It was not possible for the mass of expectant people hearing these words on that stormy night in Garabandal to understand immediately the full scope of that very short and childlike message . . . And so almost everyone was disappointed.
«After hearing the message that the people passed from group to group (and one can imagine the changes and losses that such a transmission was going to introduce!), I was extremely disillusioned» — María Herrero admitted — «What was this worth? It appeared so puerile! Nevertheless I knew the girls well enough to know that they were not making it up and were not lying . . . I was confused and irritated.»
No wonder. The same would probably have happened to me. But now I feel myself obligated to proclaim that, by means of those four young girls —seen in all their littleness and insignificance — that same One speaks to mankind Who from the beginning had come speaking words that do not pass away although heaven and earth pass away. (Mark 13:31)
God does not communicate with man ordinarily by saying sensational things but rather by saying what is necessary for salvation.
He accommodates himself to the condition and character of the instrument that He chooses. Just as in former times He spoke to us in the rough and raw language of the hagiographers and prophets, He can very well speak to us now in the childlike language of four unlearned and poorly educated girls.(32)
If the presentation of the message appears childlike, that is not important; the only thing that matters is the content. And this has to be meditated upon to be understood. The true Word of God is not ordinarily clear initially . . . but it does reveal itself ultimately to the person who ponders over it again and again in mediation.
With meekness receive the engrafted word, that is able to save your souls.
But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
For if a man be only a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he shall be compared to a man looking at his face in a mirror.
For he saw himself and went his way, and presently forgot what manner of man he was. (James 1:21-24)
We know that the reaction of many of the people in Garabandal on that night was an angry disappointment . . . so much trouble . . . such a long wait . . . Only to hear that?
Nevertheless that was a new proclamation of what has been from the beginning. Something we need to hear, although we do not like hearing it. Men like things that are exhilarating, not things that are essential . . . And what entertains will always be better accepted among men, in the beginning at least, than what obligates . . .
The overwhelming simplicity of the Garabandal message places it on the same plane as the other messages of salvation.
The Jewish crowds were waiting for Jesus of Nazareth to show himself as a prophet mighty in work and word. (Luke 24: 19) Yet when He started His public life He came forth with no more than this: The time is accomplished and the kingdom of God is at hand. Do penance, and believe the gospel. (Mark 1: 15) Could anything be simpler? Yet that was the seed that would renew the world.
The expectations of the people who had witnessed the multiplication of bread must have been even greater than those of the pilgrims who had gone up to Garabandal. They had there the all powerful King who could be the solution to all their problems! Jesus escaped from them, and in the synagogue at Capernaum on the following day spoke out: You seek me not because you have seen miracles, but because you ate the loaves and were filled. Labor not for food that perishes, but for that which endures for life everlasting, which the Son of Man will give you. (John 6: 26-27) This offered nothing sensational or encouraging, but caused a disillusion and disenchantment that ultimately changed into hostility and hate, resulting in complete alienation from the Man Whom they had previously admired and followed with great zeal. After this many of His disciples withdrew; and walked no more with Him. (John 6: 67)
People expected a lot from Simon Peter too, who showed himself as the head of Christ's followers. Throngs of Jews had gathered in front of the Cenacle, attracted by the marvels of Pentecost and converted by the words of the fisherman from Bethsaida. What shall we do, men and brethren? But Peter said to them: Do penance and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ. (Act. 2: 37-38) This also was not a very stirring response.
And we, who are so easily given to confuse the important with what is elaborate and complicated, are also easily upset by the supreme simplicity of God.
Such simplicity comes one way or another to oblige us to something that costs: the labor of submission and searching; because behind that simplicity there is much to discover and much to receive.
Rereading carefully now, line by line, the contents of that proclamation of October 18th, 1961:
It is necessary to make many sacrifices, to do much penance.
Six simple words in the original Spanish, come at the time of the new spirituality (which actually is a very old lack of spirituality) that now had eroded the Church and has already succeeded in reigning in wide sections.(33) These words place us once again before the incomprehensible mystery of the cross. For the word of the cross, to those that perish, is foolishness,; but to those that are saved, that is to us, it is the power of God. (Cor. 1: 18)
Opposing the present development of one's own personality(34) is placed the former Deny oneself for Christ! And against the current planned destruction of every inconvenient moral obligation, comes forth the statement: Take up your cross each day. (Luke 9: 23)All the real or pretended rights of the human being and all the privileges of his liberty cannot abolish these eternal words: Enter in at the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who go in through it. How narrow is the gate and straight the way that leads to life. And few there are who find it! (Matt. 7: 13-14)
It is necessary to visit the Blessed Sacrament.
As within the Catholic Church — through noncatholic and anti-catholic influence — a grave crisis of doctrine and practice foments in regard to the Eucharistic reality, God gives us a solution with a short simple phrase from His mother's message. She calls our attention to something that is truly essential in all Christian living: a very personal — not only community — contact with the Savior.
The words of Jesus: I am with you all days until the end of time (Matt. 28: 20) carry more than the subtle and symbolic meanings that theologians of intellectualism, but not of common sense attribute to them.(35)
Christians live with more than just the memory and the words of the one who died for us many years ago. He is still truly living and present in our midst at every moment, aiding us in the face of demands so often superhuman against our faith. It is necessary to visit the Blessed Sacrament very often!
But first we must be very good.
How well this is known.
How well it is forgotten!
Nothing could be older; nothing newer. In the face of the present coronation of all human values (even to the point of holding up dissipation as virtue), the burying of the doctrine of original sin, and teaching programs hostile to God, there comes this very plain ‘We must be very good.'
