Try to imitate God. As children of his that he loves.
On this day, in 1971, a child was born in Italy. Chiara Badano was given the gift of deep faith, and as a teenager she already knew that Christ wanted to be Lord of her life. She did her best to follow him, living exactly the kind of life that St Paul was talking about.
She chose purity, not impurity. We too must choose to keep our bodies for marriage, and not even choose to look at impure images.
She chose to avoid coarse talk and to make sacrifices in order to serve others cheerfully.
So successfully did she become a ‘child of the light’ that the people around her nicknamed her ‘Chiara Luce’, Clear Light!
That light shone brightly, but not for long. Today in 1990 should have been her 19th birthday… but three weeks earlier, she died from the consequences of bone cancer. Nevertheless, in the ten years during which she had been seeking to live as a follower of Christ, the light shone so strongly in her that the Church has declared her Blessed. But until she is made a saint, we cannot celebrate her Mass outside her own country.
Today’s Mass is a votive Mass of Our Lady. The light of Christ shines so brightly in the Blessed Mother that we may find her hard to imitate. Which of us can be at the same time a virgin and a mother? Who among us was conceived without sin?
Yet this raises another question. If Our Lady is perfect, why did she appear at Fatima and ask for prayers to heal her wounded heart? Eight years after the 1917 apparitions, Our Lady of Fatima appeared again to Lucia, and said: “See, my daughter, my heart surrounded by thorns which men constantly drive into it with their blasphemies and ingratitude. You, at least, try to comfort me…” – and she went on to ask all of us to offer special prayers for this intention on the first Saturday of each month.
So is Our Lady sitting at a desk in heaven, monitoring all these prayers on earth with a special app, a kind of ‘Gracebook’? “You have 100 million followers. A billion Hail Marys have been said today…” and the Blessed Mother anxiously checking every half hour to make sure that she’s still getting millions of likes?
No. In our brokenness, we might keep looking at our apps to be reassured that our friends still care, but the Blessed Mother does not suffer from insecurity. Our Lady asks us to call upon her prayers and make acts of reparation not for her sake, but for ours. She wants us not only to enter heaven, but to receive the very best experience when we get there. We store up treasure in heaven by making repeated acts of love for Jesus and Mary here on earth. Imagine the warm embrace when we meet face to face with those two people for whom we have said “I love you!” through our prayers every day of our lives!
Our Blessed Mother is also our perfect prayer partner, but although she is full of grace, she cannot share all those graces with us unless we ask. She appered to St Catherine Labouré in Paris to teach her that we must ask in order to receive in full, and she taught us the prayer, “O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee” – which every night at the shrine they pray between the Glory Be and the Fatima Prayer!
We come gladly to place our prayers in Mary’s hands. The story of this shrine is rooted in such an answered prayer. One foggy day in 1182, a hunter realised his horse was about to charge over the edge of a cliff. He cried out to Our Lady, whose statue already rested near here – and his horse miraculously stopped right on the edge. This sanctuary was build as an act of thanksgiving.
We are called to purity – the purity of heart which turns away from pleasures of the flesh; and the purity of soul which cries out to Jesus and Mary wih daily acts of love.
If we cannot imitate the Blessed Virgin, we can at least imitate Blessed Chiara. But let’s aim high! After all, the psalms today has challenged us to try to imitate God! As children of his that he loves.