The role of prophecy in the Church- Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the occasion of the presentation of the Third Secret of Fatima to the world
In Matthew’s gospel, Our Lord complains that “You know how to read the face of the sky, but you cannot read the signs of the times” (Mt 16:3). Prompted by this complaint, Our Lord wept over the Great King’s city with this lament:
Jerusalem! Jerusalem! Killer of the prophets! Stoner of those who were sent to you! How often I wanted to gather together your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wings — and you would not! (Lk 13:34).
The role of prophecy in the Church was clearly explained by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger on the occasion of the presentation to the world of The Third Secret of Fatima:
The Apostle [Paul] says: “Do not quench the Spirit, do not despise prophesying, but test everything, holding fast to what is good” (1 Thess 5: 19-21). In every age the Church has received the charism of prophecy, which must be scrutinized but not scorned. On this point, it should be kept in mind that prophecy in the biblical sense does not mean to predict the future but to explain the will of God for the present, and therefore show the right path to take for the future.
The prophetic word is a warning or a consolation, or both together. In this sense there is a link between the charism of prophecy and the category of “the signs of the times,” which Vatican II brought to light anew: “You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; why, then, do you not know how to interpret the present time?” (Lk 12:56). In this saying of Jesus, the “signs of the times” must be understood as Jesus Himself. To interpret the signs of the times in the light of faith means to recognize the presence of Christ in every age. In the private revelations approved by the Church this is the point: they help us to understand the signs of the times and to respond to them rightly in faith (The Message of Fatima, Theological Commentary, Public Revelation and Private Revelations — Their Theological Status; Vatican City, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, © 2000, p. 36).