In this period of darkness, these enlightening words remind us that we were not born good, but are called to become that way by daily effort. If we do not fight against the appetites of our flesh, we will be drawn fatally toward ruin. The flesh lusts against the spirit; and the spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary one to another . . . Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh . . . If you live according to the flesh, you shall die; but if by the spirit you mortify the deeds of the flesh, you shall live. (Gal. 5: 16-17; Rom. 8: 13)
It is true that God has loved us from the beginning. And it is true that God continues to love us, even as we are, in spite of what we are. But it is also true that He loves us with the expectation and the requirement that we stop being what we are to become what He wants us to be. And He wants us to become images and likenesses of His Son made man. (Rom. 8: 29) We alone among all the creatures of the universe have a destiny of change. We are creatures called to become different from what we are, that is, to progress into new beings.
Looking on life with a Christian mentality, this obligation of basic change from within is the grand task of the human being.
And so this requirement for change (of mind, spirit, style of living and acting) has always been the first chapter in every faithful proclamation of the message of salvation.
This was the way Christ began;(36) this was the way the apostles started out; and this was the way that St. Paul, standing in the Areopagus at Athens, called out his great announcement of salvation to the world of the gentiles.(37)
The obligation we have to become better, to become very good as the girls said at Garabandal, should motivate all our actions.
And if we do not do this, a punishment will come upon us.
God will wait a long time, but not forever. Now He respects our position of freedom; but let no one dream that it will end without punishment! In the end, the reckoning . . . And to each one what he deserves. Infinite mercy gives eternal happiness; infinite justice . . . eternal pain.
But God does not have to wait until the end of time to punish. His justice has inflicted punishments on the world in the past, and there will be more punishments in the future. It is stated to us in this message, gravely and definitely, that the world is heading toward one.
Already the cup is filling up; and if we do not change . . .
The mysterious cup symbolizes the patience of God looking down on the disobedience of His creatures. When the last drop of our sins fills the vessel, the workings of justice will be set in motion. Garabandal points to the time of destiny mentioned in the last book of the Bible, the book that tells of the consummation of the world:
And the seven angels came out of the temple, having the seven plagues, dressed in pure and white linen, with golden cinctures fastened around their waists.And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden cups filled with the wrath of God Who lives forever and ever . . .
The seventh angel poured out his cup into the air, and a voice shouted from the sanctuary, "The end has come."
Then there were bolts of lightening and peals of thunder and a great earthquake, such as never has been seen since men were upon the earth. (Apocalypse 15: 6-7; 16: 17-18)
The girls spoke about the cup, hardly understanding what it meant. During the explanations of the message that the Virgin gave them as the summer went by, she showed them a great cup into which drops of dark fluid, resembling blood, were spilling. When the Virgin spoke of the cup and the chastisement that was drawing near, her expression darkened and she noticeably lowered her voice.
Thus on that night of October 18th, Garabandal began to reveal itself in its great scope as a prophetic warning. We are now proceeding toward a time of extremely grave decisions on the part of God.
As the consequences will be terrible for many, He mercifully warns us so that we might find a way of avoiding these consequences. And there is only one way, the way that Christ proclaimed in the Gospel: If you do not do penance, you will all perish likewise. (Luke 13: 1-5)
From now on, a gigantic counterplay of mercy and justice on a divine scale will forever hover on the faraway horizon, predicted by the astounding story of Garabandal.
32. The word hagiographers is used in theological terminology to designate those who wrote the various books of Sacred Scripture under the inspiration of God. Also the more general term prophets is applied to them in the biblical sense to indicate persons who speak to men in the name of God.
For a proper understanding of what is being said in this text, it should be made clear that the Word of God that comes to us by means of the hagiographers or prophets of the bible is not being ranked with the words that come through the girls at Garabandal. The Word of God can be present in the one case as in the other; but there is a great difference as to the guarantee of the origin and the obligation of accepting it. Above all, there should be complete respect for official and public revelation; but those who show an open disrespect for all private revelation do not show the greatest respect for the Word of God, since it is the same God who speaks both through Sacred Scripture and through private revelation.
33. I do not say that such religious fads have obtained dominion over the Church, but they have obtained dominion over many in the Church. This can be observed by the way many clergy and non-clergy alike talk today. And it can be easily detected in the atmosphere that pervades the seminaries.
34. There is a cult of one’s person that goes along perfectly and even is part of the tradition of True Christianity. But there is also a cult of self-love, which is basically pagan and which is opposed to the evangelical counsels. The latter has permeated the heart and actions, the mentality and speech of many Christians.
35. I cannot speak badly of all theologians; among other reasons, because of the words of St. Francis of Assisi, You should honor and reverence all theologians and those who administer to you the most holy and divine words, since they administer life and spirit to you. But there are theologians and theologians. If today all are administering spirit and life, it is hard to see it. I am afraid that neither the Church nor the faithful have any reason to thank some of these theologians.
36. In his first preaching came forth the repeated demand to do penance and to believe . . . as has been indicated.
Many have lessened this do penance, confusing it with doing penances. This is not the same. Considering the original Greek terms of the Evangelists, we should recognize that to do penance is a complete process of renovation and change of soul from the inside. This process goes through three stages:
1. Breaking away from past sins and giving them up by means of repentance.
2. Expiation of past sins through the practice or acceptance of painful and difficult things.
3. Replacing the regretted past with a new and better life.
37. And God, having closed His Eyes at the time of ignorance, now declares unto men, that all should everywhere do penance.
Because He has appointed a day wherein He will judge the world with justice, by the Man Whom He has appointed; giving faith to all, by raising Him up from the dead. (Acts 17: 30-31)