In 1982, Pope John Paul II visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima to commemorate the first anniversary of the attempt on his life and the sixty-fifth anniversary of Our Lady’s first apparition there. He delivered the following homily (slightly shortened here).
“And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.” (Jn 19:27)
These are the concluding words of the Gospel in today’s liturgy at Fátima. The disciple’s name was John. It was he, John, the son of Zebedee, the apostle and evangelist, who heard from the Cross the words of Christ: “Behold, your mother.” But first Christ had said to his Mother: “Woman, behold, your son.” This was a wonderful testament.
As he left this world, Christ gave to his Mother a man, a human being, to be like a son for her: John. He entrusted him to her. And, as a consequence of this giving and entrusting, Mary became the mother of John. The Mother of God became the Mother of man. . . .in John every human being became her child.
Mary’s motherhood in our regard is manifested in a particular way in the places where she meets us: her dwelling places; places in which a special presence of the Mother is felt.
There are many such dwelling places. They are of all kinds: from a special corner in the home or little wayside shrines adorned with an image of the Mother of God, to chapels and churches built in her honor. However, in certain places; the Mother’s presence is felt in a particularly vivid way. These places sometimes radiate their light over a great distance and draw people from afar. Their radiance may extend over a diocese, a whole nation, or at times over several countries and even continents.
In all these places, that unique testament of the Crucified Lord is wonderfully actualized: in them man feels that he is entrusted and confided to Mary; he goes there in order to be with her as with his Mother; he opens his heart to her and speaks to her about everything: he “takes her to his own home,” that is to say, he brings her into all his problems, which at times are difficult. His own problems and those of others. The problems of the family, of societies, of nations and of the whole of humanity.
Is not this the case with the shrine at Lourdes, in France? Is not this the case with Jasna Gora, in Poland, my own country’s shrine, which this year is celebrating its 600th anniversary?
There too, as in so many other shrines of Mary throughout the world, the words of today’s liturgy seem to resound with a particularly authentic force: “You are the great pride of our nation.” (Jdt 15:9)
At Fátima these words resound; as one particular echo of the experiences not only of the Portuguese nation but also of so many other countries and peoples on this earth: indeed, they echo the experience of modern mankind as a whole, the whole of the human family.
And so I come here today because on this very day last year, in Saint Peter’s Square in Rome, the attempt on the Pope’s life was made, in mysterious coincidence with the anniversary of the first apparition at Fátima, which occurred on 13 May 1917.
I seemed to recognize in the coincidence of the dates a special call to come to this place. And so, today I am here. I have come in order to thank Divine Providence in this place which the Mother of God seems to have chosen in a particular way. Misericordiae Domini, quia non sumus consumpti (“Through God’s mercy we were spared.” Lam 3:22). . . .
If the Church has accepted the message of Fátima, it is above all because that message contains a truth and a call whose basic content is the truth and the call of the Gospel itself.
“Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mk 1:15): these are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity. The message of Fátima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the twentieth century, and it was thus addressed particularly to this present century. The Lady of the message seems to have read with special insight the “signs of the times,” the signs of our time.
The call to repentance is a motherly one, and at the same time it is strong and decisive. The love that “rejoices in the truth” (cf. 1 Cor 13:) is capable of being clear-cut and firm. The call to repentance is linked, as always, with a call to prayer. In harmony with the tradition of many centuries, the Lady of the message indicates the Rosary, which can rightly be defined as “Mary’s prayer”: the prayer in which she feels particularly united with us. She herself prays with us. The rosary prayer embraces the problems of the Church, of the See of Saint Peter, the problems of the whole world. In it we also remember sinners, that they may be converted and saved, and the souls in Purgatory. . . .
In the light of a mother’s love we understand the whole message of the Lady of Fátima. The greatest obstacle to man’s journey towards God is sin, perseverance in sin, and, finally, denial of God. The deliberate blotting out of God from the world of human thought. The detachment from him of the whole of man’s earthly activity. The rejection of God by man.
In reality, the eternal salvation of man is only in God. Man’s rejection of God, if it becomes definitive, leads logically to God’s rejection of man (cf. Mt 7:23; 10:33), to damnation.
Can the Mother who, with all the force of the love that she fosters in the Holy Spirit, desires everyone’s salvation keep silence on what undermines the very bases of their salvation? No, she cannot.
