Finding Freedom In Forgiveness
In 1917, the Mother of God appeared six times in a village in Portugal to three young children: Lucia Santos, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto. Prior to these apparitions, an “Angel of Peace” made three appearances to the children and emphasized the importance of prayer and sacrifice; the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament; and the reparation of our sins. The Blessed Mother chose to identify herself as “The Lady of the Rosary,” with a call to pray the rosary daily for world peace. Mary first appeared on May 13, 1917, and on her final visit on Oct. 13, 1917, a reported crowd of 30,000-100,000 witnessed “the miracle of the sun.”
This May 13-Oct. 13, we are blessed to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the private revelations of Fatima. There is a difference between public and private revelation. Public revelation is the Deposit of Faith, which includes sacred Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition. Private revelation does not belong with the Deposit of Faith, but is a help to the faithful at different times in the history of the Church.
“Throughout the ages, there have been private revelations recognized by the authority of the Church. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation. Guided by the magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or His saints to the Church” (CCC 67). The Catechism of the Catholic Church also states, “Mary’s role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it” (CCC 964). “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique meditation of Christ, but rather shows its power” (CCC 700).
Our Lord and Our Lady have come to deliver messages for our benefit, and gratitude should always be our response to God in His love and mercy. The message of Fatima clearly reminds us that God is our everlasting salvation. On a pilgrimage to Fatima in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI clarified how we should respond to Our Lady’s message. “The Church has a deep need to relearn penance, to accept purification, and to learn forgiveness, but also the need for justice. Forgiveness does not replace justice. We need to relearn precisely: conversion, prayer, penance, and the theological virtues. “
The Jubilee of Mercy declared by Pope Francis on Dec. 8, 2015, was an opportunity for us to embrace the challenges of conversion and forgiveness. Why is it so hard for us to forgive? Understand that to forgive does not mean we let offenders off the hook. Yet, our willingness to forgive others offers us freedom to return to God and allows Him to take care of justice. The process of forgiveness takes time because to restore a relationship, trust must be rebuilt. This mental decision is made easier with spiritual grace from God! Let go of resentment because there is no reconciliation without forgiveness. Jesus gave us the Church, the priesthood and the Sacraments to help us find freedom in forgiveness.
In this month of May and through October, as we honor Our Blessed Mother, please remember her example; she forgave those who crucified her only son. Take to heart the private revelations given to the children of Fatima 100 years ago, pray the rosary daily and allow peace in your heart as you learn to forgive.
“But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matt 6:15). God’s love and patience make possible what may seem impossible. Amen!