Interview in the Avvenire Newspaper, Italy (December 13, 2020)
Monsignor Ocáriz, the spirituality of Opus Dei consists in discovering – and helping others to discover – the divine paths on earth, as St. Josemaría Escrivá used to say. In today’s society, where do these paths lead us?
All paths, the path of the earth, are divine to the extent that we discover them as paths that lead us to God. If we contemplate this world with the eyes of those who know they are children of a Father who loves us, who has put us here to love him and to love others, to sow peace and joy, then ordinary life takes on a completely different hue. Our existence becomes an adventure of love; we can find God in the midst of the most ordinary things.
In the Gospel there are many references to these “paths.” I am thinking of the one leading from Jerusalem to Jericho. The Good Samaritan discovered God in the poor man lying by the roadside. We can all discover our Lord in the faces of others, in family and social duties, in the fulfillment of the most ordinary tasks, if we do them with love.
In your book In the Light of the Gospel you share with readers your personal notes for prayer, collected since 1977. Why did you decide to publish these?
I accepted the publisher’s request to give some of these notes a more “systematic” format, hoping that, with God’s help, they would encourage readers to seek direct contact with Jesus through contemplation and prayer, which, as St. Josemaría said in The Way, “is never a monologue.”
How does one achieve intimacy with God by meditating on Jesus’ words? Your book is an invitation to personal dialogue.
It is certainly helpful to try to read the Gospel with love and gratitude. Even if we read only a few words, they are a gift from God, a way he has chosen to be close to us and to continue speaking to us. Moreover, it is good that there is also some continuity, as in human relationships. Friendship grows through familiarity with others. I remember an article that the then Cardinal Ratzinger published for the canonization of St. Josemaría. The future Benedict XVI wrote that holiness consists in “talking to God as one talks to a friend.” Reading the Gospel with persevering love helps us to be friends of our Lord.
How can the Gospel inspire today’s laity, absorbed in a life that is often so demanding that they hardly have time to breathe?
It is precisely the Gospel that can give us room to breathe, help us to rest, and teach us to live with Christ’s peace in the midst of such a demanding life. By growing in friendship with Jesus, we can learn to live in the present, loving the reality that God gives us. There is no human situation that cannot receive light through friendship with Jesus, which we can deepen through the Gospel. If we are truly concerned about our spiritual life, we will find the space needed for a calm and contemplative reading, from which we can draw the strength to face the challenges of each day with peace and serenity.
Your concern is always centered on the person of Jesus. How can we encounter him in everyday life?
At times, before starting his work, St. Josemaría would say to our Lord: “Jesus, let’s do this together.” It’s a beautiful act of faith that enables us to realize that he is really at our side. And so simple... Along with this, we can also dedicate moments throughout the day to dialogue with Jesus. And we can find him in the people with whom we come into contact for family, work or other reasons. This is not just a simple technique for doing good. Jesus himself told us that he is present in the people around us. Thus our hearts will be open to the needs of others. In the end, with God’s grace, it is possible to make each day a dialogue with our Lord.
“Holiness in the middle of the world,” so characteristic of Opus Dei’s message, could almost seem a goal that is out of reach, a noble objective, but somewhat exaggerated. Is it really possible?
It is possible, and we have the example of the lay saints of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. To seek it, one needs to know, at least to some extent, the times in which we live, their potential, their limitations and the injustices, even grave ones, that afflict them. But, above all, it requires our personal union with Jesus, allowing ourselves to be loved by Him in the sacraments and in prayer. This “claim” is already the patrimony of the whole Church. St. Paul VI said that the central message of the Second Vatican Council is the universal call to holiness. Pope Francis recently dedicated an apostolic exhortation, Gaudete et exsultate, precisely to the call of the laity to holiness in the contemporary world.
Young people (but also adults) are immersed in a cultural climate that seems to view every choice as equal. How can we help people today to discover the Christian values that give a solid foundation to life?
Rather than “Christian values,” I prefer to speak about the person of Christ as the foundation of the lives of young people – and of course of everyone. Christianity is not primarily a set of moral principles, nor a system of values. It is fundamentally about growing in love for Jesus: the Way, the Truth and the Life. All of us, young and old, want to be happy. All the decisions we make, in the end, are aimed at making us happy, and thus we will be able to contribute to the happiness of others (our family and friends). We often make mistakes, but we can always get back on the right track. To discover that our Lord satisfies every desire for happiness is the great challenge we Christians have. To show, with our life and our words, that Jesus is the only one who can quench the thirst for goodness, truth and beauty that all men and women (and young people in particular) sense in their hearts.
Romana, n. 73, July-December 2021, p. 52-55.