Reflections on the message of June 28, 1996
Dear children! Today I thank you for all the sacrifices you have offered me these days. Little children, I invite you to open yourselves to me and to decide for conversion. Your hearts, little children, are still not completely open to me and therefore, I invite you again to open to prayer so that in prayer the Holy Spirit will help you, that your hearts become of flesh and not of stone. Little children, thank you for having responded to my call and for having decided to walk with me toward holiness.
Dear friends of the Queen of Peace, I greet you all at the beginning of the 16th year of her presence. We have just celebrated the 15th Anniversary in a grand way, and the entire world was represented here. On the evening of the Anniversary it is said that we had over 35,000 pilgrims at the evening Mass where about 270 Priests concelebrated. There were also many Franciscans from other towns available for Confessions here that evening. For the first time there were five buses from Romania, many Hungarians, especially many Poles with over 40 Priests, more than 2,000 Czechs, then also Slovaks, Germans, French, Italians, South Americans, Spanish, English, Irish and Americans, a group from New Zealand and more from Australia. We also had a Bishop from Australia and two Bishops from Uganda. On June 24 we organized, as in years gone by, a March for Peace from Humac to Medjugorje where over 4,000 participated. This was really a Eucharistic Procession that took about four hours. Already from these figures alone one can tell that a great celebration occurred in Medjugorje! At the moment all visionaries are here at home. Vicka, Marija, Jakov and Ivan continue to have their daily apparitions, while Mirjana and Ivanka have their annual meetings as promised to them by Our Lady. For nine days the visionaries prayed a Novena of Our Lady's prayer -- the Magnificat -- with the pilgrims. We simply wished to thank Mary for the 15 years so full of graces. Mirjana, Marija, Jakov and Ivan assisted us in doing this.
Ivanka had her yearly apparition in June 25 at the same time as the others have their daily apparition. She told us that it lasted seven minutes and that Mary was generally joyful, yet then also became sad. Our Lady did not leave a definite message, but Ivanka told us later what Mary had told her. She thanked us for the prayers and also for the love that we have shown toward her. She urges us to live our day in love and in prayer, and especially she asked us to pray for those who are under the influence of Satan. Ivanka then told us that this apparition had left a deep impression on her and that she had cried for a longer time.
Before we get to this month's message, I would again like to remind us of May's message in which Mary thanked us for the prayers and the sacrifices that we had offered in that month. She also urged us toward being active. We may not forget that gratitude is a condition for peace and therefore whoever becomes grateful toward men as well as toward God will have peace. It is in this way that she wishes us to become active, as well as in our fight against all that is evil in us and around us, and for the good in us and around us. It is very important not to forget this call of hers. We may not think that Medjugorje is merely a call for us to pray and to fast, but here it concerns a School of Life in which we learn to engage ourselves for life, to protect life and to become active in doing so. This activity only then becomes possible when we pray and we fast, and this assignment must stay very conscious in us all year long.
In the message of the 15th Anniversary Mary again in the first sentence thanks us...
FOR ALL THE SACRIFICES YOU HAVE OFFERED ME THESE DAYS
Gratitude is, from what we again see here as well at the end of almost every message, a favorite theme of Mary's. She thanks us and in thanking us she wishes to teach us to be thankful. The conditions for thanking are to see the other person, to acknowledge his value, to recognize him and then to become grateful for him. When we become this way, then we are on the right path to peace. It is good to know this and discovering that Mary also sees us and acknowledges us will also encourage us all. It is especially encouraging to us that she needs us and to know that nothing that we do ever gets lost, but rather becomes a help in realizing the plans that God entrusted to her. These plans are certainly for the entire world yet still these plans cannot be realized without us, and for this reason it is good to become conscious that we remain grateful during this coming 16th year of the apparitions. God is giving us so many graces through the presence of Mary that all our problems and difficulties can become entirely different in the light of this gratitude. Gratitude will also help us to believe that everything will turn to good, and in doing so we can also become grateful for all problems, difficulties and even illnesses. Jesus Himself also told us to always be thankful. Once someone asked Marija Pavlovic what happens in Heaven, and she very simply answered: "In Heaven we thank God for all the gifts and graces that we received, but which we had not noticed and for which we had not been thankful." Gratitude is a really a positive state toward the others and toward God. We should also always find and see the goodness in people, no matter how small it is. This would circumvent the danger of seeing and then staying with the bad and thereby to becoming discouraged.
