A Centennial’s Meaning

The apostles had tried to cure an epileptic boy, but all their attempts met with failure. What Jesus could easily accomplish proved to be impossible for his disciples. Finally Christ arrived and expelled the demon, restoring the youth at once.

“Why could we not cast it out?” the disciples asked afterwards. “Because of your little faith,” Jesus replied. “For truly, I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move hence to yonder place,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.”[1]

Blessed Josemaria Escriva commented on this gospel passage in The Way, inviting each reader to make it a reality in his own life through the ideals of sanctity and apostolate. Si habueritis fidem, sicut granum sinapis! “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed!...”

What promises are contained in this exclamation of the Master!”[2]

Like those disciples, anyone at times can see resolutions and undertakings come to naught. One could even be tempted to think that it’s impossible to contribute positively to the progress of history, even in the small portion that each of us is called to live out. What can one person do in the face of history’s march and the inexorable laws of nature and society? Isn’t it naive to hope to positively shape the future, not to mention the world’s destiny?

“For freedom Christ has set us free.”[3] Aware of this, a Christian knows that his every choice either builds up or wears away the Christian orientation of his age. The temptation to lose heart betrays a weak faith, which yields the insipid fruit of mediocrity. “Many great things depend-don’t forget it-on whether you and I live our lives as God wants,”[4] wrote Blessed Josemaria. The faith of Christ’s disciples, even if no bigger than a grain of mustard, enables divine grace to act through human actions, through the exercise of each one’s creative freedom, and to work miracles, to move mountains, to change the world.

The centennial of Blessed Josemaria’s birth offers us a heroic example of how to overcome all kinds of hindrances to carrying out a God-given mission. Throughout his life he could have appealed to many good reasons to forsake the ideal God had planted in his heart. But he brushed them all aside and struggled to correspond to divine grace. That’s why today his life is an example of someone who sought to direct to Christ the course of history. Our Lord’s promise is bountifully fulfilled in his life: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.”[5]

“Don’t let your life be sterile. Be useful. Blaze a trail.”[6] Whenever a Christian, moved by grace, responds with faith, his own life is transformed. But the benefits also overflow onto the world around him. The fast-approaching centennial of the birth of Opus Dei’s founder is a call to both the Prelature’s faithful and to so many others who find in his example a stimulus and source of light. All of us feel urged to contemplate not only his determination, his docility to the Holy Spirit, in seeking union with God in his own life, but also the impact of his deeds and teachings on society.

Dwelling on his life will prompt each of us to a renewed resolution to conform our own life to Christ’s and to take up our apostolic mission: “seeking holiness in the middle the world,”[7] with no concessions to worldliness. The benefits flowing from the centennial’s celebration should be, first, personal decisions to draw closer to God, to strengthen one’s own Christian life, to serve others generously, helping them to seek Christ, to find Christ, to deal with Christ, to love Christ.

Secondly, we are all asked to reflect more deeply on Blessed Josemaria’s influential message, striving to better grasp its content and explore its myriad applications to present-day circumstances. The richness of his spiritual legacy, teaching men and women how to sanctify the temporal order, and the undertakings born of that spirit’s warmth are there for all to see. The centennial is a marvelous occasion for those of us with a greater responsibility for continuing Blessed Josemaria’s mission to delve more deeply, more daringly, into that treasure of doctrine and deeds of service.

God entrusted Opus Dei’s founder with a charism and a specific spirit. In the warmth of their light, Bishop Alvaro del Portillo said in 1993, “countless fruits of Christian life have matured at all social levels, thanks to God’s grace. Stirred by his preaching on the universal call to holiness and apostolate, an ever greater, more vigorous mobilization of Christians committed to radically following Christ in daily life has arisen. Every corner of the world has witnessed the birth and growth of a great variety of beneficent and educational undertakings. What Blessed Josemaria taught has been transformed into realities, inspiring so many ordinary Christians to glorify God and serve all men and women with their work.”[8]

The centennial of his birth invites us to reflect on the already substantial fruit of the message proclaimed by Blessed Josemaria, “a man hungry for God and therefore a great apostle.”[9] Therein we discover the transforming power of grace and also, as a spur to our hope, an impressive example of the fruitfulness attained by those who heed Christ’s voice: Duc in altum! “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”[10]

[1] Mt 17:14-21.

[2] The Way, 585.

[3] Gal 5:1.

[4] The Way, 755.

[5] Jn 15:16.

[6] The Way, 1.

[7] Conversations with Monsignor Escrivá de Balaguer, 62.

[8] Bishop Álvaro del Portillo, Santidad y mundo, EUNSA, Pamplona 1996, p. 278.

[9] John Paul II, Address, March 17, 2001.

[10] Lk 5:4.

Romana, n. 32, January-June 2001, p. 8-10.

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