Homily preached on the feast of Our Lady of Fatima – 13th May 2016
Is 61:9-11, Ps 45:11-17, Luke 11:27-28
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Fatima, just one year shy of the centenary anniversary of this apparition of Mother Mary in Fatima - Portugal. Our Lady’s message to humanity through the three children (Lucia, Francisco and Jancinta) can be quickly summarized as follows; first, humanity has sinned greatly and there is an urgent need for conversion. Many souls are getting damned, and therefore those who love our Lord Jesus and Mother Mary must pray and do penance. "pray much and make sacrifices for sinners, for many souls go to hell because there is no one to make sacrifices for them." Secondly, "You must recite the Rosary every day in honor of Our Lady of the Rosary to obtain peace for the world and the end of the war for only she can obtain this." Thirdly, Our Lady urges devotion to her immaculate heart according to the wishes of Our Lord Jesus. “Tell everybody that God grants graces through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and that they must ask them from her. Tell them that the Heart of Jesus wishes that by His side should be venerated the Immaculate Heart of Mary”
On this feast of Our Lady of Fatima, Holy Mother Church gives us a set of readings that clearly urge us to ‘Listen and Trust’. That we listen in the midst of a noisy world, and we trust in the face of every reason to despair. In the Gospel, Mother Mary becomes a subject of discussion between an unnamed woman and Jesus. Both have two different perspectives of looking at Mary. This woman must have judged Jesus as a hero whom any mother would be proud of. She was saying that Mary would be perfectly justified (by human standards) to brag before other women and anybody who cares to listen and say ‘see, I have a great son’. But Jesus corrects this woman by pointing out that this is a rather superficial way of assessing the worth of Our Lady. Her greatness is not so much because of her biological motherhood but because of her spiritual surrender to the will of God. It is because of her resignation to hear and trust in God. Jesus wants to say that in Mary the prayer of the psalmist is fulfilled. ‘Listen oh daughter, pay heed and give ear’. The psalmist says that it is after listening and disregarding every other opinion including that of family members that the daughter of the King is clothed with splendor and her robes are threaded with gold. In the first reading, Trito Isaiah is writing to a house of Israel that has been devastated by exile experience and facing a ruined city of Jerusalem that has nothing to offer. Yet the Lord promises that he will clothe them with righteousness, and there experience of righteousness will be their reason to praise.
The gospel and the psalm image the journey of mother Mary from the ‘lowly virgin of Nazareth’ to her assumption as the Queen of heaven. The first reading would appropriately image our pilgrim Church, because even after we have been redeemed from the exile of sin by baptism, we are yet to reach the rest of the glorified Jerusalem. We are yet to complete the Journey that mother Mary has already done ahead of us. But in Mother Mary we have a model, a mother, and a guide. In this journey all she is saying is ‘listen to the Word of God (my son) and trust in his promises’.
Listening and trusting is the message our Lady brought in Fatima. As we speak, our world is in a state of convulsion. The Church declared this year, ‘year of mercy’ because we are badly in need of God’s mercy. We can’t heal ourselves. The extent of the sin of unbelief in our world manifested by theoretical and practical atheism, cannot be remedied by ‘high sounding’ preaching. It requires a direct intervention of God. The extent of the sin of greed in our world is unspeakable. Greed sponsor wars in Africa and Middle East so as to loot minerals and oil. From North to South, East and West greed turns brother against brother and sister against sister and they kill each other. Greed sustains a version of capitalism that kills the weak in the indignity of poverty while the mighty wallow in consumerism as they kill their souls. Do I need to say anything about the un-chastity that no longer respects nature, or vain glory and the wrath that kills? Our world is in a moral condition that cannot be helped by a series of moral sermons, as much as preaching is important. We need God Himself to intervene and clothe his people with righteousness. We need God himself to intervene and cause conversion of hearts. It is we the children of the Church who are aware of our own sinfulness and the sinfulness of the world that need real preaching so as to listen and trust. To listen and to trust to what mother Mary the foremost prophet of our time is saying.
One hundred years later, the message of Fatima is more relevant than ever before. Pray, Pray, Pray. Mother Mary asks us to pray for conversion of the world, to pray for peace in the world and to pray for the Church especially in her ministers. Mother Mary says we pray the Rosary. After Fatima in two other apparitions of Our Lady that have been approved by the Church (Akita - Japan and Kibeho - Rwanda), Mother Mary repeats the same message. Are we listening? Are we trusting? No Catholic has an excuse for not listening, not trusting and not doing what our Lady is saying. None of us can argue that I am a ‘nobody’ in this world! She did not ask us to negotiate with war lords, she did not ask us draw treaties between nations, she did not ask write books, she did not even ask us to preach! She asked what every person of good will can do regardless of their social, economic ecclesiastical or political status. She simply said pray the rosary and do penance for the said intentions! Is anybody listening, is anybody trusting?
My brothers and sisters, our world has spent a lot of time trying to negotiate and advocate for peace but it is always elusive. A lot of money and uncountable man-hours have gone into advocacy for various causes in this world, but the intended goal is always elusive, at least it doesn’t hold for long! I am not saying that all these efforts are useless, but I am saying that by and large, we have refused to trust the simple solution the mother of God is giving us. Probably it is too simple that we don’t believe it will work! Can’t you see how complicated the problem is? But wait a minute; the real complication is not in the external problem, but in the unrepentant sinful heart that causes the problem! If this is the case, then we know as human beings we cannot ‘negotiate hearts’. We have no capacity to do that, and that is why mother Mary says ‘Pray’. Only the ‘praying’, ‘trusting’ and ‘watching’ ‘heart’ is able to recognize its Lord and opens the door for Him to come in heal it. When the hearts are healed, wars will cease, and our greedy hearts will be turned into hearts that thirst for God alone. Let us therefore for once admit that we have failed, and let us accept to give our Lady’s strategy a chance. Let us pray the rosary and do penance for the intentions Mother Mary has outlined.