Reflection on the Message of November 25, 1998
"Dear children! Today I call you to prepare yourselves for the coming of Jesus. In a special way, prepare your hearts. May holy Confession be the first act of conversion for you and then, dear children, decide for holiness. May your conversion and decision for holiness begin today and not tomorrow. Little children, I call you all to the way of salvation and I desire to show you the way to Heaven. That is why, little children, be mine and decide with me for holiness. Little children, accept prayer with seriousness and pray, pray, pray. Thank you for having responded to my call!"
I greet all of you who are trying to follow Our Lady's messages. Again, let us first remember last month's message in which Mary called us to come even closer to her Immaculate Heart. It is every mother's wish that her children be close to her. Mary is our mother and this is why she expresses this wish that we come closer to her heart and then to also remain near to her. The next question is what the children would want. From our experience we know that the children always find the parents when they need them, but when the parents need the children, then it is very often quite different. From this call of Mary's we should be able to discover two fundamental relationships toward Mary as well as toward God. When we, as children of God and of Mary, need something, then we take the time for prayer and are also ready to make other sacrifices so that we may get what we need. Mary stands ready for us and this can be seen in the Litanies where so many beautiful titles have been given to her. She is our consoler, our helper, our healer, and so she is with us in all situations, while she also wants this to be this way. God revealed His name to us -- Emmanuel -- God with us. Jesus encouraged us that we may knock and ask, as for example concerns the widow in the Gospel where Jesus says that we may knock until it is opened to us. But there is also another relationship, being that we should take Mary as our example -- our example for our own lives so that we may try to do what she also did. She accepted the will God well before she even understood what that really meant. She did not say "I understand", but rather she said "Your will be done." She visited her cousin and, in doing so, she exhibited love of neighbor. She was loyal toward Jesus all the time, also in suffering, at the Cross, all the way to the Resurrection. She also wants us to say, along with her, "Your will be done", so that we may grow in our love of neighbor and especially in our trust toward Jesus no matter what happens to us or how we are doing. She wants us to remain loyal whether we are doing well or whether we are not. Mary also wants us to think of the very first days of the apparitions, and those days were wonderful, with their great awakening in faith, in prayer, and where so many experienced conversion. While today when we look at this parish, we must admit that the euphoric response of the first days is no longer with us, but we may also hope that many people have remained, as Mary wishes of us all, loyal to prayer. This is why it is very important that all pilgrims become aware that they really must pray for the parish, as this parish also prayed, as Mary wanted, that many people, like they themselves, may come and experience conversion here in Medjugorje. So in this way, may we all carry responsibility for one another so that all of us may take the path of peace. Mary,also, toward the end of the message, expressed that she wished to lead us to Jesus' heart so that we may experience His love because His love is the only way to peace. In the hope that many of us followed this last message during this month, I invite all of us not to forget Mary's wish that we may do what we are able to come near to her, to remain near to her, to accept her protection, but also that we may do everything possible that we may become like her.
At the moment the visionaries who are still having their daily apparitions, Vicka, Marija and Ivan, are all outside of Medjugorje. This week, Vicka is in the Holy Land along with an Italian group, Marija is in Italy and Ivan is in America. Jacov, Mirjana and Ivanka are all here at home, and are living a completely normal life with their spouses and families. Mirjana and Jacov are still meeting with the pilgrims, as they did so loyally all along. At the moment, since mid-November there are fewer pilgrims here, but still we have a group from Lebanon and others from Italy, France, England, Germany and Austria and one from Poland. So it is much more quiet in as well as around the church than it normally is. But this can also be important for the parish, for us Franciscans and our Sisters, in that we might find more time for our own personal prayer. It must also be said that this last week we had a group of about 30 pilgrims, in which there were two Bishops who also followed the whole pilgrim program. They both gave interviews in which they expressed that they had experienced a renewal of their faith and that they had seen many good fruits. One of them also gave the homily on the Feast of Christ the King in which he said that he now understood Mary's role in the life of a Christian better than he had before. He called everyone to remain on the path with Mary so that we could all help build God's Kingdom here on earth.
Mary again gave us a message this month, while from experience we already know that Mary often follows the rhythm of the liturgical year, and it is also this way in this message.
