By Antonio Gaspari
ROME, SEPT. 15, 2011 (Zenit.org).- An available confessor and a confessional with a green light is a hand reaching out to conversion, says the prelate of Opus Dei.
Bishop Javier Echevarría made this reflection when ZENIT spoke to him about the sacraments of Eucharist and reconciliation on the occasion of Italy’s 25th National Eucharistic Congress. The Pope concluded the congress in Ancona last Sunday.
Bishop Echevarría published a book last year on the Eucharist: “Vivir la Santa Misa” (Living Holy Mass).
ZENIT: Why is the Eucharist “the center and root” of the life of every Christian?
Bishop Echevarría: To put the Eucharist at the center of Christian life means to put Jesus at the heart of everything. In the Eucharist we are called to enter into Trinitarian love. By making the Holy Mass the center of our interior life, we are united to Jesus and, in him, to the whole Church, to all men.
This was the constant teaching of St. Josemaría Escrivá, founder of Opus Dei, who said: “If the tabernacle is at the center of your thoughts and your hopes, how abundant, my son, will be the fruits of holiness and of the apostolate!” The Eucharistic Jesus is the culmination of the gift of himself to humanity; hence, if we identify with him, he will transmit to us the same will to enhance the gift of ourselves and our service to others.
ZENIT: How important is the practice of confession and the Eucharist in the Opus Dei charism?
Bishop Echevarría: In the spirit of Opus Dei, the sacraments of penance and of the Eucharist are as important as they are in the Church: Like all Christians, we try to be penitent and Eucharistic persons, with the practice of frequent Confession and daily participation in the Holy Mass.
The sacrament of reconciliation is profoundly connected to the Eucharist. Confession implies the awareness of being sinners, with faith in divine mercy. Jesus purifies us in his blood shed on the cross for us, so that the Christian can participate with greater fidelity in the Sacrifice of Calvary, which is made present every day in the Holy Mass.
Both sacraments fill the soul with joy and peace — like the good thief, who, seeing Jesus on Calvary and moved by contrition, felt impelled to acknowledge his sins, and thus found eternal salvation. I insist, confession is very important in the life of the Christian, because it is a sacrament of joy and the door of access to the peace and happiness that are in the Eucharist.
ZENIT: [Mindful of the recently completed National Eucharistic Congress], what suggestions would you make so that the practice of confession and Communion would be more intense and widespread?
Bishop Echevarría: The Church has always taught that fortitude is found in the tabernacle, the surest refuge against fears and anxieties. It is not enough that each one of us, individually, seeks and finds the Lord in the Eucharist; with our witness, we must be able to “infect” the greatest number of persons possible, so that they too will contemplate and discover this “unsurpassable friendship.”
Spiritual communion is of great help in the preparation for Eucharistic Communion. To be men and women who are conscious of our divine filiation we must spend time with Christ ever more, receiving him, if we can, every day.
In regard to penance, I think the generous availability of priests to hear confessions is very important: An available confessor, a confessional “with a green light” is a hand reaching out to conversion.
On this point, Benedict XVI suggested to us recently to follow “the example of the great saints of the past from St. John Mary Vianney to St. John Bosco, from St. Josemaría Escrivá to St. Pius of Pietrelcina, from St. Joseph Cafasso to St. Leopold Mandić,” (Address to participants in the course organized by the Apostolic Penitentiary, March 25, 2011).[Translation by ZENIT]