Reflection on the Message of January 25, 1999
Dear children! I again invite you to prayer. You have no excuse to work more because nature still lies in deep sleep. Open yourselves in prayer. Renew prayer in your families. Put Holy Scripture in a visible place in your families, read it, reflect on it and learn how God loves His people. His love shows itself also in present times because He sends me to call you upon the path of salvation. Thank you for having responded to my call.
A greeting from Medjugorje to all those who are listening to Our Lady's messages and who are trying to follow her in their daily lives. First I would like to remind us of what Mary told us in the Christmas message of 1998. Primarily she gave us her blessing, and then also little Jesus' blessing. To be blessed by Mary means mainly that she is with us, that she is praying for us, that she protects us, that she is teaching us, and all this together means that she is with us as our mother. Little Jesus' blessing means that He is Emmanuel -- God with us -- and that is the greatest blessing of all. Whoever is with Jesus has the light, has the truth, has the way and therefore also has true life. Jesus blesses us especially with His Eucharistic presence, and whoever remains with Him most certainly also has His peace. Mary again tried to make us conscious that we are all yearning for peace, but that we do not have peace. This also nudged us to ask ourselves, if not, then why not, and then also where it is that we are seeking peace. There exist God's ways to peace, and these are when we convert and through prayer and fasting then can attain peace, but false ways to peace also exist in which we seek it, but without conversion, without prayer and fasting we then simply cannot find true peace. In that message Mary called us three times to pray, pray, pray, because prayer is the primary condition for our peace, our joy, and also for our future. Without prayer, Mary says, we can neither have peace, nor joy, nor a future. She encourages us, toward the end of the message, to seek peace, to yearn for peace, but Mary says that only God is true peace. These were Mary's main thoughts that she gave us with which to begin the New Year, 1999. Mary has been calling us untiringly that we pray, and the reason for this is that if we do not then our deepest human yearnings -- those for God -- are never able to be realized. Every person yearns for joy and for peace, and wishes to have a secure future, and this is why she has repeated it so very often throughout all 17 years and 7 months that she has been appearing here in Medjugorje that we ought to pray.
At the moment Mirjana, Vicka and Ivanka are here in Medjugorje. Jacov and Marija are in Italy, and Ivan is on a trip in the Far East where he is giving his testimony to all who wish to hear about these apparitions and their messages. All the visionaries are doing well.
Right now things are a bit quieter here in Medjugorje, but we still have a group from Korea, several from Italy, one from France, one from Poland, and several English-speaking groups here with us. The last days of 1998 and first days of 1999 were visited here very heavily. There were, without any exaggeration, pilgrims here from every imaginable corner of the world, and on New Year's Eve between 4 and 5,000 people had gathered for prayer. Both the church as well as the new building behind the church were full to capacity. We began with Adoration at 10:00 p.m. and then Consecration occurred exactly at midnight. In this way we wanted to enter the New Year with Jesus very consciously. Many pilgrims told us that this manner of celebrating that special time had touched them deeply and that they really got to know the best way to enter any New Year, and that is simply to pray -- thanking for the last year and asking for the new year that is coming.
These days we have been receiving many telephone calls asking whether the Franciscans will be leaving Medjugorje, and the reason for this is that a rumor has been spread that the Franciscans ought to leave Medjugorje. Nothing at all is true about this, and we do not know how and by whom such a rumor can be spread. There are certainly no good intentions behind this story, and such things may simply not bring us any confusion or distress. All we wish to do is follow Mary and her messages, and I ask all those who read these thoughts, or the Press Bulletin, or our information on Internet, not to spend all too much time with such rumors that do no-one at all any good.
This month's message is again a renewed call to prayer.
I AGAIN INVITE YOU TO PRAYER
In these 17 years and 7 months since Mary has been appearing here among us, she has invited us to prayer so very many times. Mary is untiring about this request. And again she is calling us. When Mary tells us in the Christmas message that when we do not pray we have neither peace, nor joy, nor a future, then it is completely normal that she, as our good mother, again calls us to what leads us to true peace, joy and a future. This is because she only wishes for us peace, joy and a secure future. Prayer is a meeting with God, and only in God is there true peace and joy, and only God can give us a secure future. Then Mary echoes our most often used excuse not to go and pray, and that is our work.
YOU HAVE NO EXCUSE TO WORK MORE
How many people, and exactly for this reason, say "I have no time, I must work"? But, work is never a valid reason not to pray. All of us know very well that it is people's lack of love for God that is the primary reason that they do not pray. Here it is important that every one of us again ask himself what excuse he uses for not praying. For those people who work in the fields, who work more in nature, Mary says...
BECAUSE NATURE STILL LIES IN DEEP SLEEP
So, there is enough time to pray, and the same thing also applies for all the other types of work. Our work simply may not become our excuse to ignore our God and Mary who love us so, so much. Mary calls us to prayer, but in this message she specifies...
