Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God as an act of reparation for the sins by which He is offended, and in supplication for the conversion of sinners. You will thus draw down peace upon your country. I am its Guardian Angel, the Angel of Portugal. Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.
— The Angel on his second appearance at Fatima, Summer 1916
Even in Lent, many faithful may turn to another article upon reading “sacrifice” or “sins” in the Fatima Angel’s words above. Those not tuning out may well do so upon reading: “accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send.”
Yes, we live in a world without sin. Not a sinless one, but rather a planet where most people, even the baptized, don’t believe in sin.
Today, one shouldn’t break ordinances, hurt feelings, show cruetly to animals, contribute to global warming, and discriminate against social class, skin color, sexual orientatlon, height, weight, or some other self attribute.
But offend God? No problem: He doesn’t have rights or lawyers (the Christian God, that is, but don’t cross Allah). What was punishable with burning at the stake centuries ago is just free expression now.
That’s why in Fatima 100 summers ago, after teaching the three child-visionaries in spring a prayer about adoring and loving God, the Angel of Peace spoke about sin, sacrifice, and the conversion of sinners.
Even then, sin was vanishing from polite, erudite conversation. People and nations fretted far more about transgressing the sovereign will of the people, the immutable laws of science, the rights of man (and beast, too), the rules of sport and etiquette, and other dos and don’ts of this world, than heaven’s laws.
Indeed, the whole Enlightenment was about breaking the fetters of morality and tradition, from the Ten Commandments to Victorian sexual mores, from the divine right of kings to the established forms of art and culture.
In short, do your thing, and let others do theirs.
That’s all fine, if one sought only the things of this world. But if one had the gall to seek heavenly eternity with God, then it stands to reason that one must follow His rules, His laws, His will.
After all, how can one end up with Him without seeking Him, right? Plus: We need His Spirit to make our hearts like unto His, for being God, He cannot accept anyone unless he or she has been raised to His divinity.
Many don’t bother with all that anymore. They accept that humanity can only rise so high and live so long. Better be happy now than holy (hopefully) later.
So people content themselves with all this world offers, then face inevitable debilitation, darkness, and death, sans light at the tunnel’s end. That one-way trip is deemed preferable to a lifetime of striving for impossible perfection, hoping to be saved in the end (maybe).
The sacrificial path to holiness
Thus, the “sinless” world actually wallows in the original sin of setting aside God and His will and following one’s own, while submitting to the world’s strictures.
That makes the Angel’s message even harder to take for anyone who’s not a peasant boy or girl of nine or younger.
If people know or care little, if at all, about offending God, why sacrifice for the reparation of sins and the conversion of sinners?
Which may be partly why the Angel asked Lucia Dos Santos and her cousins Francisco and Jacintha Marto to sacrifice for other people’s sins. Those who believe must make reparations for those who don’t.
That, of course, is what Jesus did, and His followers are asked to share in His work of salvation by their own sacrifices. And when Lucia asked, “How are we to make sacrifices?” the Angel spoke the words quoted at the beginning of this article: “Make of everything you can a sacrifice, and offer it to God. … Above all, accept and bear with submission the suffering which the Lord will send you.”
Now, in offering all to God, we invite Him to make of our every thought and wish, joy and anguish, word and deed a perfect offering, since by ourselves, we have nothing good to give the Lord.
After all, Jesus admonished in Luke 18:19: “No one is good but God alone.” Or as this writer’s former Ateneo theology professor Fr. Joseph Roche said: “The only thing we own is sin.”
Ironically, that is the best part about the Angel’s call to offer sacrifices for sin and sinners: It opens the door for God to bless our every sacrificial moment with His grace, lifting our fallen beings and lives to His perfection and sanctity, as He does to bread and wine in the Sacrament of Holy Eucharist.
By our sacrifices we open the floodgates of God’s saving grace and mercy to transform us and our lives into His sanctifying vessels and actions.
And the world will see this holiness imbuing the faithful and their lives offered to God. People may scoff at first, or even decry and destroy it, as they did to the Son of God two millennia ago. But what the world sees and seeks to snuff out will be the spark kindling the divine flame hidden in every soul.
“The Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary have designs of mercy on you,” the Angel told the children. “Offer prayers and sacrifices constantly to the Most High.”
And by praying and offering our lives, we become channels of grace and holiness for all the world, awakening souls to the love and power of the Almighty, even those who refuse to believe in Him or accept His eternal offer of love.
So it was when lions devoured Christians in ancient Rome; so it is when the godless scorn the devout in the public arenas of today.
By sacrifice let us open the world to God’s saving grace. Amen.