Fourth Sunday of Easter, (Mother’s Day) May 11, 2014
Homily by Fr. John De Celles
St. Raymond of Peñafort Catholic Church
Today’s gospel speaks to us about the Good Shepherd…
I’d like to talk about 6 shepherds.
It was May 13, 1981, 33 years ago, this Tuesday.
I was in Paris, on a trip celebrating my graduation from university.
I remember walking through the lobby of the hotel and being stopped in my tracks
by the picture on the front of the newspapers…
a picture of John Paul shot
—a gruesome scene of crimson blood on white cassock
Days passed and the world found out that he would survive
It seemed to be a miracle: the bullet had missed his heart by just a few millimeters
In fact, after he recovered, John Paul said it was a miracle,
a miracle he attributed directly to the Blessed Mother.
Some said he was being ridiculous…
But the pope knew something we didn’t: he knew a secret
A secret it took him almost 20 years to share with the rest of us.
A secret which had to do with something else that happened on May 13
–but in 1917, 97 years ago, this Tuesday,
when the Blessed Mother appeared to 3 shepherd children
in a country pasture, in Fatima, Portugal.
To these children she revealed that the world would soon suffer attack
from terrible atheistic, anti-Christian forces
and specifically that these forces would arise in Russia
and threatened the whole world.
This loving Mother from heaven came to these, the littlest of her children,
and asked them for prayers.
In particular, she wanted Catholics all over the world to pray the rosary for conversion, and she wanted the pope to consecrate Russia to her Immaculate Heart
Like a shepherd, this loving Mother guided these shepherd children
away from the false shepherds, the atheistic leaders of Communism
— protecting them from these wolves
ready to devour God’s children throughout the world.
And through these shepherd children The Blessed Mother
guided the world and the Church and Russia to her son as well.
But not all of the message of Our lady of Fatima was revealed…
the so called “third secret” had been in the possession of the popes
since John 23rd,
and only a handful of cardinals had been aware of it.
Many speculated, about the content: did it foretell the apocalypse,
or a great war, or terrible scourges on the earth.
But it took over 80 years for a pope to reveal the contents of that secret,
when in June of 2000 Pope John Paul finally told the world the secret he knew
when he attributed his survival from the jaws of death on May 13, 1981,
when Ali Agca fired his gun from point blank range into the pope’s chest.
Because the third secret
was a vision the Blessed Mother had shown those 3 shepherd children,
a vision of a war waged by atheist systems against the Church,
a vision of great suffering, especially for the popes of the 20th century.
And as part of the vision, they saw a pope clothed in white
fighting this battle, who himself is shot down
but not killed, by agents of these systems.
It is well know how Pope John Paul fought
boldly and courageously against communists
both as archbishop of Krakow, Poland, and after he was elected to the papacy
…many, including the former leader of Soviet Union credit him
as the main protagonist in the fall of Soviet block.
And it is well documented that the pope’s assassination was funded and plotted
by atheistic Communist governments of eastern Europe
And it is also well documented that
it was not the Communists who succeeded in this battle,
but Saint John Paul, with the miraculous aid of Christ and his Mother Mary,
whom we also call Our Lady of Fatima
As I said, like a shepherd, at Fatima in 1917 and in Rome in 1981
The Blessed Mother protected her sheep
but not her sheep, but the sheep of her son, the one Good shepherd
But this should be no surprise, really, because this is what mothers do:
–it is no secret that mothers have a special vocation and gift
for caring for the lambs that Christ entrusts to them.
When I began today I said I wanted to talk about 6 shepherds, and I’ve spoken of 5:
John Paul, the Blessed Mother, and the little shepherd children of Fatima.
The 6th shepherd is not just one person:
the 6th shepherd I want to include is all the mothers in the world.
Like the Blessed Mother Mary, all mothers are shepherds.
Like a shepherd
–they protect their lambs,
especially from wolves posing as shepherds, trying to lead them astray
–especially those trying to lead away from Christ.
–whether its atheism or false Christian prophets,
or even the prophets of the secular society of the West
—the culture of our own often hedonistic society.
Like a shepherd a mother must protect her children, especially from
–false notions of Christ and His Church
–false notions of right and wrong, good and evil
–distortions of the dignity of Women, and of men and family
–lies promoted about the meaning of love and sexuality
–complete perversions of the fundamental dignity of human life.
Just as Blessed Mother came to protect her children, her little lambs,
from atheistic culture,
today’s mothers also have to protect our children
—grown up children and babies, born and unborn—
from the often devastating effects of a secular and sometimes atheistic culture.
97 years ago this week Mary came to Fatima to guide her lambs like a good shepherd.
33 years ago as Pope John Paul was just beginning to show the world that
he would be a strong and truly saintly shepherd
appointed by Christ to lead his church,
the Blessed Mother again acted like shepherd…
this time guiding a tiny bullet
away from the heart of her son’s vicar on earth.
Today she continues this work of being mother and shepherd.
In 1917 she guided 3 little shep children to help her guide the flock of her son.
But for centuries, 2 millennia,
she’s guided and continues to guide millions of Christians around the world.
Most especially, she’s guided Catholic mothers everywhere
to lead their little lambs, their children, and God’s children, to Christ.
This is no secret: it is simply the mystery of motherhood,
the mystery of a mother’s gift of protecting life and love.
Today, let us thank the Lord for the gift he gives us of shepherds like St. John Paul
who led the whole church to Christ for 27 years as Pope,
and continues to lead us from heaven as we venerate the memory
of his bold and heroic example of Christian living.
Let us also thank the Lord for shepherds like the shepherd children
Blessed Jacinta and Blessed Francesco,
as they also lead us by their example of child-like love for Christ.
Let us thank him for the gift of his Mother, who protects us
and comes to us in our hour of need, calling us to follow her son.
And let us thank him for the gentle and loving guidance and protection our mothers .
As we enter more deeply into the mystery of this Holy Mass on this Mother’s Day
let us pray that all mothers may always hear the voice
of the one true Good shepherd calling them to himself,
and that under the protection Our Lady of Fatima,
they may lead us and all the world to him.
And let us pray that he may give them the reward they deserve
for their tender care for us: loving and devoted families on earth,
and eternal happiness with Him and His Mother in heaven.