By John Paul II
Homily at Mass in Fatima (1982) ‘And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (Jn 19:27). These are the concluding words of the Gospel in today’s liturgy at Fatima. The disciple’s name was John. It was he, John, the son of Zebedee, the Apostle and evangelist, who heard from the Cross the words of Christ: “Behold, your mother.” But first Christ had said to his Mother: “Woman, behold, your son.” This was a wonderful testament.
As he left this world, Christ gave to his Mother a man, a human being, to be like a son for her: John. He entrusted him to her. And, as a consequence of this giving and entrusting, Mary became the mother of John. The Mother of God became the Mother of man. From that hour John “took her to his own home” and became the earthly guardian of the Mother of his Master; for sons have the right and duty to care for their mother. John became by Christ’s will the son of the Mother of God. And in John every human being became her child.
The words “he took her to his own home” can be taken in the literal sense as referring to the place where he lived.
Mary’s motherhood in our regard is manifested in a particular way in the places where she meets us: her dwelling places, places in which a special presence of the Mother is felt.
There are many such dwelling places. They are of all kinds: from a special corner in the home or little wayside shrines adorned with an image of the Mother of God, to chapels and churches built in her honour. However, in certain places the Mother’s presence is felt in a particularly vivid way. These places sometimes radiate their light over a great distance and draw people from afar. Their radiance may extend over a diocese, a whole nation, or at times over several countries and even continents. These places are the Marian sanctuaries or shrines.
In all these places that unique testament of the Crucified Lord is wonderfully actualised: in them man feels that he is entrusted and confided to Mary; he goes there in order to be with her as with his Mother he opens his heart to her and speaks to her about everything: he “takes her to his own home” – that is to say, he brings her into all his problems, which at times are difficult; his own problems and those of others; the problems of the family, of societies, of nations and of the whole of humanity.
Is not this the case with the shrine at Lourdes, in France? Is not this the case with Jasna Gora, in Poland, my own country’s shrine, which this year is celebrating its 600th anniversary?
There too, as in so many other shrines of Mary throughout the world, the words of today’s liturgy seem to resound with a particularly authentic force: “You are the great pride of our nation” (Jdt 15:9), and also: “When our nation was brought low... you avenged our ruin, walking in the straight path before our God” (Jdt 13:20).
At Fatima these words resound; as one particular echo of the experiences not only of the Portuguese nation but also of so many other countries and peoples on this earth: indeed, they echo the experience of modern mankind as a whole, the whole of the human family.
And so I come here today because on this very day last year, in St Peter’s Square in Rome, the attempt on the pope’s life was made, in mysterious coincidence with the anniversary of the first apparition at Fatima, which occurred on May 13 1917.
I seemed to recognise in the coincidence of the dates a special call to come to this place. And so, today I am here. I have come in order to thank Divine Providence in this place which the Mother of God seems to have chosen in a particular way. Misericordiae Domini, quia non sumus consumpti (Through God’s mercy we were spared – Lam 3:22), I repeat once more with the prophet.
I have come especially in order to confess here the glory of God himself: “Blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth,” I say in the words of today’s liturgy (Jdt 13:18).
And to the Creator of heaven and earth I also raise that special hymn of glory which is she herself, the Immaculate Mother of the Incarnate Word: “O daughter, you are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth... your hope will never depart from the hearts of men, as they remember the power of God. May God grant this to be a perpetual honour to you “(Jdt 18:20).
At the basis of this song of praise, which the Church lifts up with joy here as in so many other places on the earth, is the incomparable choice of a daughter of the human race to be the Mother of God.
And therefore let God above all be praised: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
May blessing and veneration be given to Mary, the model of the Church, as the “dwellingplace of the Most Holy Trinity”.
From the time when Jesus, dying on the Cross, said to John: “Behold, your mother”; from the time when “the disci ple took her to his own home”, the mystery of the spiritual motherhood of Mary has been actualised boundlessly in history. Motherhood means caring for the life of the child. Since Mary is the mother of us all, her care for the life of man is universal. The care of a mother embraces her child totally. Mary’s motherhood has its beginning in her motherly care for Christ. In Christ, at the foot of the Cross, she accepted John, and in John she accepted all of us totally. Mary embraces us all with special solicitude in the Holy Spirit. For as we profess in our Creed, he is “the giver of life”. It is he who gives the fullness of life, open towards eternity.
Mary’s spiritual motherhood is therefore a sharing in the power of the Holy Spirit, of “the giver of life”. It is the humble service of her who says of herself: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38).
In the light of the mystery of Mary’s spiritual motherhood, let us seek to understand the extraordinary message, which began on May 13 1917 to resound throughout the world from Fatima, continuing for five months until October 13 of the same year.
The Church has always taught and continues to proclaim that God’s revelation was brought to completion in Jesus Christ, who is the fullness of that revelation, and that “no new public revelation is to be expected before the glorious manifestation of our Lord” (Dei Verbum, 4). The Church evaluates and judges private revelations by the criterion of conformity with that single public revelation.
If the Church has accepted the message of Fatima, it is above all because that message contains a truth and a call whose basic content is the truth and the call of the Gospel itself.
“Repent, and believe in the Gospel” (Mk 1:15): these are the first words that the Messiah addressed to humanity. The message of Fatima is, in its basic nucleus, a call to conversion and repentance, as in the Gospel. This call was uttered at the beginning of the 20th century, and it was thus addressed particularly to this present century. The Lady of the message seems to have read with special insight the “signs of the times”, the signs of our time.