Homily – Fifth Sunday of Easter
Mother’s Day / Fatima Anniversary
Last week I spoke of how our nation’s bishops joined together to re-consecrate the U.S. to the Blessed Virgin Mary (BVM) and how the image of Our Lady of Fatima is in the sanctuary of St. Stephen’s throughout the month of May. Why do we do such things? Is this an example of ignoring the words of the Gospel today, “You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” Are we ignoring Jesus?
Quite simply faith in God and His Son is a family affair. Lets take a moment to remember one of the great events of our family history. The most marvelous miracle to grace the Christian era had to be the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima. At this event the Blessed Mother appeared to three shepherd children at Fatima, Portugal, during the First World War to deliver urgent messages about the need to turn to prayer, especially the Rosary, to steer the world from greater disaster. Her appearance wasn’t a onetime visit, but rather once a month for six months. While only the children witnessed her appearance, the Blessed Mother promised and delivered a miracle for those who accompanied the children. The concluding miracle was so tremendous that 70,000 people who gathered with the children witnessed the sun appear to dance in the sky. Atheistic secular newspapers reported it, and even witnesses miles away gave testimony to the event.
This week we celebrate Mother’s Day and we mark the 103rd anniversary of the BVM appearing to the three children at Fatima on Wednesday, May 13. All the popes of our lifetimes have had a great devotion to Our Lady of Fatima. Pope J.P.II attributed his survival from his assassination attempt to her intervention. That attempt occurred on May 13, 1981. Pope Francis has visited Fatima, and declared two of the visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto, saints.
The message of these apparitions involved the events of the 20th century and the time period we are in now. At the time of the apparition, Mary said that souls were being lost due to a growing godlessness. The Blessed Mother spoke to the children about the need to pray and offer sacrifice for those who didn’t believe in God so that certain worldwide disasters could be avoided. The sad part is that these tragedies were not avoided but rather became part of our history like Our Lady predicted: World War II began, Russia rose to power to spread atheism, persecuting religious people and destroying nations.
The hopefulness of these messages is that through prayer, specific prayer like: praying the Rosary daily, coming to Mass every first Saturday of the month and through the pope consecrating Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Russia would convert and the world would know an era of peace.
Most of us remember the bloodless change of government that happened in Russia during our life times, but were we aware that it was in 1984 that Pope St. J.P.II, with all the bishops of the world, consecrated Russia and the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?
One year later, Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power. The Berlin Wall came down without a gunshot in 1989. In 1990 Gorbachev, the atheist communist leader visited J.P. II and asked him to pray for his country. As the forces of Communism dissipated, a last struggle was made to maintain it through a coup attempt against Gorbachev that was defeated on August 22, 1991, the Feast of the Queenship of Mary. This is a story of a mother intervening to save her children from danger. Why wouldn’t she?
In sacred scripture Mary’s motherhood is nothing less than a perfect model of motherhood. At the Annunciation, she accepts God’s will and brings His Son, the Logos, into the world. Her humility enabled her to cooperate with God. She was the perfect instrument to bring the world its Savior. Her maternal love brings the world its greatest love, Jesus. Mary brought this Love of God to others. With her heart full of God’s love and Christ in her womb she goes on a mission of charity to visit her cousin Elizabeth. Her love for God doesn’t allow her to step aside and retire after she delivers God’s Son into the world at Bethlehem. She is there to begin the Gospel. She initiates His mission by having Him perform His first public miracle at the Wedding Feast of Cana. She is faithfully with Him till the bitter end of His ministry when He offers himself for our sins at Calvary. Our Lady is even there in the upper room with the Apostles when they receive the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And because of this, we see her as Mother of the Church.
In this role of Mother of the Church she intervenes to bring us to our senses, to bring us to her Son. Her urgent message at Fatima is that the reason for the discord in the world is godlessness. Whether it is a government that outlaws the practice of religion, such as the Soviet system, or a people who live as if God doesn’t exist, like in much of the West. This is what leads us to disaster as a people and damnation as a person. Mary leads us back to God.
