(A Homily for the Feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, June 26, 2013)
On the occasion of the Feast of St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer on June 26, the celebration of which we anticipate today for certain reasons, I would like to reflect on the relevance of the message to all Davaoeños, of what Blessed Pope John Paul II called the “Patron Saint of the Ordinary”. This message is summarized in the phrase “the sanctification of ordinary life”. And I wish to present it in the light of today’s readings from the Book of Genesis, St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, and the Gospel according to St. Luke.
Davao City today, undoubtedly, is a booming city economically, culturally and socially. The flourishing of infrastructures and business establishments and the surging number of the working class – especially the young professionals or yuppies – indicate that this city is, indeed, beaming with vitality. The same is true with the local Church of Davao. New parishes are being established recently, and more to come. Especially during this Year of Faith, the initiatives of parishes, schools and ecclesial movements or groups in promoting and understanding the Catholic faith are commendable. The successfully-held Marian procession and Consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in our archdiocese last June 8 is also an indicator that the local Church of Davao is alive and kicking!
Yet, in the midst of these positive indicators, we hear our Lord’s voice in the Gospel today: “Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch”. New evangelization is duc in altum (Putting out into the deep)! In Davao City today, we need to find more efficient ways of catching more fish, in forming more priests, in educating more people in the faith. Self-complacency can be very dangerous and detrimental to our mission. If we see that, compared to other boats in the other shores, ours are more filled, we should not be too complacent because the waves are coming to us!
Economic prosperity brings with it the danger of spiritual poverty. We don’t want to see Davao to be an economic giant, but a spiritually and morally dwarf city. We want economic progress to be coupled with moral and spiritual upsurge. We want Davaoeños to work, not only with a two-dimensional perspective of making a living and living comfortably in life, but also with a third dimension – the third eye – the supernatural perspective of doing it for the greater glory of God and for our own sanctification.
This is where the message of St. Josemaria comes in. Since 1928, he had been preaching that “any honest work is an indispensable means which God has entrusted to us here on this earth. It is meant to fill out our days and make us sharers in God’s creative power. It enables us to earn our living and, at the same time, to reap ‘the fruits of eternal life” (Friends of God, 57). The invitation to work, to complement the work of creation, is the primordial vocation of every woman and every man. We hear it in the First Reading today: “The Lord God took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden to cultivate and take care of it”.
Man is created ut operaretur, in order to work. While work defines man’s dignity, unemployment harms it. Therefore, we should pray for our civil leaders and those who hold public office that, enlightened by divine Wisdom, they may discover and apply appropriate measures to bring their respective constituents out of unemployment, while fully respecting the dignity of the individual and the common good. Let us entrust this intention to God through the intercession of St. Josemaría, the apostle of the sanctification of work.
The sanctification of work becomes a reality in our lives only when we are moved by the Spirit of God. For as St. Paul says in the Second Reading, “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a son of God”. The Apostle to the Gentiles knew the anguish and fears of the society in his time, which was characterized by ancient paganism. Although they had many gods, they lived in fear and insecurity. Pope-Emeritus Benedict XVI in Spe salvi commented: “but their gods had proved questionable, and no hope emerged from their contradictory myths. Notwithstanding their gods, they were ‘without God’ and consequently found themselves in a dark world, facing a dark future” (no. 2).
Today, we are also facing the danger of setting aside God from our work, our profession and our business dealings. Hence, today more than ever, we need to reaffirm our divine filiation. “The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are children of God”. As children of God, we know that our future is filled with light. Referring to the first Christians of Rome, the Pope-Emeritus said “It is not that they know the details of what awaits them, but they know in general terms that their life will not end in emptiness. Only when the future is certain as a positive reality does it become possible to live the present as well” (Spe salvi, no. 2).
When we meditate often on this truth – that we are children of God – our work will have a new meaning and a new dimension. It will not only be a professional doctor, engineer, accountant, nurse, company secretary, hospital janitor, street sweeper, housekeeper, or a dentist who is working, but a son or a daughter of God. We will, then, be finding God in the most ordinary task at hand. Our work will, then, become – not just the work of man – but operatio Dei, opus Dei, the work of God. When we do this every day, surely we are obeying the command of Jesus to put out into the deep water because when our colleagues, officemates and friends will see us trying to sanctify our job by working professionally and offering it to God, they will say, “Truly this man is a follower of Christ”. And we will win more souls to Jesus.
In a homily he delivered at a Mass in October 1967 at the University of Navarre, Pamplona, Spain, St. Josemaría said: “You must realize now, more clearly than ever, that God is calling you to serve him in and from the ordinary, secular, and civil activities of human life. He waits for us every day, in the laboratory, in the operating room, in the army barracks, in the university cathedra, 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”.
My dear friends, Davao City may be slowly becoming a haven of economic and cultural prosperity. But if we don’t learn how to combine it with the supernatural motive of sanctifying these worldly, ordinary realities, they will mean nothing to us. “Heaven and earth seem to merge, my children, on the horizon” St. Josemaria says. “But where they really meet is in your hearts, when you sanctify your everyday lives…” Let’s ask our Blessed Mother, through the intercession of St. Josemaría, that we may learn to listen to Christ so that we too may become fishers of men in the middle of our ordinary occupations.