Fatima and the Fifth Seal

We’re just a few days away from celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Fatima, the communication of messages in 1917 from an angel and from the Blessed Mother to 3 poor children in Portugal. Here are just a few thoughts about how the Fatima messages are very relevant in our own time, and how they might still be impacting history.

Mary gave the 3 children a vision of hell, and she explained to them that there are very many people in hell. She said that sexual sins are the most common reason that people end up in hell. Mary also told the children that if people did not stop offending God, the world would be punished with war, famine, the persecution of the Church and the persecution of the Pope. Russia would spread its errors to the rest of the world.

It’s obvious that there wasn’t enough prayer, there wasn’t enough conversion of people’s lives, to avert the tragedies listed by Mary in her Fatima messages. About 17 million people died in World War I. Close to 60 million people died in World War II, many of them innocent civilians murdered by brutal regimes in Germany and Russia. Today we are witnessing the extermination of large numbers of Christians in the Middle East and around the world by Muslim extremists. The atheistic and materialistic philosophy of Russian Marxism has spread to all corners of the globe.

One of my main thoughts about what has happened since 1917 relates to all the people who have died, the huge number of people who have experienced extreme cruelty and suffering in the last 100 years. Has all their suffering been in vain? Will God not atone for all this suffering with a massive outpouring of grace? How long must we wait?

Perhaps the answer to my questions can be found in Chapter 6 of the Book of Revelation, verses 9 to 11:

“When he broke open the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God. They cried out in a loud voice, ‘How long will it be, holy and true master, before you sit in judgment and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?’ Each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to be patient a little while longer until the number was filled of their fellow servants and brothers who were going to be killed as they had been.”

It is frightening to think that God has asked all those who have been slaughtered to keep waiting to be avenged because there are still not enough people on earth praying and changing their lives to respond positively to Mary’s messages at Fatima. It appears that even more innocent people may have to die before the Master avenges all of those in the white robes.

This is a humbling moment in history for all of humanity. Let us be even more earnest, more purposeful, more courageous in our prayers, our thoughts and our actions. May we embrace the holiness that our Blessed Mother asked of us at Fatima. And may we entrust ourselves completely to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

The Blessed Mother and the Resurrection of Her Son

Let’s start with a question. If you knew only that Jesus rose from the dead and spent 40 days making appearances on earth before He ascended into heaven, who is the first person you think Jesus would have appeared to?

Well, the answer is Mary. Not Mary Magdalene. Mary, the mother of Jesus.

How could Jesus have risen from the dead and not appeared to his own mother? That doesn’t make any sense. No Jewish boy would have done that. No Jewish boy could have gotten away with that.

Saint Ambrose wrote in the 4th Century that "Mary saw the resurrection of the Lord; she was the first to see and believe. Mary Magdalene also saw, but she hesitated."

In the Section 219 of his Spiritual Exercises, Saint Ignatius of Loyola recommends that we develop a mental picture of Mary's house and imagine the moment at which Mary first sees and embraces her risen Son.

In 1997, Pope Saint John Paul II gave an audience on the theme of "Mary and the Resurrection of Christ." He said that from the omission in the Bible of any meeting between Jesus and Mary after the Resurrection, "{o}ne must not deduce that Christ, after his Resurrection, did not appear to Mary." He asserted that logically, Mary was more than likely the first person to whom the risen Jesus appeared, which would explain why she was not among the group of women who approached the tomb at dawn and discovered that the body of Jesus was missing.

I’m not bringing this up just for the sake of history. Why is this important? What does it mean to us?

It is often said that Mary is the icon of the Church. Just as Mary gave birth to Jesus, knew him better and loved him more than any other human being, so the Church gives birth to Jesus by revealing Him to the world. Through the Church, we are to learn about Jesus and love Him with all our hearts as Mary did.

So let’s think about this. Mary’s heart was filled with the greatest, most intense love possible for her son, Jesus. She was there at Calvary, as He carried His cross to His death. She saw Him bleeding. She heard people screaming at Him, mocking Him. She felt the heat. She breathed the dust. Then she was there below the cross when He died, and she saw her Son’s body speared with a lance.

So when she goes back to her home, or to the home of a friend in Jerusalem, and she is feeling the greatest sadness any human being will ever know, what was it like when she looked up and saw Jesus, standing before her, very much alive, and looking at her with an even greater love for her than she had for him?

That’s why Saint Ambrose, Saint Ignatius Loyola and Pope Saint John Paul II thought it was important to bring this up. They are encouraging all of us to reflect and meditate on this moment, the first encounter between the risen Jesus and His Mother, to give us a deeper sense of the beauty, the power, the richness of His Resurrection for all of us who love Him.

Your reflection on this special moment between Jesus and Mary might lead to other helpful questions to ponder.

During the 40 days after Jesus rose from the dead, was He present to Mary or any of His followers on a Sunday? If so, did He preside over the Eucharist? Did He give Holy Communion to His mother? If He did, what was that like for her?

Put yourself in Mary’s position. Imagine that you are among the disciples on a Sunday after Jesus has risen from the dead, and He appears to you. Then He begins to pray and to celebrate the Eucharist. He comes to you and stands before you to give you His body and blood. Imagine what that’s like.

Jesus knew that He was going to ascend to the Father, and so that we would have the benefit of this same experience that Mary and the disciples might have experienced, He delegates to men like Msgr. Gaalaas and Fr. Thomas the power to stand in His place, to represent Him in giving us His body and blood.

Imagine all that. Embracing the risen Jesus. Praying with Him. Rejoicing with him. Receiving His body and blood. If you want to know what that was like, ask for Mary’s help. Draw closer to her. She will take you there.

 

 

 

 

The Script

One of the most common questions people have about Jesus is why, after He has healed people, He instructs them not to tell anyone else what He has done. The answer is that Jesus knows there is a script for His life, as if He is acting out a dramatic play written by someone else.

And, in fact, that's exactly what Jesus is doing. The script was written by His Father. And there are co-authors, those prophets and King David who described events in the life of Jesus hundreds of years before Jesus even set foot on earth.

Jesus is keenly aware of the two main components of the script: 1) the content, the actions and events, and 2) the timing. He knows that the timing is just as important as the content, and so He is careful for events not to take place too early or too late.

The details of the script are quite amazing. The one that I find especially intriguing is in Mark 14:13. Jesus is giving His disciples instructions regarding where they will celebrate the Passover meal. He says to two of them: "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him." That's it. We know nothing about this man, who he is or how Jesus knows that he will be in the city and will somehow make contact with the two disciples. 

There is a script for each of our lives as well. In Psalm 139:15-16, the Psalmist writes as follows:

"When I was being made in secret, fashioned as in the depths of the earth, your [God's] eyes foresaw my actions; in your book, all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be."

Especially during Holy Week, it is good for us to reflect on how, like Jesus, we can seek to discern the script God has written for our lives and how we can be completely faithful to that script. We can seek forgiveness for any wrong turns we might have taken and ask God to help us get back on track.