Loving Christ’s Lambs and Sheep According to Our Lady of Fatima’s Appeal, Seventh Friday of Easter, May 13, 2016

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Sacred Heart Convent of the Sisters of Life, New York, NY
Friday of the Seventh Week of Easter
Memorial of Our Lady of Fatima
May 13, 2016
Acts 25:13-21, Ps 103, Jn 21:15-19

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • Today we pick up where we left off six weeks ago, on Friday of the Easter Octave, and Jesus’ appearance on the seashore of Galilee. We spoke then about how Jesus’ dialogue with Peter restores Peter to confidence that Peter can love Jesus agapically, in the same total self-sacrificial love with which Jesus loved him. Peter had promised during the Last Supper that he would die for the Lord only to fail three times. Now Jesus was challenging him to do so, to love him more than as a friend. When Peter demurred, Jesus at the end of the dialogue gave his great prophecy of how Peter would be crucified, which is what the Greek idiom “stretch out your hands” means. Jesus also describes for Peter how he would lay down his life for him ordinarily: through his love for others, through feeding his sheep, feeding his lambs, tending his sheep. His love for Jesus would be shown in his love for others. And it’s by constantly laying down our lives, sacrificing ourselves, dying to ourselves for God and others in little things that we become strong and capable of doing so in big.
  • This dialogue is placed at the beginning and end of the Easter Season because the Easter Season is meant to restore us to full life in Christ, to assist us in a conversion from betraying Christ in practice to loving him with total self-giving love. As we live out this Decenarium to the Holy Spirit, we look to how the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to remain faithful when our faith is being challenged, how He who is the love between the Father and the Son strengthens us to love God concretely in the love of others.
  • During this ecclesiastical novena, we imitate the wisdom of the early Church in huddling around Mary imploring the Holy Spirit. And today we have a particular lens into how Mary seeks to continue to help the Church prepare for and respond to the Holy Spirit’s gifts to strengthen us to feed and tend Christ’s sheep and lambs.
  • Today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady Fatima who on this day 99 years ago appeared to the three young shepherd children —  Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta — in the Cova da Iria in Portugal. Mary came to remind them and us of the need for a conversion like St. Peter’s, the same appeal with which Jesus Christ her Son began his public ministry (“Repent and believe in the Gospel”) and the same message with which he sent out his apostles at his Ascension (to proclaim “repentance for the forgiveness of sins to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem”). She specifically called the pastorinhos and through them the whole world to penance and conversion, asking these children to pray for the conversion of poor sinners and to offer up sacrifices, voluntary and involuntary penances, and sufferings for sinners’ conversion.
  • Why did she appear to children ages 7, 9 and 10? Obviously part of that answer is mysterious, but it’s likely because most of her older children — then and still now — routinely ignore this summons of her Son to pray for conversion of ourselves and others.
  • It’s very moving how Francisco, Jacinta and Lucia immediately acted on this summons. They prayed the Rosary for sinners. The recited between the mysteries of the Rosary a prayer Mary herself taught them that most Catholics continue to pray to this day: “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to heaven, especially those in most need of your mercy!” From the beginning of the apparitions, Francisco began to pray almost constantly to “console Jesus for the sins of the world.” One night, when his father discovered him sobbing in his room, Francisco gave the reason: “I was thinking of Jesus who is so sad because of the sins that are committed against him.” Jacinta was so convinced by the vision of the reality of Hell of the importance of saving sinners from it that she began to pour herself into prayer and practice various corporal mortifications. “Pray, pray much and make sacrifices for sinners,” Mary had told her. “Many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray and make sacrifices for them.” Jacinta responded, as did her brother, by prostrating themselves in prayer for hours, kneeling with their heads humbly bowed to the ground. They made all types of physical sacrifices, wearing tight cords around their waist, scourging themselves with stinging nettles, abstaining from water on hot days and other penitential practices. When both caught the terrible 1918 flu that took the lives of tens of thousands, they offered all of their sufferings for sinners. Having been told by Our Lady that she would take him to heaven soon, Francisco declined hospital treatment, bearing enormous pain with a smile and without complaint. Our Lady appeared to Jacinta and asked if she wanted to stay on earth a little longer to convert more sinners. She said yes. So the little girl allowed herself to be dragged from clinic to clinic, to have two of her ribs removed without anaesthesia, valiantly sacrificing herself as a victim for the conversion of sinners and for the Holy Father, whom she knew from the vision would suffer much. When Saint John Paul II beatified them in Fatima 16 years ago today, he lifted them up as an example to the whole world of what Christ-like and Marian love for the salvation of others looks like. He stressed that their lives demonstrate that children can be heroically virtuous and reach “the heights of perfection” at a very young age, and if they can so can all of us. Echoing the words of our Lady, the Pope reminded all children of God, however young, “Our Lady needs you all to console Jesus, who is sad because of the bad things done to him; he needs your prayers and your sacrifices for sinners.” This isn’t a new message. This is the Gospel. And our Lady was calling us to live it!
  • The second thing our Lady revealed were the stakes of taking this prayer and sacrifice for sinners seriously. The Blessed Mother showed the pastorinhos three different visions of the consequence of sin. The first vision was of hell, where Mary told them “the souls of poor sinners go.” They saw, as Lucia recounted, “a great sea of fire” with “demons and souls in human form… amid shrieks and groans of pain and despair,” which made them tremble with horror. Had Mary not promised them that she would help them get to heaven, Lucia said, she thinks they would have died of fear and terror. The second image conveyed to them that World War I would soon end, but Mary said that if people did not stop offending God a worse one would erupt in which God would “punish the world for its crimes.” She warned that unless Russia were converted, the communists would spread their errors throughout the world, causing war, annihilating nations, persecuting the Church and martyring millions. The third was a prophetic vision. An angel with a flaming sword cried out “Penance, Penance Penance!” as the children beheld a steep way of the Cross through a city laden with the corpses of martyred bishops, priests, religious and lay people, at the top of which was a “bishop in white” who likewise was shot and killed, an image of what would happen to Saint John Paul II 35 years ago today on the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. But he didn’t die. He himself said, in his first public comments after the assassination attempt, that “a Mother’s hand” guided the bullet so that even though it was shot at point black range by a trained assassin, even though it pierced five vital organs, he didn’t die. By means of the three visions, the children saw the real consequences of sin — hell, a world through in total turmoil, and a Church persecuted to the point of martyrdom. This is what Mary was calling them to pray could be avoided.