I INVITE YOU TO OPEN YOURSELVES TO ME AND TO DECIDE FOR CONVERSION
To open oneself is an expression that Mary uses repeatedly in many of her messages over these years. What does this really mean? In order to understand it, we should really think of a mother and her child. When the mother tells the child something, then the child is hearing what the mother is saying. When the child also does what the mother is telling it, then we can say that the child is open to the mother. But we know how often the words of the mother, of the parents are heard but are not put into practice. About all those who hear the words 'pray, fast and convert, celebrate Mass with the heart, go to confession' and who then put these into practice in their lives, we can say that they are open to her words. How often Mary invited us to conversion, no-one really knows. It is certain that her call to conversion is among the most important of her messages. The others are peace as the goal and conversion as the path to peace, and prayer, fasting and faith as the conditions toward the goal. Conversion is the call to leave behind all that is bad, that we free ourselves from evil, that we acquire inner freedom from all that is evil, and then to become capable and free enough to accept everything that God is telling us through Mary. The criterion for conversion in Mary's School is growing in love for life. So if we want to know if we are converting, we ought to ask ourselves whether the love for those people, especially toward those around us, toward the suffering, toward the small ones and toward the poor is growing. And so it is good when someone says, "I converted in Medjugorje.", but to be certain that we have experienced and are living a conversion, we should ask those around us whether they believe in our conversion. When those around us, when our families and when those with whom we work confirm this, then we can really say that we have satisfied the last criterion. We may not merely stay with prayer and with fasting, but rather prayer and fasting must show itself clearly in small and specific ways. And gratitude also belongs here. Those who truly convert become increasingly grateful toward God and toward people every day. The process of conversion keeps going throughout all of one's life because here it also concerns the positive growth of virtues. Therefore we should become aware that we may not become tired of the conversion process, but rather to begin each day with renewed courage. The failures or the slow growth in us may not become hindrances for our starting anew, but rather the impulses to try again. It is God's love and mercy that are the foundation and that give us the repeated chance for us to convert. If God did not love us, if He was not merciful toward us, then our conversion would be absolutely impossible. Therefore we must also be grateful for the many chances that we get to convert.
YOUR HEARTS, LITTLE CHILDREN, ARE STILL NOT COMPLETELY OPEN TO ME
This sentence really ought to touch us deeply and then also again urge us to ask and to seek what it is that hinders us from opening ourselves completely to Mary. Every one of us carries our own wounds that we have collected through our experiences and it is these that may develop into hindrances. And only love can open the heart. Therefore it is appropriate to start every day anew with a prayer to experience God's love. There are no other keys that can open the heart, except for love. And God's love is unconditional, one need not fear it because it is after all fear that closes one's heart to other people. But also our bad habits and our egoism are hindrances for our opening our hearts to Mary. Here Mary again gives us advice on how to become completely open.
THEREFORE, I INVITE YOU AGAIN TO OPEN TO PRAYER SO THAT IN PRAYER THE HOLY SPIRIT WILL HELP YOU, THAT YOUR HEARTS BECOME OF FLESH AND NOT OF STONE
It is important to realize what it means to open oneself to prayer. It happens to all of us so easily that when things are going well, then we forget prayer and forget to seek contact with God. But when something suddenly becomes difficult, then we again begin to pray. Such a prayer is, of course, also good, and Jesus calls upon us to always pray yet first of all to find the Kingdom of Heaven. But if we only pray when we have difficulties, then we are not yet open to prayer, but rather we wish to solve our problems and are using prayer to do so. It is not worthy behavior for a Christian to limit prayer to only asking for something! The one who is open to prayer is the one who prays constantly and for whom all prayer leads to being open to God. Prayer, the contact with God, brings God to them and then God gives them what He wants to give them. So whoever prays without wishing to convert, without wishing to seek God the way He is, this then is a crippled prayer. Mary calls us to prayer so that the Holy Spirit can work in us and through us, and it is He who will help us to change our hearts. The expressions 'heart of flesh' and 'heart of stone' are biblical expressions. There God promised us that He will remove the hearts of stone from our chests, and then that He will give us new hearts. To understand what this means, one need not use all too many words! Not one of us wishes to live with another who has a heart of stone. Everyone wishes to meet and live along with and for someone who has a new, a good, a merciful, a trusting, a loving and a free heart. People with hard hearts are those who make life impossible for others. In today's modern mentality of the people, the good and merciful heart must also be ready to suffer, to be wounded and to forgive. The rules of life today are often too hard. Often one has to hear the words 'one must fight hard', and in this way life has become far too hard for many and therefore people become hardened.