TODAY I CALL YOU TO PREPARE YOURSELVES FOR THE COMING OF JESUS
IN A SPECIAL WAY, PREPARE YOUR HEARTS
Certainly, all of us will become active in preparing for His coming on Christmas -- Christmas being Jesus' birthday. Already from Mary's message, it becomes clear to us that her wish is on two different levels. There exists an external preparation which means that everywhere where one finds Christians it quickly becomes evident that Christmas is near. There is much activity in the markets, in the streets, and in the windows that will remind and prepare us for the Christmas Feast. Today there is a complete market strategy that concentrates only on Christmas. It is certainly also good that we prepare for Jesus' birthday in this way. If we expect a guest or someone who is important to us we also try to show it externally in that we decorate our homes and, in so doing, we tell our guests that we look forward to their coming. Yet, when it comes to the Feast of Christmas, it here concerns something far more important, it concerns the preparation within our own hearts. So that we may understand this better, all we have to do is again take Mary as our example. We know from her own life, that she often went to the Temple and that when the angel appeared to her, he greeted her with, "Hail Mary, full of grace". This immediately tells us that she had been prepared by God in a special way for bringing Jesus into the world. That is also why she could, at the Annunciation, say, "Your will be done." And her 'yes' to the will of God became the key with which God opened her heart to be ready to accept Jesus' eternal word of God. And therefore, He could also become man and her heart became the first place for Him. When Mary prepares our hearts for Jesus, then it certainly concerns only our allowing our hearts to become open to the word of God, that we may let God cleanse our hearts, that we become prepared for His Holy Spirit, that Jesus may enter our hearts, and that He may then also remain in our hearts. Through Jesus' coming, He really wishes to become man in us and in that He becomes man in us, we will also become man in God's image. When it comes to this preparation, then Mary also tells us very specific things. First she says...
MAY HOLY CONFESSION BE THE FIRST ACT OF CONVERSION FOR YOU
Confession is for us Christians the Sacrament of reconciliation, in other words, when we personally seek a Priest and in front of him, in the name of God, recognize and then ask for the removal our sins. This is so important for us that we must prepare well for holy Confession. This first of all means that we ask God that we can recognize His mercy and His love, that, even when we are sinners, trust may grow in our hearts, that all shame and fear of confession may be removed from our hearts, so that we may completely freely come to the loving and merciful God in whose name a Priest receives us. It is important that we recognize our inner selves and that we in humility also accept it. Today, as we all know, there is a crisis in the Church when it comes to Confession, but this crisis only comes when we have forgotten what a sin is. A sin is anything that separates us from ourselves or separates us from the others, or anything that insulates us from the others and through which a person comes to be alone. And, naturally, it is not good for any person to be alone. This is why it is so important for everyone to be removed from this separation, and, from this point of view, it also becomes the easiest way to recognize the fact that sin does exist and what sin is. An alcoholic, through his alcohol, separates himself from himself, and that is why an alcoholic can no longer work as he should, speak as he should, listen to others as he should, becomes aggressive, becomes, in short, a problem for everyone -- for himself, for his family and for all of society. Anyone who says a bad word or a lie about someone else does the same thing and, wherever we separate ourselves from the others or where the others separate themselves from us, there a sin is happening. These we must recognize and then ask God to pull us out of them. Perhaps it is not so difficult to recognize what separates us from the others, but we must also become sensitive toward what good we have failed to do. Recognizing something bad in Confession is very good, but it is just as important to recognize in Confession good things that we could have done but for some selfish reason still failed to do. A good word that we did not say can wound as much as a bad word that we said. A good advice that we failed to give to someone can have the same results as any bad advice that we gave someone. So we also can recognize good spiritual growth in that we can always see more and more clearly the good that we can do as well as the good that we failed to do. In Confession, it first of all concerns that we may forgive and also be forgiven, first between God and us and then between us and the others around us. Without forgiveness and without reconciliation, man cannot grow and therefore peace can never come. In the process of reconciliation we must forgive God and then also the others. We must also forgive God because we so often have asked Him for something that He has not given us, and therefore many of us have stopped praying and are no longer ready to come to Him in all situations. This is why forgiving God is the same thing as accepting God's will. We must also forgive ourselves because we have often decided for something good but then, due to our weakness or our sinfulness, caused that we again fell back and did not fulfill our previous good decision. And when we become impatient with ourselves, then we can go so far that we no longer even want to forgive ourselves, and this then is also not good because, when God forgives us, we must always forgive ourselves. So God and ourselves must be forgiven so that we may also come to forgive the others. The Sacrament of Confession is also the Sacrament of inner healing. That is the reason why Mary says that our first act in our conversion must be a holy Confession. For this, of having a good and holy Confession, we must first pray, and we must also pray for the Priest who is acting as our Father confessor so that he can also understand us and then give us good advice, as he should while being the extension of God's merciful hand. Once we have made such a good Confession, then we have made the first step in our conversion. In this way, holiness quite naturally also follows, because it is in Confession, as we have said, not only reconciliation happens but also healing. The beginning of holiness is really this reconcilaition, the forgiveness of all sin, and the healing of the fruits of sin. The other dimension of holiness is a steady growth in faith, in love, in hope, in peace, in trust, in goodness and in mercy. And, of course, once we have experienced all this grace in a good Confession, then it is quite normal for us...