  • And Mary also revealed to them the means to overcome sin and all the evil to which sin leads. It is initially a very intriguing response. If I were to ask you — and even give you 100 guesses to come up with — the remedy for sin and all its effects, we would probably reply “prayer” or “confession” or “Eucharistic adoration” or “returning to the Sacraments” or “reading the Gospel” or “charity,” or something somewhat obvious like that. Mary said, however, that it would be consecration to her Immaculate Heart. She told the children that the remedy for all these ills would be a heart like hers, a pure heart that “sees God” in all situations, says “fiat” to Him at all times, treasures His word and acts on them. This type of heart is a stronger weapon that all the earth’s bullets, bombs and hijacked airplanes put together. It’s key for us to grasp that consecration to Mary’s Immaculate Heart is not a substitution for following Christ, because when we enter into Mary’s heart through consecration, we are entering precisely into her own participation in her Son’s consecration to the Father for our sanctification (Jn 17). The children took up that call to consecration with the arms of prayer and sacrifice that they were heroically putting to use.
  • This consecration Mary asked to be done personally, ecclesially and nationally. She was asking it of each of us, but she was also asking that Russia be consecrated to her by the Pope united with the Bishops of the world. Such actions of consecration, she was indicating, are quite valuable. It leads us to wonder whether we’re still following what she asked for and consecrating Russia, consecrating Syria and Iraq, consecrating China and North Korea, Cuba and Venezuela, consecrating Nigeria and Kenya, and our own country, our state, our city, our neighborhood, our family to her maternal love, protection and example. Such consecration matters! At a personal level it also matters and shouldn’t be looked at as a one-time thing. Saint John Paul II taught us all how to consecrate ourselves each day to Mary’s Immaculate Heart. He would pray, using St. Louis de Montfort’s consecratory formula, “I am all yours, O Mary, and all I have is yours. I receive you into the whole of my life. Give me your heart!” We should similarly constantly renew that consecration, which helps us to become fully a disciple of Christ of which Mary is the greatest example. It’s through living with a heart like Mary that we fulfill the Gospel announced by her Son.
  • Today at Mass on the 99th anniversary of her appearing to the Lucia, Francisco and Jacinta, we ask their intercession and hers so that we might respond to her summons just like they did and pray and sacrifice for the conversion and consecration of the world as we enter into Christ’s consecration in the Mass to the Father for our sanctification. Mass is the school of sacrificial love. We enter into Jesus’ agapic love and are not only told to do this in memory of him but are helped from the inside. This is what the Holy Spirit for whose coming we’re praying does. We recall that Jesus’ dialogue with Peter happened before Pentecost. After Pentecost, Peter, strengthened from on high by the Holy Spirit, fearlessly announced Jesus, suffering scourgings and threats as he continued to feed Christ’s sheep and lambs to the point of crucifixion. The same Holy Spirit who came upon him comes upon us in the perpetual Pentecost of the Mass. Let us receive this nourishment and like Peter go out to love Him in others above all.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 ACTS 25:13B-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea
on a visit to Festus.
Since they spent several days there,
Festus referred Paul’s case to the king, saying,
“There is a man here left in custody by Felix.
When I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and the elders of the Jews
brought charges against him and demanded his condemnation.
I answered them that it was not Roman practice
to hand over an accused person before he has faced his accusers
and had the opportunity to defend himself against their charge.
So when they came together here, I made no delay;
the next day I took my seat on the tribunal
and ordered the man to be brought in.
His accusers stood around him,
but did not charge him with any of the crimes I suspected.
Instead they had some issues with him about their own religion
and about a certain Jesus who had died
but who Paul claimed was alive.
Since I was at a loss how to investigate this controversy,
I asked if he were willing to go to Jerusalem
and there stand trial on these charges.
And when Paul appealed that he be held in custody
for the Emperor’s decision,
I ordered him held until I could send him to Caesar.”

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:1-2, 11-12, 19-20AB

R. (19a) The Lord has established his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
Bless the LORD, O my soul;
and all my being, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
and forget not all his benefits.
R. The Lord has established his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
R. The Lord has established his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD has established his throne in heaven,
and his kingdom rules over all.
Bless the LORD, all you his angels,
you mighty in strength, who do his bidding.
R. The Lord has established his throne in heaven.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Alleluia JN 14:26

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Holy Spirit will teach you everything
and remind you of all I told you.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel JN 21:15-19

After Jesus had revealed himself to his disciples and eaten breakfast with them,
he said to Simon Peter,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my lambs.”
He then said to Simon Peter a second time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Simon Peter answered him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
He said to him, “Tend my sheep.”
He said to him the third time,
“Simon, son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time,
“Do you love me?” and he said to him,
“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.
Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger,
you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted;
but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands,
and someone else will dress you
and lead you where you do not want to go.”
He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God.
And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
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