself» (John 12:32), Josemaría Escrivá understood more clearly that the mission of the baptized consists in raising the cross of Christ over all human reality, and felt arise in his interior the exciting call to evangelize all environments. Then, without hesitation, he accepted the invitation made by Jesus to the Apostle Peter, which resounded in this square a short time ago: «Duc in altum!» He transmitted it to all his spiritual family, so that they would offer the Church a valid contribution of communion and apostolic service. This invitation is extended to all of us today. «Put out into the deep, and let down your nets for a catch,» the divine Master says to us (Luke 5:4).

5. However, to fulfill such a demanding mission, there must be constant interior growth nourished by prayer. St. Josemaría was a master in the exercise of prayer, which he considered an extraordinary «weapon» to redeem the world. He always recommended: «In the first place, prayer; then, expiation; in the third place, but very much in third place, action» («The Way,» No. 82). It is not a paradox, but a perennial truth: The fruitfulness of the apostolate is above all in prayer and in an intense and constant sacramental life. This is, in essence, the secret of the holiness and of the true success of the saints.

May the Lord help you, dear brothers and sisters, to accept this exacting ascetic and missionary legacy. May Mary sustain you, whom the holy founder invoked as «Spes Nostra, Sedes Sapientiae, Ancilla Domini!»

May Our Lady make every one an authentic witness of the Gospel, ready to make a generous contribution in every place to the building of the Kingdom of Christ. May the example and teaching of St. Josemaría be a stimulus to us so that, at the end of the earthly pilgrimage, we may also be able to participate in the blessed inheritance of heaven. There, together with the angels and all the saints, we will contemplate the face of God, and sing his glory for all eternity!

[The Pope delivered the homily in Italian and Spanish; translation by ZENIT]

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