"Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it." - Luke 11:28
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, for me as your Apostolic Nuncio, it gives me so much joy to be here at the National Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Fatima here in Valenzuela City, with your beloved Bishop, the Most Reverend Dennis Villarojo, the other concelebrating bishops, priests religious, faithful citizens of this wonderful city of Valenzuela.
We are together here in this beautiful church to celebrate this Feast of Our Lady of Fatima. The fact that 105 years ago, on this very day in Portugal, in the obscure town of Fatima, the angel first appeared to some children, Lucy (Lucia) and her cousins Francisco and Jacinta Marto, and then on this day, our Lady herself appeared to these simple peasant children in this small out of the way town in Portugal, and revealed to them a message in which Mary called for prayer and for penance and warned us against the danger and the scourge of war.
It's interesting, isn't it, brothers and sisters, how God always chooses the little people in order to show His blessings and to give his apparitions? Fatima is not a big city. Fatima is not the capital of Portugal. Fatima is a village, and God didn't choose the parish priest or the Bishop, or even the nuncio in Portugal in those days to receive his message from Mary. Whom did God choose to see Mary and to receive the message? Simple children, simple children.
This shows us, again and again, the logic of the gospel. The gospel's logic is not the logic of the world. "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted." God's reasoning is not our reasoning. And Fatima shows us how God chooses the poor, the humble, to receive his gifts. And the best model of that choice of God, choosing the poor and the humble, we see in the humble woman whose memory and whose presence we celebrate today - the Mother of God, Mary of Nazareth.
God sent the angel Gabriel to the city of Nazareth. Again, not the capital. He didn't send the angel to a priest in Jerusalem, to a king. He sent the angel to Mary, certainly a teenage girl living in Nazareth, and asked Mary to be the Mother of God. And then, much later, when Jesus is preaching, and He hears somebody in the crowd cry out, "Blessed is the womb that carried you. Blessed are the breasts at which you nursed." Jesus says, "Yes, but blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it" in the translation that we heard today. "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it."
Was Jesus somehow making a contrast between Mary, who is the one in whose womb He was carried, and at whose breasts he was nursed? Is he making a contrast between that and the one who hears the Word of God and observes it? No, my brothers and sisters, no contrast at all. Because both are true about Mary, both are true about our Lady. Indeed, Mary is the physical Mother of Jesus, and we as Catholics because Jesus is God made man. Say that Mary is the Mother of God, because Jesus is God made man, but Mary is also the one who really heard the Word of God and as our translation says, observed it.
What do I mean? What do I mean? … Let's go back in time two months, more or less, to March 25th in the church's year. March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation. March 25, which is exactly nine months before another big feast that we celebrate. Nine months to the day before Christmas, in which Catholics celebrate the moment in which the angel came to Mary in Nazareth and revealed to her that she would be the Mother of God.
And Mary is amazed and taken aback, and even troubled by the message of the angel. "How can this be?" she says, "I'm a virgin; I'm not married." And the angel reassures her. The angel also gives Mary a sign that with God, all things are possible. And what is that sign? He says that your cousin Elizabeth, who is very old, will also become pregnant and bear a son. That baby is John the Baptist. And then the angel says, "These are the words I want you to think about." The angel says to Mary in English, "Because nothing is impossible with God." Because God can do everything for us if we trust in Him, but the actual words, the sentence that the angel said to Mary was rather, "Because, with God, no word will ever fail." We translate that as 'nothing is impossible", but really, He said, "With God, no word, no word will ever fail." So this idea of the Word, later on, Jesus says, "Blessed are those who hear the Word of God and observe it."
So Mary hears the Word of God from the angel Gabriel. She embraces that Word as truth. And she says to the angel, "Let it be done to me according to Your Word," this message. And then, at that moment, the Word became flesh in her womb. Jesus is the Word made flesh in her womb.
So this idea of the Word. Mary is the one who heard the Word of God from the angel and kept it in a way that none of us ever have because the Word became flesh in her body, in her womb. How beautiful is that? And even that verb that we translate in English says, "Mary is the one who heard the word of God and observed it." That Word observed it. In the actual Greek of the Gospel says, "Mary is the one who kept the Word, who kept watch over the Word, kept watch over that baby in her womb, kept watch over the infant Jesus growing up with her and Joseph in Nazareth, kept watch at the foot of the cross when her son died for our sins."
Mary is the one who keeps watch over the Word. And Mary is the one who teaches us that all things are possible with God. Mary is this presence, this maternal presence, which guarded and kept the Word of God in Jesus, and guards and protects the church and those who are devoted to her. And isn't that what all of us experience as devotees of Mary, especially Our Lady of Fatima, that if we accept Mary's presence, she begins to act in us and around us in the same way she acted with Jesus, keeping the Word who is Jesus, but keeping us protecting us, guiding us, giving us wisdom and counsel? Mary is like that. She never is in the front, as we say, calling attention to herself. She's a silent presence for us as Christians, directing us to Jesus, protecting Jesus in us, seeing us the way she saw Jesus. Because remember, at the cross, when Jesus was dying, he said to St. John, who represents all of us devotees of Mary, he said to St. John, "Behold your Mother." Mary is our mother. She keeps us; she guards us; she protects us. She's our advocate. "We fly to you. Oh, Virgin Mother of God, despise not our petitions and are necessities but deliver us, oh, glorious and ever-Virgin Mary."
With God, all things are possible for those of us who have the courage to follow the Word, to be poor and humble, to listen to the presence of God in our lives, especially as Mary directs us in her silent and beautiful way.
Pope Francis on March 25th, which was the Feast of the Annunciation, consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary in obedience to what Our Lady revealed at Fatima. In this beautiful act of consecration, which is so important for our world today because 105 years ago, when Mary appeared in Portugal, Europe was in the midst of a terrible war. A war which let flow rivers of blood in Europe, rivers of blood. The First World War for France, for Belgium, for England, are worse than the Second World War. Many more soldiers died in the First World War. That was the context in which our Lady appeared to these simple children in Fatima.
And now, in 2022, when war has returned, unfortunately to Europe, we pray to Mary with Pope Francis asking Mary to intercede for peace, for peace in the world, for peace and Europe, but also for peace in our own hearts. Because peace begins when we accept the will of God the way Mary did. When we accept God's will, we receive that peace that Mary receives and that Mary gives us.
So dear brothers and sisters, it's so beautiful for me. I love Our Lady of Fatima very much. I was ordained a priest on this day 33 years ago in St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City on May 13 of 1989. So my priesthood is really under the sign of Our Lady of Fatima. And for that reason, when I was invited to celebrate this mass with you here in this beautiful National Shrine and Parish of Our Lady of Fatima in Valenzuela City, I immediately said yes, because I wanted to be with you and with Our Lady of Fatima.
So God bless each and every one of you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. God bless you, and have a blessed and wonderful parish fiesta.
Transcribed by Gel Katalbas