Friday May 13, 2005 Homily by Fr. Robert Altier Our Lady of Fatima
Reading (Acts 25:13b-21) Gospel (St. John 21:15-19)
Today the Church celebrates the feast of Our Lady of Fatima. We recall the great events that took place in Fatima, Portugal back in 1917 as Our Lady appeared to these three little children. She revealed to them several secrets, including, of course, the Second World War and some of the events that would take place as we have only in the last few years had revealed as part of that Third Secret – the things that would take place with the shooting of the Holy Father and the martyrdom of many others.
So as these events that Our Lady spoke of continue to unfold, we have to look even further at what it is that she asked for. She asked that there would be reparation on the First Saturdays for all of the crimes against her Immaculate Heart. She asked that we would do penance and that we would pray the Rosary. It is precisely these things that are needed more than anything in our world today. Of all the things that we can get ourselves involved in, there is nothing more important than prayer and penance. It is only this that is going to bring about a change.
I think Pope John Paul II had demonstrated this very clearly toward the end of his life when he accepted the intense sufferings that God sent him. He showed all of us the dignity of a suffering human being. Sister Lucia did something that was very similar as she just suffered in silence for so many years, showing us once again what it means when Our Lord looks at each one of us as He did at Peter in the Gospel reading today and said, Do you love Me? Then when we say, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love You,” the question is what we are going to do with that. Love, as we know, is demonstrated only in suffering; it is only when we are willing to accept the Cross.
As it said at the end of the Gospel reading when Jesus explained to Peter what was going to happen to him when he got older, Saint John says: This was to signify the kind of death by which he was to glorify God. Now we would look at it and say, “How can that glorify God? It is such an unjust thing!” But it is precisely because he accepted it and he embraced it and he gave it all to God, and the Lord was glorified in that. So too now for us, to be able to look at this and remember that in that Third Secret as the angel stood with his sword and cried out to the earth, Penance! Penance! Penance! those are the only words that are in that part of the Third Secret that has been revealed. Penance! Penance! Penance! This is what the world needs: People who are willing to accept their share of the Cross, and by this means to glorify God; people who are willing to offer to God their suffering, to be able to unite that with Our Lord’s suffering, and in this way to demonstrate their love.
This is what we see Saint Paul doing in the first reading, having to go through all of these injustices and all of the trials and things that he had to endure until finally he would be put to death. So too, when we look at it all, it is unjust if we look at it on the natural level. And there is cause, if we look at it just on that level, to be angry. But what good does it do? What we have to do is look at it from God’s perspective and realize that if we are being given an opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ through things that are unjust, it is by these means that we glorify God, and it is by these means that we show God we love Him. That is what is being offered to us.
As Our Lady calls us to prayer and penance, she is asking us also to be able to be like her Son, to suffer even unjustly, to forgive the people who cause the suffering, to be willing to offer it all to God, to give Him glory. And so today Our Lord looks at each one of us – and even though it hurts us sometimes that He would even ask, Do you love Me? – the reason He keeps asking is because most of us give Him lip service and we say, “Yes, Lord, of course I love You,” but we have not demonstrated it very well, if at all. So He looks at us again today and asks the same question. Then, in response, when we tell Him, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You,” if that be the case then we need to show Him that we love Him and not just tell Him. To show Him that we love Him is to accept the Cross so that by those very means we will glorify God.
* This text was transcribed from the audio recording of a homily by Father Robert Altier with minimal editing.