This is a time pregnant with hope, not stifled by darkness; no matter what is happening which is contrary to goodness, we need to allow God’s love to embrace us, and we pray to take that same love and share it with the world which is in such need. If ever evil is going to be conquered it is through mercy and forgiveness, through peace-making, kindness, and compassion. If that seems weak or improbable, it is not. It is the clear message of God during Advent: what seems weak is actually where strength resides. God comes as a baby. The parents are lowly and poor, from a “backwater” town in Galilee. They are virtually powerless as they are forced to travel to Jerusalem for a census. It does not get more improbable or weak-looking than that. And yet, from all these events, comes victory.
When Mary came in 1917 the times were bleaker than anyone realized, least of all the three children who had no idea what was going on beyond their little hamlet in Portugal. Many people took up the offer of mercy presented by Mary on behalf of God. And that offer of God’s mercy and hope to the world is just as relevant for us today. Our times are filled with many dangers, and the world is still filled with those who oppose Christian beliefs. We must never cease to hope in the power of God’s love, however: in this Year of Mercy we “leave behind doubt and fear, allowing God’s love to embrace us.”
Fatima was a place of hope, not of dread. We should not focus on the seemingly dire messages or the images the children recounted from what Mary showed them. Instead we need to focus on the point behind them which is the message of hope which God wants for us to hear. As John proclaimed, God will make crooked ways straight. Times may seem murky now, but it is no less a time of hope than at any other time. Advent is a time in which we wait patiently for Jesus to come and make all things new. Emmanuel is always here, in the present: Jesus is God-with-us. The message of Fatima, (echoing the message of John), reminds us of the continued presence of Jesus, but it also teaches us that we must do our part, too. We must live with the courage and hope with which disciples have always had to live. No matter what happens in our world, Jesus is always present to the suffering, and quite often His presence comes through us; we may be the instruments through whom that mercy is offered. We need to remember that His mercy is offered not just to the faithful ones, but to everyone, including the intentional evildoers, terrorists, hoarders of the world’s goods, those who bring violence into their families or into the lives of strangers; it includes those who live in any manner of dishonesty and greed, those who kill the spirit, gossip, neglect the poor, neglect the weak among us such as children or the elderly. God’s mercy is for all of these people: that is, it is for all of us. But He needs us to be His instruments.
©Michele L. Catanese
*From the Introduction (page 1) of Crossing the Threshold of Mercy, edited by Mark-David Janus, CSP, PhD. This is an excellent resource for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
**Some good books on the apparition of Mary at Fatima:
- A Woman Clothed With the Sun, edited by John Delaney
- Fatima for Today: The Urgent Marian Message of Hope by Andrew Apostoli
- A film and accompanying resources: The 13th Day. Here is a link to the website for the film: http://www.the13thday.com/
The top photo is mine. It is the Holy Door at the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls in Rome, Italy.
The icon is Mother of God Light in All Darkness by Fr. William Hart McNichols. It is one of my favorite Marian icons by Fr. Bill. It speaks to me of of hope and mercy. If you are interested in a copy you can find it at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/mother-of-god-light-in-all-darkness-016-william-hart-mcnichols.html.
Next is another of my photos, taken in New Mexico.
Following the mountain photo is another of the icons of Fr. William Hart McNichols, The Mother of God Overshadowed By the Holy Spirit. You can find it at http://fineartamerica.com/featured/the-mother-of-god-overshadowed-by-the-holy-spirit-118-william-hart-mcnichols.html