Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Saint Josemaria Escriva and the grain of wheat

On June 26, 1975 before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe St. Josemaria Escriva entered eternal life. Today is his feast day. St. Josemaria is someone we should all get to know. He is the founder of Opus Dei, a personal prelature in the Catholic Church. Prophetically anticipating Vatican II, St. Josemaria tirelessly preached that all the laity are called to be saints-whatever their vocation in life. They are to bring the gospel to the workplace and the environments where God has placed them. Pope Paul VI said of Escriva: "He is one of those rare men in the history of the church who has received the most grace from God and responded most generously." In his homily Passionately Loving the World Escriva writes: "I have taught this constantly using words from holy Scripture. The world is not evil, because it came from God's hads, because it is His creation, because Yahweh looked upon it and saw that it was good (GN 1:7. We ourselves, mankind, make it evil and ugly with our sins and infidelities. Have no doubt, any kind of evasion of the honest realities of daily life is for you, men and women of the world, something opposed to the will of God. On the contrary, you must understand now, more clearly, that God is calling you to serve Him in and from the ordinary, material and secular activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, in the factory, in the workshop, in the fields, in the home and in all the immense panorama of work. Understand this well: there is something holy, something divine, hidden in the most ordinary situations, and it is up to each one of you to discover it." In his commentary on the parable of the sower Escriva comments:( And when a great crowd came together and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it...Now the parable is this: The seed is the Word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. (Lk 8:4-5, 11-12)" The Holy Spirit is using this blog as a seed to proclaim the gospel in parts of the world that are hungering for God's word: Russia, Latvia, Ukraine, Poland, Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom. Here are the words of St. Josemaria on this parable: "Some hearts close themselves to the light of faith. Ideals of peace, reconciliation and brotherhood are widely accepted, but all too often the facts belie them. Some people are futilely bent on smothering God's voice. To drown it out they use brute force or a method which is more subtle but perhaps more cruel because it drugs the spirit, indifference." St. Josemaria continues: "You may perhaps have noticed...many people who call themselves Christians because they have been baptized and have received other sacraments but then prove to be disloyal and deceitful, insincere and proud, and...they fail to achieve anything. They are like shooting stars, lighting up the sky for an instant and then falling away to nothing. If we accept the responsibility of being Children of God, we will realize that God wants us to be very human. Our heads should indeed be touching heaven, but our feet should be firmly on the ground. The price of living as Christians is not that of ceasing to be human or of abandoning the effort to acquire those virtues which some have even without knowing Christ. The price paid for each Christian is the redeeming Blood of Our Lord and he, I insist, wants us to be both very human and very divine, struggling each day to imitate him who is perfectus Deus, perfectus homo." So what is the central charism of Opus Dei and St. Josemaria? Divine Filiation. God is Our Father and we are his sons and daughters. For anyone who has lost a mother or father those words should be of great comfort. One day while riding a street car in Madrid St. Josemaria felt the words "Abba Father, Abba Father" welling up in his heart. He walked the city streets with his heart exploding with love for the Father. He knew then he needed to make this love known to the world. You, the reader, have a heavenly Father who is watching over you. He cares for you. He loves you. As the prophet Hose laments: "Come back to me!"..." When Israel was a child I loved him, out of Egypt I called my son. The more I called them, the farther they went from me, Sacrificing to the Baals and burning incense to idols. Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, who took them in my arms; I drew them with human cords, with bands of love; I fostered them like one who raises an infant to his cheeks; Yet, though I stooped to feed my child, they did not know that I was their healer." (Hosea 11:1-4) In his work Opus Dei, author Peter Berglar notes:" A young priest of Opus Dei was preaching in one of the organization's centers. Unnoticed, the founder entered and sat in the last pew. When the priest said that the key to following Christ in Opus Dei was humility, everyone was doubly surprised to hear Escriva call out 'No, my son; it is divine filiation!' But this truth should not be surprising. All human beings are creatures and children of God. Christians should know this, and it should make an impact on their daily lives. Jesus Christ revealed himself not only as logos or idea, but in flesh and blood. And in the four Gospels, he refers to God as a Father a total of 131 times. In his fatherly love, God our Creator has actually adopted us as his children, as brothers and sisters of the only begotten Son. God is love. That is the foundation of the Christian religion and the essence of Opus Dei. Of course, to acknowledge one's divine filiation as a younger brother or sister of Christ is one thing; to live accordingly is another. 'Divine Filiation' is the sort of religious expression that rolls all to easily off the tongue. It seems easy, self-evident, perhaps too simple. Yet what is simplest is often most challenging. The spiritual life of filiation to God is a gift of baptism, but since men and women are free, this new life does not mature automatically; it is the freely chosen way of love." After his death there was a shower of miraculous cures and on October 6, 2002, Blessed Josemaria became St. Josemaria Escriva. I happened to fly into Rome that day on a pilgrimage and it was a joy to be in the city for days afterwards. I have felt the intercession of St. Josemaria in my own life. During the night after seeing Blessed John Paul II celebrate mass at Camden yards in Baltimore, I had a dream back in the seminary. In the dream Pope John Paul II was teaching at the blackboard in our classroom. I remember asking him, "Who is the ideal role model for a parish priest?" His answer stunned me, I thought he might say the Cure of Ars or St. Vincent de Paul or St. John Bosco. Without blinking and firm conviction he said Msgr. Josemaria Escriva." I remember that dream as vividly today as it was in the 1990's. Today I pray that the intercession of St. Josemaria Escriva will bless you, enable you to come to a deeper appreciation of The Father's love for you, and help you to better know his Son and Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. Josemaria pray for us!