COLOGNE, Germany, AUG. 25, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Optimism is a key ingredient in the life of Christians, says Bishop Javier Echevarría, the prelate of Opus Dei.
This is the second part of an interview the 73-year-old bishop gave to ZENIT as he evaluated World Youth Day. Part 1 appeared Wednesday.
Q: What help does Opus Dei provide on that journey toward holiness?
Bishop Echevarría: Opus Dei has reminded the whole world that holiness is not something of the privileged; that is, all of us can come close to God exactly where we are. To people, to each one, Jesus Christ has said: “Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.”
Opus Dei reminds us of the need to transform all activities, including the apparently trivial, into a dialogue with God. And it also reminds us of the need for the sacramental life, as without the sacraments the life of grace cannot increase, given that the sacraments are the means that our Lord Jesus Christ has left us, to renew us and to identify ourselves with him.
Q: The theme of World Youth Day was “We Have Come to Worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). Today we are living in radically changing times in which one easily loses sight of the essential, and of recollection; silence is often regarded as unbearable. How can one arrive at this attitude of adoration? In what does it consist? How can one speak with God?
Bishop Echevarría: Before answering this question, I would like to tell you something that is fundamental in a Christian’s life, in the life of a child of God: optimism. We cannot focus on things or situations with a pessimism that, at times, can contaminate the environment.
The child of God knows that he is able to transform all circumstances into joy, including those which others might see as a contradiction. Silence and recollection, of course, are essential if one is to have a dialogue with God.
This cannot be considered unbearable, as dialogue or being with the person one loves would never be regarded as unbearable. And all of us people are those who are loved, God’s favorites, as he himself has said. In the Bible it is revealed to us that his delight is to be with the children of men.
If we take part in that dialogue, we will be women and men who participate in that happiness, in that satisfaction that God has in each one of us. How can one speak with God? With simplicity, naturalness, as one speaks with a friend, with a brother.
St. Josemaría Escrivá counseled us to speak to God about our life, because to pray is to speak about our soul, about our small and great struggles; and he receives us, listens to us as the most concerned Father, with great affection and with the desire to help us in all that we need, although at times — as all good fathers — he allows a trial or contradiction to continue, precisely so that we will mature and count more on the help of his grace.
Q: The Holy Father granted all participants in World Youth Day a plenary indulgence. What role do indulgences play in the life of the Church? What relationship do they have to the sacrament of penance?
Bishop Echevarría: Indulgences play a vital role, because they are the application to the soul of the infinite merits of the passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ.
They make us participate in that glorious life to which we are all called; therefore, indulgences make it easier for us to approach God, forgiving us the remaining punishment merited for sins already forgiven and so making us able to go forward with greater docility and ease to receive the grace in the sacrament of confession.
In this sacrament, where Christ forgives mortal sins completely, because another means — with the exception of extraordinary circumstances — does not exist, although the Church teaches that a perfect contrition remits sins, including mortal sins.
However, who can be certain that his contrition is perfect? Man needs the certainty of the forgiveness of that God who listens to us, who cares for us, and who also takes away the sadness of failure, precisely in the sacrament of confession.
Q: What message does St. Josemaría give to the young people of the world who have been in Cologne these days?
Bishop Echevarría: I would summarize St. Josemaría’s message in a few words, which he wrote when he was a very young priest. […] He said: “Don’t forget that many great things depend on your and my behaving as God wills.”
Many great things depend on the good behavior of those who have been in Cologne these days, that youth which surrounds us: for their souls and for the souls they relate to, and also for their countries and for the souls of the whole world.