AND THEN, DEAR CHILDREN, DECIDE FOR HOLINESS
All of us are invited to this holiness and all of us also have the same opportunity to become holy, because, already at Baptism, God led us out of the world of sin and made us holy. The seed of holiness that we all received at Baptism can grow when we cleanse our hearts at holy Confessions. Then Mary urges us...
MAY YOUR CONVERSION AND DECISION FOR HOLINESS BEGIN TODAY AND NOT TOMORROW
Leaving something until tomorrow is really a temptation with which all of us are very familiar. But the only thing that we really do have is today, right now. In earlier messages, Mary taught us and consoled us that, no matter what our past was like, we should simply leave it in God's infinite mercy, and that we should entrust our future to the love and care of God, and that we are today free to do good so that we may immediately grow in holiness. It can happen very easily that we are disappointed with ourselves because we failed to stay with good decisions that we had made or because we had become enslaved by sin and continued pushing holiness off until tomorrow. It is no exaggeration to say that it could become a satanic temptation; because, if we do not do what we ought to do today, and if we leave sin in us today then that sin will grow ever deeper roots within us. The longer a sin or a bad habit lives within us, the harder it becomes to get away from that sin. Once one of the boys in Sister Elvira's Community said that they had rejected drugs but that the drugs never rejected them. That is why, when we decide to begin today on the road of holiness, it is important that we also pray for the healing of our memories so that we become so free that nothing from yesterday can again come upon us and hinder us and that nothing of tomorrow can make us fearful, but that we can in all freedom decide for holiness today. Moreover, today can also remind us of eternity because, in eternity, there is neither a yesterday nor a tomorrow, but only an eternal today. In yet other words, Mary tells us in this message that...
LITTLE CHILDREN, I CALL YOU ALL TO THE WAY OF SALVATION AND I DESIRE TO SHOW YOU THE WAY TO HEAVEN
Whoever has decided for holiness finds himself on the path of salvation. And Jesus showed us this path when He said that He was the way, the truth, the light and the life, and He is also the way to Heaven. His coming to Bethlehem, His birth and His coming among us people is really the opening of the path of salvation for us. And for us to decide for Jesus and to go on the path with Mary means nothing else but the path of salvation, and, when we go on this path, we are on the path to Heaven. What Mary tells us is, in fact, the deepest yearning of our hearts because we always yearn for the path of salvation which means to be free and healed of all sin and of all fruits of sin and to be somewhere where all men only carry goodness, love, faith and hope. But we all know what we meet on this path to holiness and that is why it is so very important that we always look upon Jesus and that we really give our hand to Mary so that Satan and all his evil can no longer frighten us. So it is important to always have before our eyes the final wish in our lives, because on our path through life every one of us experiences so many difficulties, problems and weaknesses; but when we constantly keep our sight on our last goal then it becomes much easier for us to handle all these things that burden us. Then we will also discover that everything will turn for the good for those who believe in God and those who love Him. And when Mary called upon us in October's message to come yet closer to her Immaculate Heart, then she says even more than that in this message.
