Sunday, October 26, 2008

Looking at Fatima

IT’S October once again. On the spotlight is the devotion to Our Lady of Fatima, particularly when we recall the last of her apparitions on October 13, 1917 culminating in the famous ‘dancing of the sun’ or ‘miraculous solar phenomenon’ (that Pinoy Catholics are in awe of). Lest we forget, they were not simply a grand display of God’s power at work through Mary’s intercession. They were an urgent call on people, sinners like you and me, to conversion. Take away conversion and we’re roundly off the mark on Fatima.

The apparitions at Fatima and their calls to prayers and sacrifice for the conversion of sinners are seldom talked about in our day and age. But they reveal an ever urgent message for our personal, political and social lives. That message is ageless.

In the first place, it is an echo of the very first summons by Jesus himself. “This is the time of fulfillment,” he declares as he begins his ministry. “The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the good news!” (Mk 1:15). It shows you and me how Mama Mary fulfills even until now her identity and mission as the foremost disciple of Jesus Christ the Savior. It reveals deeply how she is a most faithful human collaborator in the work of salvation. Which argues much for our devotion to their Twin Hearts. Our Lady of Fatima is in perfect sync with her Son in fulfilling the saving mission from the Father.

Second, the extraordinary sufferings of the visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta Marto who, together with Lucia their cousin, relayed the message of conversion to humankind with courage and love, are a testament to the continuing reality of the Paschal Mystery of Jesus in and through the witness of Christians. Simply said, we find the deeper meaning of our sufferings by offering them to the Father in union with the sufferings of Jesus on the cross at Calvary. In a word, our sufferings can be redemptive when seen and embraced in union with those of the Crucified Redeemer. The irony of the Christian life that we see especially in the heroic sacrifices of the visionaries Jacinta and Francisco is that the more we spend ourselves for the salvation of others, the more we are guaranteed our own salvation.

Third, the visions that, for a long time, were kept in secret are both a warning and a source of hope for us. A warning for all of us sinners as to the utter self-destruction awaiting our persistence in sin. The brief vision of hell is in point. We should not take the message of Fatima for granted in regard to conversion in our own personal life and in the life of our fellow human beings. Have we really “been there, done that” as a program of living? On the other hand, when we truly heed the message of Our Lady through the child visionaries, God’s mercy abounds and rescues us from sin’s clutches.

Fourth, the Holy Rosary is both our way of communing with Our Lady and the child visionaries as well as our spiritual means to be suffused, so as to live, by the mysteries of the Lord’s life, suffering, death and resurrection that are key to our salvation. We pray for salvation not only for ourselves but for all mankind. The saying, “We’re in this together” is nowhere more right than in our human journey to salvation.

Finally, we who call on Our Lady of Fatima are ever challenged to join Mama Mary’s continuing crusade. Devotion to her must lead us to humbly face up to our sinfulness and, with confidence, to rely on the power of God to aid us as we rise to follow Jesus on the way to the realization of his Kingdom on earth. Mama Mary’s powerful intercession and witness are a cause for hope and source of strength.

St. John Chrysostom said: “When you perceive that God is chastening you, fly not to his enemies…but to his friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to him…” (Oratio, viii, Adv. Jus., 6). One of them stands out—Mary, Our Lady of Fatima.

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