05 Editorial - Celebrating the Fatima Centenary

posted Oct 5, 2017, 10:39 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Oct 5, 2017, 10:39 AM ]
Pope Francis welcomed the people who had joined him on a pilgrimage to Fatima in a great vigil service of hope, prayer and peace on May 12, 2017, to mark the inauguration of the Fatima centenary celebrations which would begin with the recitation of the Rosary led by the Holy Father himself. In his message on that occasion, he outlined a way of celebrating the Fatima Centenary by contemplating the face of God, as did Mary in the light of the mysteries of the Rosary.

The Holy Father said that he wished to commend all of us to Jesus, 'especially those most in need' – as Our Lady taught us to pray (Apparition of July 1917). "May she, the loving and solicitous Mother of the needy, obtain for them the Lord's blessing! On each of us robbed of the present and denied of a future, on each of the orphans and victims of injustice may there descend the blessing of God, incarnate in Jesus Christ. The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make his face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace." (Num 6:24-26)

This blessing was fulfilled in the Virgin Mary. No other creature ever basked in the light of God's face as did Mary; she in turn gave a human face to the Son of the eternal Father. Now we can contemplate her in the succession of joyful, luminous, sorrowful and glorious moments of her life, which we revisit in our recitation of the Rosary. With Christ and Mary, we abide in God. Indeed, 'if we want to be Christian, we must be Marian; in a word, we have to acknowledge the essential, vital and providential relationship uniting Our Lady to Jesus, a relationship that opens before us the way leading to Him' (Paul VI). Each time we recite the Rosary, in this holy place or anywhere else, the Gospel enters anew into the life of individuals, families, peoples and the entire world.

We are pilgrims with Mary, a teacher of the spiritual life, the first to follow Jesus on the 'narrow way' of the Cross by giving us an example, or a Lady 'unapproachable' and impossible to imitate? A woman "blessed because she believed" always and everywhere in God's words (cf. Lk 1:42.45), or a "plaster statue" from whom we beg favours at little cost?

Great injustice is done to God's grace whenever we say that sins are punished by His judgment, without first saying – as the Gospel clearly does – that they are forgiven by His mercy! Mercy has to be put before judgment, and in any case, God's judgment will always be rendered in the light of His mercy. Obviously, God's mercy does not deny justice, for Jesus took upon Himself the consequences of our sin, together with its due punishment. He did not deny sin, but redeemed it on the Cross. Hence, in the faith that unites us to the Cross of Christ, we are freed of our sins; we put aside all fear and dread, as unbefitting those who are loved (cf. 1 Jn 4:18).

"Whenever we look to Mary, we come to believe once again in the revolutionary nature of love and tenderness. This interplay of justice and tenderness, of contemplation and concern for others, is what makes the ecclesial community look to Mary as a model of evangelisation" (Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, 288). With Mary, may each of us become a sign and sacrament of the mercy of God, who pardons always and pardons everything.

In the year of this Centenary of Fatima, our hope of glory, Lord, is this: that our Mother will take us in her arms, shelter us beneath her mantle, and set us close to her heart.

(Extracts from the Message of Pope Francis at the Great Vigil service in Fatima)