THAT IS WHY, LITTLE CHILDREN, BE MINE
She is our mother and she wants of us that we entrust our lives completely to her. She too went along the path to holiness, she became holy, she also tasted all sufferings of this world, and she is also witness to the fact that everything does turn to the good. And when we knowingly consecrate ourselves to her, then we will experience how loyal she is toward us and, even when we are disloyal in our weakness or our sin, she still remains loyal, because she has taken us upon her. It is important when she tells us that...
AND DECIDE WITH ME FOR HOLINESS
This tells us that we are not alone because she is with us as our protector, our helper, our intercessor, but also as our example. And so when we, along with her, say, "Lord, Your will be done", even when we do not understand and sometimes do not even believe that we can become holy, then it will still be possible for us because for God everything is possible. This is what Mary said at the Annunciation -- "Lord, Your will be done." So for us at the beginning of Advent to say, "Lord, Your will be done" means that we have given God the key for our lives, and He will in His goodness, in His love and in His wisdom give us the grace to remain with Mary on the path to holiness. Then, once again, she very strongly calls upon us...
LITTLE CHILDREN, ACCEPT PRAYER WITH SERIOUSNESS
This can only mean that many of us have yet to take her serious calls to pray as seriously as she wants of us, or that we have become so accustomed to her words that we no longer react. Here let us think of a mother who repeatedly says the same thing, and then says, "I tell you again, and do take it seriously." We have already said that our deepest yearning is to be on the path of salvation and to meet with others who are also on this path of salvation, but neither love, faith, trust or peace can grow without prayer - because prayer is a meeting with God, because God is the one who is holy and who, therefore, heals and makes holiness. God is the loving One who loves us and makes us capable of love. He is the merciful one who is merciful with us and who then also makes us become merciful. He is life and in our meeting with Him we are freed of death, and He is the light and in our meeting with Him we become freed of darkness. He is peace and His will is our peace, and without prayer we are unable to become free of our lack of peace. Then at the very end of the message Mary repeats...
AND PRAY, PRAY, PRAY
Were we to count, we would be surprised how often Our Lady has over these years called us to prayer and in how many messages she repeated the word 'pray' three times. May this call in this coming Advent really be taken seriously in all of us, in all our families, in all of the Church and in all the world. If we might have become lukewarm in our family prayer or in our personal prayer, then this is the moment when we again wish to renew our fervor, and for this let us now pray.
God, our Father, we thank You that You sent us Your Son, Jesus, who lived among us as child and as adult, and who gave His life for our salvation. With Mary, at the beginning of this Advent, we turn to You, merciful Father, and ask You, give us all the grace that our hearts may be prepared to accept Your Son, Jesus Christ, like You prepared Mary's heart for the coming of Your Son, and prepare our hearts in the same way. Free us of our pride, our selfishness, our fear and our distrust so that we, like Mary, open ourselves completely for You and for Your Son, so that our hearts can become a living place for Your Son. We ask You for the grace of a good Confession, so that every Confession becomes a meeting for us with Your mercy and Your love. Give us the grace of recognizing where we have sinned, of being sincerely repentant, and that You can cleanse us and heal us of all of our sins' wounds. Bless also the confessors and fill their hearts with love and with peace, so that they may all become an extension of Your so merciful love. Along with Mary, we ask You that we may without delay decide for conversion and for the path to holiness. Free us of all our bad habits that have enslaved us and that block us from deciding for the path to salvation. We give You, O Father, our past and our future and ask You for the strength to do Your will today. Fill our hearts, our families and our prayer-groups with the spirit of prayer so that we may meet You in prayer and, through every meeting in prayer, may grow in holiness. On behalf of all those who are entangled in lack of faith, in distrust, in dependencies, in bad habits and who cannot respond to Your word, we ask for Your grace to free them. Mary, we thank you that you are with us, for your prayer and for your intercession. Accompany us in this time of preparation so that we may, like you have, accept Jesus and remain loyal to Him, and that in this loyalty toward Him we may some day reach Heaven, through Christ, Our Lord. Amen.
Fra Slavko Barbaric
Last Modified 12/01/98