Therefore there is so much suffering in the families, in the communities and in the whole world. Especially the children must suffer when the parents have hard hearts and then the hard hearts of the youth lead them to self-destruction and then the destruction of others. When people are this way and especially the youth, then we are in trouble. Mary, as mother, wishes to bring us so far that we can live as different people with those with whom we live, circulate or work. The renewed heart, the heart of flesh is capable of having peace even when it suffers, to forgive when it is wounded and to love even when the others do not love. Hate, selfishness, dependencies, greed for money, for power, for influence all make the human heart hard. It cannot be a coincidence that so many people today suffer from heart conditions. The stressful life and work make for a hardened, stressed and ill heart, and this may also lead to death. Mary who had a perfect, a clean and a loving heart had already earlier called us to have our hearts become like hers. And here we may not say that this is impossible. It is possible to have a good heart because God will never call us to something that is not possible. So this expression should also accompany us throughout the entire year so that everything we do, we may do so that our heart will become a good heart. Prayer, fasting, Confession, Holy Mass, reading and meditating on Scripture, and to look at His heart will all help us understand what it concerns here in this message.
We are accustomed to Our Lady thanking us at the end of every message, yet what is uncommon in this month's message is that she also thanks us...
FOR HAVING DECIDED TO WALK WITH ME TOWARD HOLINESS
So let it really be true that we after 15 years can truly open our hearts completely to Mary, that we can call upon the Holy Spirit, that we can open ourselves to prayer, that we decide to walk with Mary. Mary is holy and she accompanies us, she teaches us and she helps us to understand what our lives really mean. We know that the Saints are examples for us and that they are also our intercessors, our helpers so that we also can reach the goal. When the Saints can have this role in our lives, then we will certainly put Mary in the first place. It was she who said 'yes' to the Angel of God and then stayed loyal to the end. Through suffering along with the suffering of her Son, she learned to suffer, in suffering she learned to hope, to love and to forgive, and in so doing become mother to us all. When we have decided to walk the path with her, then it is guaranteed to us that nothing will break us because she, in her deepest suffering, was also not broken. Then we will discover with and through her that hope, love and faith are stronger than all suffering. People need examples, and our examples are the Saints. We have an expression among us here, "Tell me with whom you are, and I will tell you who you are." Mary is with us and we are with Mary, and when we take the path with her then people will really see that we are her school. May we, during this new year of the apparitions and during all the time that Mary will stay with us, become increasingly similar to her and this means to give ever more room to her Son, Jesus, and that He may become the center of our lives, just as He became the center of her life. Let us pray...
Heavenly Father, we wish to thank You for Mary's presence among us during these 15 years. We thank You for all that You have given us through her. We thank You for every word that she expressed in Your name. We thank You for all the graces, for every blessing, for every inner and outer healing that You, in the name of Your Son and through Mary's intercession have given to us. We adore and praise You along with Mary who calls upon us to convert. We ask You for the grace that we decide to convert. Send us Your Holy Spirit so that we can, through Him, open ourselves to prayer and that He then help us to grow in prayer. Take, O Father, our hearts of stone from our chests and cleanse them so that they may become new hearts. Free us, O Father, of everything that makes our hearts, hearts of stone. Free us from every hate, from very jealousy, from every greed, from every obsession and dependency and from every distrust and fear. Free our hearts from all wounds, from all stresses and traumas, so that our hearts may be formed according to that of Your Son -- humble and mild -- and formed according to that of Your servant, Mary, so that we may live with one another in love and peace, and so that we may stay, along with Mary, on the path to holiness, so that someday we may become holy as You are holy, Our Father, who lives and reigns in all eternity. Amen.
June 28, 1996