And so, while the message of Our Lady of Fátima is a motherly one, it is also strong and decisive. It sounds severe. It sounds like John the Baptist speaking on the banks of the Jordan. It invites to repentance. It gives a warning. It calls to prayer. It recommends the Rosary. . . .Her care extends to every individual of our time, and to all the societies nations and peoples. Societies menaced by apostasy, threatened by moral degradation. The collapse of morality involves the collapse of societies.
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary means drawing near, through the Mother’s intercession, to the very Fountain of life that sprang from Golgotha. This Fountain pours forth unceasingly redemption and grace. In it reparation is made continually for the sins of the world. It is a ceaseless source of new life and holiness.
Consecrating the world to the Immaculate Heart of the Mother means returning beneath the Cross of the Son. It means consecrating this world to the pierced Heart of the Savior, bringing it back to the very source of its Redemption. Redemption is always greater than man’s sin and the “sin of the world.” The power of the Redemption is infinitely superior to the whole range of evil in man and the world.
The Heart of the Mother is aware of this, more than any other heart in the whole universe, visible and invisible.
And so she calls us. She not only calls us to be converted: she calls us to accept her motherly help to return to the source of Redemption. . . .
By the power of the redemption the world and man have been consecrated. They have been consecrated to Him who is infinitely Holy. They have been offered and entrusted to Love itself, merciful Love.
The Mother of Christ calls us, invites us to join with the Church of the living God in the consecration of the world, in this act of confiding by which the world, mankind as a whole, the nations, and each individual person are presented to the Eternal Father with the power of the Redemption won by Christ. They are offered in the Heart of the Redeemer which was pierced on the Cross. . . .
In its Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) and its Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World (Gaudium et Spes) the Second Vatican Council amply illustrated the reasons for the link between the Church and the world of today. Furthermore, its teaching on Mary’s special place in the mystery of Christ and the Church bore mature fruit in Paul VI’s action in calling Mary Mother of the Church and thus indicating more profoundly the nature of her union with the Church and of her care for the world, for mankind, for each human being, and for all the nations: what characterizes them is her motherhood.
This brought a further deepening of understanding of the meaning of the act of consecrating that the Church is called upon to perform with the help of the Heart of Christ’s Mother and ours.
Today John Paul II, successor of Peter. . . .presents himself, reading again with trepidation the motherly call to penance, to conversion, the ardent appeal of the Heart of Mary that resounded at Fátima sixty-five years ago. Yes, he reads it again with trepidation in his heart, because he sees how many people and societies – how many Christians – have gone in the opposite direction to the one indicated in the message of Fátima. Sin has thus made itself firmly at home in the world, and denial of God has become widespread in the ideologies, ideas, and plans of human beings.
But for this very reason the evangelical call to repentance and conversion, uttered in the Mother’s message, remains ever relevant. It is still more relevant than it was sixty-five years ago. It is still more urgent. . . .
My heart is oppressed when I see the sin of the world and the whole range of menaces gathering like a dark cloud over mankind, but it also rejoices with hope as I once more do what has been done by my Predecessors, when they consecrated the world to the Heart of the Mother, when they consecrated especially to that Heart those peoples which particularly need to be consecrated. . . .
The author of the Apocalypse wrote: “And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling of God is with men. He will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.’” (Rev 21:2-3)
This is the faith by which the Church lives. This is the faith with which the People of God makes its journey. . . .
The People of God is a pilgrim along the ways of this world in an eschatological direction. It is making its pilgrimage towards the eternal Jerusalem, towards “the dwelling of God with men.” God will there “wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain any more, for the former things have passed away.”
But at present “the former things” are still in existence. They it is that constitute the temporal setting of our pilgrimage. . . .We cannot ignore it. But this enables us to recognize what an immense grace was granted to us human beings when, in the midst of our pilgrimage, there shone forth on the horizon of the faith of our times this “great portent, a woman.” (cf. Rev 12:1)
Yes, truly we can repeat: “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth. . .walking in the straight path before our God. . .you have avenged our ruin.”
Truly indeed, you are blessed. Yes, here and throughout the Church, in the heart of every individual and in the world as a whole, may you be blessed, O Mary, our sweet Mother.