Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Sancta Maria, Omnibus et Singulis

(Wednesday of the 5th Week of Easter, Our Lady of Fatima-Year B; This homily was given on 13 May, 2009 at the Chapel of The American College of the Immaculate Conception in Louvain, Belgium; See Acts 15:1-6)

What do you need to do to go to heaven? What has to happen for a person to be saved?

Those are the questions being asked in our first reading this morning from the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 15:1-ff). Apparently some believers from Judea had come to the Church where Paul and Barnabas were teaching the Gospel, and had insisted on circumcision as a necessary part of being saved and going to heaven.

Now, before we judge these people too hastily, let us look first at the context of that situation. These were Jewish believers. They had already been circumcised and so they had already met the “requirement” that they were proposing. They were seeking to resolve that question about salvation not for themselves but for the others in that Church who had just come to believe in the Gospel.

Of course, they were wrong! Paul and Barnabas are adamant about that from the beginning. The decision which will come from Jerusalem (this coming Friday’s reading) will clarify the matter for good. But we have every indication that at least some of these Jewish believers were genuinely concerned, and perhaps even deeply so, for the salvation of those around them. Are we?

Jesus says to us in the Gospel this morning: “Remain in me,” and “Whoever remains in me and I in him will bear much fruit.”

It is the same beautiful Gospel we heard this past weekend. When we listen to those words, “Remain in me,” it is as if Jesus is speaking them directly to each one of us. Remarkably, God’s word to us is that personal, that intimate.

But the word Christ uses when he offers that invitation is addressed in the second person, plural! He is saying “You, all of you, remain in me!” He is concerned for the salvation of each individual soul, but He offers the promise of salvation and the invitation to eternal life to all of us. There is a wonderful saying that if you were the only one in the world, then Jesus still would have come to suffer and die on the cross to save you. I believe that. But, of course, you are not the only one in the world! Jesus did not come to suffer and die for you alone, nor for just me. He came for us all.

The sacrifice of Calvary-and the sacrifice of the Mass, for that matter-is offered for each individual, and also for all of us collectively. As we say in the sacristy at the end of each Mass, referring to that great sacrifice of Christ:

Priest: Pro sit (May it—this sacrifice—be to your benefit)
Acolyte: Omnibus et singulis (For all and for each one)

We should be concerned for our own salvation, by all means. We should prayerfully consider if we are in the right place before God and being made fit for heaven by a living faith in Christ. But we should also be concerned for the salvation of those around us. For omnibus as well as for singulis.

This morning we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Fatima, remembering the appearances of Our Lady—the Patroness of this College—to three children in a small village in Portugal. Our Lady visited them and they—so much like little children—were fascinated by her! They asked her two important questions, one after the other: “Are you really from heaven?”, and then, with childlike wonder and innocence, “Will we be in heaven some day, too?”

Our Lady responded in the affirmative, but then became more serious and made it clear that little Francisco would make it there only after a great many rosaries (apparently Francisco was a tough little customer)! Nonetheless, they were encouraged by that good news. Then she went on to ask them to pray, offer sacrifices and consecrate themselves to her Immaculate Heart. They were to love the hearts of Jesus and Mary with deep devotion and make reparation for the love that was so often neglected and even out rightly refused to God.

You might ask yourself: why would they ever bother to do that? Were they not just told about their place in heaven? What would be the point of prayer, sacrifice and devotion to the Immaculate Heart of Mary?

But of course they did not ask those questions. Like children, they trusted and gladly offered their lives and prayers for the salvation of those around them. And that is the point of Fatima. It is the point of our readings this morning, and it is the reason why Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross: not just for my salvation, but for our salvation. Omnibus et singulis.

Today, on this Feast of Our lady of Fatima, may we heed well Our Lady’s request to those three small children, and to all of us:

1. To pray for souls and pray for peace; especially to pray the rosary.
2. To offer sacrifices, fasting in particular.

3. To consecrate ourselves to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and seek to love deeply the hearts of Jesus and Mary.

May we offer ourselves lovingly to God today, not just for our own salvation, but for the salvation of those around us: omnibus et singulis.