All of our mothers have shared life and love with us. Our mothers did not benefit from being immaculate, but nevertheless they gave us a share of maternal love that is good preparation for the perfect love of Christ: complete, unconditional, and reliable every step of the way. Mothers give us a glimpse of the love Christ has for us. But this just points us in the right direction. As Mary told the waiters and Cana, “Do what he tells you.” We come to know love more completely by our own relationship with Jesus – by prayer, by making constant decisions to reject sin, by imitation of His friends (the saints), and His own mother. Speaking of imitating Mary, what was the circumstance in which she gave this instruction to the waiters?
She was orchestrating the rescue of the unsuspecting couple at Cana from a tremendous party foul, running out of wine. And what was the circumstance that gave Our Lady the opportunity to save this bride and groom from social disaster? They had invited Jesus and Mary to their wedding. This is a lesson for us all. We must learn to invite Jesus and Mary into our lives.
St. Pius of Pietrelcina (aka, Padre Pio), a saint our time, had a motto that I think needs to be recited every morning before we get our daily dose of fear from the media, “Hope, pray, don’t worry.” Let’s repeat that, …
I think that this is a fair contemporary rendering of today’s Gospel, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You have faith in God; have faith also in me.” That is, we hope for heaven, the Father’s House, where there are many mansions being prepared. It is the object of the supernatural virtue of hope. We trust that Divine Providence is working in our lives and in the world with all things to make us saints, to bring us to heaven. The exercise of the hopeful is to pray. Prayer is the expression of our faith. This invitation of Jesus and the saints into our lives opens us up to divine perspectives and possibilities. This all works to eliminate worry.
There are all sorts of words for worry, such as: anxiety, stress, lack of confidence, or low self-esteem. And there are lots of ready examples of worry, such as people driving alone in their cars with masks on. Such anxiety leads to a fate worse than suffering coronavirus, unhappiness. We can never ultimately place our trust in things, people, science or government. These can never provide for what we hope. When such material or temporal goods are the object of hope for a culture or society, it leads to upheaval, revolution, rash and extreme solutions to our problems that tend to dehumanize, such as Communism and Totalitarianism. These are extreme human solutions of a people who solely look to themselves to solve their society’s problems. But as of late, how closely we Americans resemble these people we once pitied?
The number one message of God’s Divine Word in sacred scripture for us personally is our redemption. How God prepared the world for a Savior and delivered. But the number one message of the Bible for society is that a people who invoke the Lord, who make a place for Him in their society will have a more humane solutions and enjoy greater freedom and peace.
As we honor our mothers this day we must honor our heavenly mother also. She doesn’t want brunch. She is not as impressed with a fancy flower arrangement as she is with the arrangement of five decades of Our Fathers and Hail Marys that beautifully crown our devotion to her in the Holy Rosary. She has given us the solution to world crises!
Think of the difference. The worldly powers demand we stay confined to our homes, threaten our livelihood, sacrifice our social life, and cut us off from the consolation of the sacraments. They turn our lives up side down, run rough-sod over revered constitutions and ignore the Bill Rights that we so proudly boast to the world about, all in order to resolve the unknown crisis. What is the solution prescribed by the Queen of Heaven for worldwide threats to our well being?
A minor inconvenience that I guarantee will give us many consolations. We are to set aside 15-20 minutes to invite Jesus and Mary into our life. How could we be content with less and still call ourselves followers of the Lord? An extremely flawed man, Governor Northam, gives an Executive Order and we upset our lives. The Queen of Heaven has the sun dance for us to prove the importance of her message and we think that it is too bothersome. Honestly, we have all had to recalibrate our understanding of inconvenience as of recent. Let’s readjust once more to make room for the Holy Rosary. Peace and freedom are resting on shaky ground. Our prayers are still very necessary for the continued conversion of godlessness in the world.