The Splendor of Charity

On October 6, 2002, Pope John Paul II included Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer in the roll of the saints. From that day on, we began to hear a widespread comment: St. Josemaría now no longer belongs just to Opus Dei, but to the whole Church. His example, his teachings, his intercession are open more than ever to all Catholics and to all men and women of good will, wherever they may be.

On a human plane, children are a portrait of their parents. On the supernatural plane, it also happens that many people discover St. Josemaría through contact with his children. Relatives, friends and colleagues understand the message of sanctifying work when the faithful of Opus Dei are able to express it in deeds of charity, eloquent in the highest degree. Intellectual discovery is often preceded by a personal encounter; many people learn to love St. Josemaría and become interested in the profundity of his words when they see the affection of his children.

Interest in the Work arises at times from apparently negative episodes. Falsehoods that circulate periodically are not something new, but are part of life for individuals and institutions. Myths also accompany the Church, which has been a sign of contradiction from its very beginning. St. Josemaría used a very expressive metaphor in this regard: “They have treated the Work,” he said in a get-together, “like a sack of wheat. It’s been beaten and battered about. But the seeds are so small that they haven’t broken. On the contrary, the seeds have scattered to the four winds, and landed wherever hearts hungry for the Truth were present.”[1] Therefore, we aren’t surprised by circumstances that are apparently negative, nor do they rob us of our peace. Rather they remind us of that point in Furrow: “All the things that are now worrying you can be put into a smile which shows your love of God.”[2] Problems in life are never lacking; the important thing is that our reaction be supernatural, Christian, filled with charity. It is our faith that makes this possible, with the certainty of divine filiation, and therefore assured that victory is already ours. “In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”[3]

Falsehoods do not mar the image of the Church. Rather they help people to grasp its beauty better, by contrast. Something similar happens with the Work. Its image is that given by the Prelature’s faithful. The beauty of Opus Dei is expressed in the charity with which we try to treat those around us, also when facing opposition or when misunderstandings need to be cleared up. Explaining the truth with charity is the best way to disarm falsehood. As St. Paul taught, “noli vinci a malo, sed vince in bono malum”:[4] do not be overcome by evil, but rather overcome evil with good. Only the light of charity can illumine the darkness of rancor.

Charity is joined to the positive work of communicating the truth, placing all our talents at the service of spreading good doctrine. The mission of Catholics includes working to set forth good arguments: accompanying our colleagues and friends towards the truth, so that they discover it for themselves and adhere to it freely. As Benedicts XVI pointed out in his first encyclical: in the task of “bringing about the most just society possible,” the Church wishes to contribute “through rational argument,” in addition to trying “to reawaken the spiritual energy without which justice, which always demands sacrifice, cannot prevail and prosper…The promotion of justice through efforts to bring about openness of mind and will to the demands of the common good is something which concerns the Church deeply.”[5]

The work of opening minds and moving wills, in a context of freedom, requires of Catholics an effort to be “good explainers,” to use an expression St. Josemaría liked, striving to be at the level of the frequently complex problems that need to be clarified. Showing that the faith is reasonable, that morality leads to happiness, that Christ has come to free us, are some of the convictions that our world urgently needs, with so many people longing for these discoveries deep in their hearts.

For Catholics, the best argument is one’s own life. The Church is convincing when it shows forth the marvels that grace has worked throughout its history. Therefore, the best way to respond to falsehoods about the Church and the Prelature of Opus Dei is to let the reality be seen, with modesty and simplicity. With personal and collective humility, seeking only the glory of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.[6] In various places in the Gospel, our Lord refers to his disciples as children of the light, who have no fear of the truth, and who know that God is the author of everything good.

Living charity is the best way of informing people about the Church and about Opus Dei: loving is a way of knowing and of letting oneself be known. This is an eminently practical and positive work, proper to people “with big hearts and arms wide open, ready to drown evil in an abundance of good, because Opus Dei is not ‘anti-anything.’ It is always affirmation, youth, optimism and victory, and charity towards everyone.”[7]

[1] St. Josemaría Escrivá, Get-together, 29 December 1970.

[2] St. Josemaría Escrivá, Furrow, no. 89.

[3] Jn 16:33.

[4] Rom 12:21.

[5] Benedict XVI, Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, no. 28.

[6] Jn 3:19-21.

[7] St. Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer, Instruction, May 1935 / 14 September 1950, no. 88.

Romana, n. 42, January-June 2006, p. 8-9.

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