WHO IS THE REAL WOLF?: A HOMILY ON THE OPTIONAL MEMORIAL OF OUR LADY OF FATIMA
It is very easy for us to consider someone an enemy or an outsider, or a stranger. Every human being is created by God and loved into being by God. Sometimes, the evil people do against us can make us forget this fact. When we hate a person, we often begin to assume God hates them too. We do this because that is how we humans operate. If I love you, then I am obliged to love all those you love and hate all those you hate. God does not operate that way for the simple fact that He created us all and He never stops loving any of His children, no matter what they do, even when they are on the road to hell. As a priest, when you come to work among people, you may notice a divission among them. Those who feel they are your special friends will try to draw you so close that you become part of that divission. That way you lose your integrity as the father of the community. You cannot be a father who loves some of his children and dislike others.
Among the Jews, the gentiles were the enemies and the strangers. They even felt God is not interested in the gentiles. We have people in our lives that we love to hate, but let us not forget that God does not hate them. When Peter began to preach to the gentiles it became a problem. He had to convince them in our First Reading, using a dream he had, where God asked him not to consider anything unclean. In his vission he was presented with all kinds of animals and while he was busy making distinctions between which one is clean and which one is unclean, he was asked to kill and eat. When he replied that he cannot eat what is unclean, he was told that “What God has made clean, you have no right to call profane.” Yes, you have no right to call anybody evil, no matter what that person has done to you.
I dare to say that no single human being is your enemy. The real enemy is he devil. Jesus tells us that in the Gospel. He describes Himself as the shepherd, whose voice the sheep hear and follow. But there are times when a thief or stranger can go through other means into the sheepfold. They do not go in through Christ who is the gate. Jesus says that the sheep took no notice of them. This thief comes to steal, to kill and to destroy. This thief is the devil. He is the real enemy. Sometimes in a home, people are busy fighting each other, not knowing that the people you are fighting are not the real enemy. The real enemy is the thief in the house, the devil. Even when people have allowed themselves to be used and manipulated by the devil, that does not still make them the devl.
In todays’s world, one group of people christians love to hate is the muslims. But whenever I think of OUR LADY OF FATIMA, I remember the writings of Archbishop Fulton Sheen about this name. This is also presented in the writings of Msgr. Charles Pope. Why would Our Lady choose to appear in a place called Fatima, the name of the beloved daughter of the prophet Muhammed? This is a name that both christians and muslims can identify with. First and foremost, muslims love our Lady so much that a whole chapter of the Kur’an is dedicated to her. They believe and defend her perpetual virginity, her assumption, etc. In fact, the prophet Muhammed had said that the greatest woman that ever lived is Our Mother Mary and the next greatest is his daughter Fatima.
But how did a town in Portugal come to be named Fatima? We remember that in those days, Portugal was taken over by muslims. Over time, they were driven out of Portugal. During that period, there was a catholic man who fell in love with the daughter of a muslim chief, and her name is Fatima. He was so much in love with her that he named the town where they were after her. He married her and she became a christian. The same town is where Our Lady has appeared to three children in 1917. She chose to be called OUR LADY OF FATIMA, to provide a common ground for both christians and muslims. We do not need to begain from the things that divide us. We should begin from a common ground. Muslims and christians both honour Our Lady as the greatest of all women, as the most blessed of all women. Fatima is the name of the daughter of the prophet Muhammed, considered by muslims as next to Mary. Religion should not be a question of we and them. We are all God’s children. No matter how different other people are to us, there can always be a common ground from which dialogue can begin. When it comes to inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, I dont want to say Our Lady of Fatima is the answer, but She is certainly an answer.