At the Mass celebrated in the Church of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Caracas (August 10, 2001)

My dear brothers and sisters:

I can’t find words to express my gratitude to God for the opportunity to take part in this celebration of the Eucharist with all of you. So many things come to mind that I want to share with you and that for me are a call to be faithful, because this church of the Holy Family of Nazareth owes its existence to Blessed Josemaria, who had such great love for the people of Venezuela. Go frequently to his intercession. He will certainly listen to you and encourage you to seek out our Lord each day.

My thoughts also turn to Blessed Josemaria’s first successor, whose encouragement was so important in the building of this church. How marvelous is the unity of the communion of saints, which gives us the assurance that we are never separated from one another!

These two outstanding figures of the twentieth century continue to watch over us from heaven, assisting us in our needs and loving us with the charity that reigns there. They taught us that in Opus Dei, in the Prelature of Opus Dei, we have to be men and women who support the Holy Father and his intentions by our lives. Let us always pour out our affection and prayers for the Roman Pontiff, so that our Lord will protect him and strengthen him in the fulfillment of his Petrine ministry. How much the Pope loves Venezuela! How much the Pope expects from each Venezuelan’s struggle for holiness!

I also wish to express my gratitude to Cardinal Ignacio Velasco, shepherd of this diocese. It is through his good will that I find myself here celebrating this Eucharist at which, let us never forget it, the whole Church is present. May this thought spur all of us to always put great vigilance into how we live as Christians.

In this beautiful church dedicated to the Holy Family, let us consider some words that Blessed Josemaria so liked to repeat: Yes, my children, my brothers and sisters, each of us belongs to that family of Nazareth. We are not strangers there. Our lives, our worries, our sufferings, our joys are entirely shared by Jesus, by Mary, by Joseph. Let us enter into that home to which we all belong, and try to live our own life in accord with what we learn there.

Forgive my insistence, but I learned all I know from this faithful servant who has been enjoying God since 1975. He made us see that in that home one did not speak of “me” but of “you.” What a lesson for each of us: we have to place our entire life at the service of the others. I assure you that this charity will fill your days with a great faithfulness and a happiness that transcends this world; our whole life will have a divine transcendence if we live with Christ.

We belong to that family, and we have to give witness everywhere to the reality of our deep union with Christ. Let us imitate him! He came to earth to open to us the divine path to holiness through ordinary life. This was the seed that he placed in Blessed Josemaria’s heart in 1928, to remind the whole world that Christ has taken on our nature, that he has walked the paths of this earth. Jesus shows us that in our daily life, in our professional work, our family, our friendships, our healthy relaxation, all of us can become saints.

Therefore I ask you, and I ask myself: How close am I to Jesus Christ? Is he my Friend? The One I confide in? My point of reference?

Recall that the Pope has recently cited those words from the Gospel we just read: Duc in altum! With Christ, halfway measures have no place. As Blessed Josemaria stressed once and again: our Lord is constantly urging us to “put out into the deep!” He asks us to launch out onto the marvelous sea of seeking and loving God. Then the wonders of that scene will be repeated among us. If we cast the nets of God’s love wherever we find ourselves, the fruit will be abundant, and many people will join us in our efforts. We have the certainty that with Christ we can reach very far, we can reach sanctity.

Alongside this sowing of charity, my brothers and sisters, we have to be very aware of our own unworthiness, like Peter who tells our Lord, “Depart from me,” while also being certain that He will never abandon us. We can never think that holiness is beyond us, that we aren’t at the right level, even if we are going through difficult circumstances. We can be saints, and we can work miracles of conversion in our own lives and in the lives of others, if we live alongside Christ. We must tell him: “Lord, don’t leave me. Let me take refuge in your love, in your protection.”

May each of us sincerely strive to fulfill God’s will, in order to truly be God’s daughters and sons. What an important role each of you has! Never feel excluded from God’s love or from the responsibility of building up his Church in your home, and wherever you work.

This goal, I repeat, is within our grasp, because God never asks us for what is impossible. Don’t think that holiness is only for the few; it is for all of God’s children. To help us attain this great reality, this church of yours provides us with two marvelous examples: holy Mary, God’s most exalted creature, and the man who was perfect in his search for holiness, St. Joseph. We belong to that Family. Let us look to Mary and contemplate, as the Gospel shows us, how she pondered every act of her Son, who was God, striving to grasp the mystery of the redemption that he had come to bring about. Ask Mary to teach you how to ponder Christ’s teachings, in order to conform our entire life, down to our last breath, to whatever God is asking of us. And do you know what Blessed Josemaria called St. Joseph? “The cheerful saint who knew how to shrug his shoulders,” because he accepted whatever burden God wanted to place on him. He had to confront many hardships, but he always made himself available for God’s plans. Go to Joseph, and learn from his cheerful and fruitful humility.

And I tell you once again, never forget that each and every one of us belongs to that marvelous Family of Nazareth. Let us strive to create the atmosphere we see there wherever we are and bring the good news that we are God’s children to every corner of Venezuela. Love your country very much, it deserves it.

This demands that each of you feels your responsibility to behave in an upright manner. And how do we do so? By loving contrition and confession. Carry out a constant apostolate of this sacrament of God’s joy and pardon. Don’t be afraid to speak about it. Encourage people to put things right with God. Pray for them, and if necessary, help them understand that Christ’s five wounds remain open for them. They are his credentials of love for us, so that we can find refuge there and obtain his forgiveness, when we have had the misfortune of separating ourselves from him either a little or a lot. Make use of this sacrament, be catechists of this sacrament. Don’t have the false human respect that tries to keep us from speaking about God’s forgiveness. Make this great reality clearly known to everyone, so that all may feel themselves loved, understood, and welcomed in the Family of Nazareth.

May God bless you!

Romana, n. 33, July-December 2001, p. 170-173.

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