“Do not offend the Lord our God any more, because He is already so much offended” (Our Lady, 13th October, 1917).
The Call that the Message is making to us here reminds us once again of the need to observe the first of all the commandments of God’s Law, in other words, the love of God. The precept to love God is the first of the commandments, not only on account of the unique greatness of the Object it contemplates, but also because it is this love which will lead us to fulfill faithfully all the other commandments.
Speaking to his people through Moses, God said: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut 6, 4-9).
God’s insistence that we should engrave the law of his Love in our hearts, that we should use it as a symbol on our arm and a frontlet before our eyes, that we should have it written on the doors and doorposts of our houses, is in order to ensure that it should always be present to us, that we should meditate on it night and day, and that we should teach it to our children, to our brothers and sisters and to all those around us. This love is to be a guide for our footsteps, a light for our aspirations and the object of our desire. It is to be the guide of our footsteps, that is, we must walk in the path of love.
One day, the Pharisees came to Jesus and one of them, who was a doctor of the law, asked him: “‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets'” (Mt 22:34-40). This second commandment to which Jesus refers had been given to his people in these words: “You shall not take vengeance or bear any grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. You shall keep my statutes” (Lev 19:18-19).
The essence of the Message—Do not offend the Lord our God any more—is contained in the observance of these two commandments. We all know that it is by sin that we offend God, when we fail to observe this commandment of love which we owe to Him, to our neighbor and to ourselves; yes, to ourselves, because we do serious harm to ourselves also, at times without thinking or feeling that we do.
We offend God because we transgress his precepts, all of which are a manifestation of his love for us. As in the case of the love of a father, who takes his son by the hand and points out to him the path he is to follow in order to attain happiness and inherit his father’s property, if the son becomes unruly and rebellious, if he despises the things his father has taught him, obviously he hurts and offends his father in the most sensitive part of his heart, his love.
In the same way, when we despise or violate the commandments of God, we cause hurt and offence to that which is most magnificent in God, in the fatherly love with which He created us, enfolded us with loving care in all that surrounds us for our good and which He created for our good, the love with which He redeemed us from sin and opened to us the gates of Heaven, with which He will grant to us our inheritance in his Kingdom. Hence, every sin is an offence against God our Father and a rejection of His love, since we are preferring our sin to the love we owe to God and to possession of his Kingdom, knowing that by our sin we lose the right to it.
In this connection, read the stern words of the Apostle St. Paul: “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself .’ But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are plain:
immorality, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:13-25).
These words that the Apostle has just addressed to us tell us what we must do in order to respond to the Call of the Message urging us: “Do not offend God any more”! Let us not offend against the love of God any more! And this love that we owe to Him must lead us to love others. No one can say that they love someone if they despise and maltreat his or her children, because parents naturally take as done to themselves what is done to their children. We can say the same of God’s reaction to the love which we bestow on, or deny to, those around us: they are his children!
In the case of God and his children, there is another reason that obliges us to love them: they are our brothers and sisters! But, “brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethren. Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:6-10).
We must avoid sin in order not to offend God or lose the right to eternal life. Sin severs our relationship with God and poisons the place in our heart which we owe to others; it makes us unworthy of God’s friendship and of sharing in his glory. That is why St Paul urges us: “But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone (if his works are good) and not in his neighbor. For each man will have to bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faiths (Gal 6:4-10).
Here we have clearly marked out for us the way we are to follow in order to live in accordance with the commandment of the love of God, and of our neighbor for the love of God. It is the way outlined, taught and lived by Jesus Christ; as St Paul says, let us not pay attention to any other teachers! “As therefore you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so live in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught abounding in thanksgiving. See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ. For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have come to fullness of life in him, who is the head of all rule and authority” (Col 2:6-10). This whole teaching of the Apostle is wonderful, casting beams of light ahead of us to guide our feet, strengthen our weakness and enlighten our faith and our understanding.
But we must not think that, in order to respond fully to the implications of the Message and of the precept of love, it is sufficient to avoid sin, in order not to offend God. This is undoubtedly the first step, but it is not enough. If we were to be cold, indifferent or neglectful in our attitude to our father, our mother or anyone to whom we are beholden in some way, it goes without saying that we are being unjust and ungrateful to this person, and so offending them. The same is true of God, who is more than a Father to us: we offend Him by our coldness, our forgetfulness, our indifference and our carelessness; we are behaving in an ungrateful way towards Him, like someone who does not recognize his or her principal Benefactor, the One to whom we owe most.
Let us look at Jesus Christ in the Gospel! The one great concern of his heart was to reveal to human beings the love of the Father, to love Him and to make Him loved, observing his precepts and his word. For this, He offers Himself to us as a model: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full…. for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you…. This I command you, to love one another.” (Jn 15, 9-17) Jesus Christ’s joy consists in the fact of having the Father’s love within Him and of responding to it, and it is this joy that He wishes to share with us, allowing knowledge of the Father to overflow from his heart: “I shall tell you plainly of the Father… for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from the Father. I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:25-28).
In his priestly prayer to his Father, Jesus was able to say that He had fulfilled the mission entrusted to him: “I glorified thee on earth, having accomplished the work which thou gavest me to do… I have manifested thy name to the men whom thou gavest me out of the world; thine they were, and thou gavest them to me, and they have kept thy word. Now they know that everything that thou hast given me is from thee; for I have given them the words which thou gavest me, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from thee; and they have believed that thou didst send me. I am praying for them… for they are thine; all mine are thine, and thine are mine… Holy Father, keep them in thy name, which thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one (Jn 17:4-11).
Love is the bond which must bind us close to God and to our neighbor, identifying us with the Heart of Christ, plunging us into the Heart of God, so that our will is his, and our one yearning is be in full possession of his love.
The above article is an excerpt from Sr. Lucia’s “Calls” from the Message of Fatima, Secretariado dos Pastorinhos, Fatima, distributed by Ravengate Press.