On October 4, 1947, almost exactly seventy years ago, Jose Ramon Madurga a numerary member of Opus Dei arrived by ferry to Dublin to begin the Work in Ireland.
I wonder how many times did he repeat to himself the key line from today’s Gospel. I wonder as he stepped of the boat did he think to himself: “Now I Launch out into the deep”?
The Gospel just read was a favourite Gospel text of St Josemaría Escrivá who was inspired by God to found (even though he said he never wanted to found anything) Opus Dei on October 2, 1928, the feast of the Guardian Angels.
And he repeated this message over and again throughout his life in word and deed, as for example in his key homily Passionately Loving the World in Navarre in 1967: “everyday life is the true setting for your lives as Christians”, St Josemaria said in that well known homily in the campus of the University of Navarre on October 8, 1967.
He went on to preach the by now famous lines:
Your daily encounter with Christ takes place where your fellow men, your yearnings, your work and your affections are. It is in the midst of the most material things of the earth that we must sanctify ourselves, serving God and all mankind.
This I have been teaching all the time, using words from Holy Scripture: the world is not evil, because it comes from the hands of God, because it is his creation, because Yahweh looked upon it and saw that it was good. It is we ourselves, men and women, who make it evil and ugly with our sins and unfaithfulness. Don’t doubt it, my children: any attempt to escape from the noble reality of daily life is, for you men and women of the world, something opposed to the will of God.
On the contrary, 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 theatre, in the army barracks, in the university chair, 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.
Right now in Ireland this message is needed more than ever. Religion must not become a private pastime, confined to the church building or your own living room.
The love of Christ urges us; it is because we love God and love our brothers and sisters, passionately, our work colleagues, our friends our country that we must bring about the regnum Christi – the Kingdom of God. To do this we must “launch out into the deep”.
When this same truth dawns on us that we are apostles and are called to sanctify ourselves, our work and the part of the world where the good Lord has put us, when this impresses itself upon our soul, how differently we begin to look at our lives. Life is looked at in a different way: a supernatural way.
Yes, there is failure. Yes, we are weak and sinful. Yes, we rebel, stumble, and fall. Yet, as St Josemaria reminds us, the Lord in his mercy loves us like a father and invites us to trust him and love him amid every obstacle and challenge.
Because of the spirit of trust which we have as sons and daughters of God, when this takes deep root in our souls, we do not hesitate to confess our sins in the sacrament of penance and in God’s mercy we find true hope. Blessed are all who put their trust in God!
There will be in our lives, as there was in the life St Josemaría, misunderstandings and sufferings; there will be difficulties. Indeed, I am sure there are times when you experience the cross in what Pope Francis calls “polite persecution” for holding fast to your faith.
Yet it is in the cross – the little crosses of everyday – that we find light, peace, and joy! It is when we suffer with Christ and for Christ in the midst of our daily labours, when we follow the way of the cross and in his grace reproduce his passion and death, that we understand what it truly means to be the children of God and to really know Christ.
And it is only when we embrace the cross that we become not only true disciples but indeed apostles, sent into the world to lead others to Christ and to the Church.
In the Gospel, we see the disciples who had fished all night to no avail. When Jesus says to them “cast your nets into the deep”, the haul of fish is tremendous, their nets were filled to the breaking point and their boats were even in danger of sinking.
This invitation, indeed, this command, “lower your nets for a catch” is addressed not only to the Apostles and not only to priests and those in consecrated life: it is addressed to every follower of Christ, to every member of the Church, and not just priests and religious.
Indeed, St. John Paul II taught that it is the laity who are the principal agents of the new evangelization: “for you daily bring the Gospel into your homes and your places of work and among your friends and acquaintances, in sports clubs and offices, and in every noble human endeavour”.
Through our daily prayers and sacraments, our reading of scripture, our penances, getting to know Christ in the little things of each day and raising up our daily work as a prayer to God, doing it well and in that way sanctifying it, offering others the example of what a Catholic Christian life is, speaking to them when the opportunity arises of the things of faith, not being afraid to speak on matters of importance to shine the light of Christ on our world. How much Ireland needs this now! You can ask yourself now – what more can I do to be an apostle, and then launch out into the deep.
As we celebrate this wonderful day in honour of St Josemaria Escriva, on this seventieth anniversary of the Work in Ireland we pray God to grant, “that by St Josemaría’s intercession and example we may, through our daily work, be formed in the likeness of [Christ] and serve the work of redemption with burning love!”
This is the text of a homily delivered in Knock Shrine, Co.Mayo on Sept. 30, 2017. Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan is the Roman Catholic Bishop of Waterford and Lismore.