OPEN YOURSELVES IN PRAYER
Prayer and opening oneself in prayer are certainly two different things. When we begin to pray, that is then our response to the call to pray, but then the one who has already begun to pray is also already open to praying, yet there is another process also that we must come to get to know here when Mary says...
OPEN YOURSELVES IN PRAYER
Many people will ask themselves what this might mean or how one can do this. First, one can only open oneself in prayer when one takes the time to pray. This is because only love can open our hearts. When we love someone, then our heart opens itself immediately, then we are ready to speak with one another and to trust one another. Then we are ready to spill the deepest needs of our soul to the other person, but then again when love is not present, then we remain closed. And to be open to God in prayer means that we must give Him time, and then also ask Him that His love may touch us. Our hearts, in this manner of speaking, can be compared to a flower when the rays of the sun touch it. The person who has worked with plants in his garden is not the one who can give them the necessary growth, and is not the one who opens the blossoms, but he is the one who can help in creating the necessary conditions that the garden with all its flowers and fruits can blossom and grow. It is also this way with our hearts. Another and somewhat deeper but also very important part of opening one's heart in prayer is what much of modern society has completely forgotten, and that is the element of listening. When we are truly open, we soon again learn to listen -- listen to the others around us, listen to God in Holy Scripture, listen to God at Holy Mass, but also to listen to God and His Eternal Kingdom in pure silence. When we yearn for God, He will always respond to us, but for us to hear Him we must first also listen for Him. A very prayerful and equally successful healer whom I once met, when someone once asked him what the most important thing was that he had ever learned, responded that listening was the most important discovery that God let Him make. I think that Mary's request of us that she repeats so very often -- the call for us to pray and be open -- is simply the mother's worry that we may in prayer, at Confession, at Holy Mass, at Adoration, at reading Holy Scripture and at the Way of the Cross open our hearts, because only an open heart is able to receive peace, joy and a secure future from God. And when our hearts are open in prayer, then prayer will also become life, because in every possible situation we will meet with God and then also remain in touch with Him, and this afterall is Mary's primary wish. Then Mary calls us to..
RENEW PRAYER IN YOUR FAMILIES
This advice is, of course, primarily meant for the parents -- for the mothers and for the fathers. There where the parents begin to pray, there too the children will learn to love to pray. Recently I heard from someone who had over some time become an atheist. He said: "I did not become an atheist because of problems with the dogma, but rather because of my grandparent's lack of enthusiasm for God". So, there where both the parents and grandparents are really open to God, there too will the children become open to Him. It is an important and very powerful tool for learning when the children see their parents and grandparents praying together. For children who have never seen their parents praying, when they are still all living together, it then becomes almost impossible to change this later on, and then still have the children understand that one still needs to pray. So, when the family stays together in prayer, then the family will also stay together no matter with what difficulties or sufferings it might at some time be presented, and from this too the children will then take a good example into their adult lives. This, however, does not mean that only the parents have influence over their children, and sometime during or right after puberty the children might want to ignore everything that has anything at all to do with going to church. But when this is the case, the parents ought not to blame themselves. Instead they should simply remain in trust and faith, and therein continue to pray for their children, because it is true that everyone must find his own way, and, in so doing, many young people must first become distant from what they were taught to do. And in these modern times, when so much is being said about "freedom", "self-fulfillment" and "democracy", the children can so very easily stumble upon entirely wrong decisions for their lives. They are almost pushed by today's society into doing what only they think is best for them, yet without for a minute thinking what either God or those who love and know Him might be thinking. But this is a developmental process and one must be very patient with one another. Then Mary suggests to us...
PUT HOLY SCRIPTURE IN A VISIBLE PLACE IN YOUR FAMILIES, READ IT, REFLECT ON IT AND LEARN HOW GOD LOVES HIS PEOPLE
Mary already expressed this same wish in October 1984 and in August 1996. I consider this advice to be very practical, because the Bible is after all for us all the word of the God who loves us. The Bible is His letter to us, and in this letter He is telling us constantly that He loves us, that He wishes to lead us, that He is our God, that we may trust in Him, and that He is our way, our truth, our light and our life. And He quite naturally wants us also to read His letter that He wrote to us out of His love for us. And it then follows that when we love God, we will also come to loving His letter to us. When we love His word, it will also remain in our hearts. So if we listen to Mary, we will read and also reflect on His letter to us every day. When we hear the 'reflect' come from Mary's mouth we are also immediately reminded of what she herself did with the word of God. St. Luke writes that Mary kept the words that her son Jesus had said in her heart and then reflected upon them. This term 'reflecting' is really meant as an active reflecting, and this means that everything that Mary had learned about the Messiah in the Old Testament she immediately also compared with everything that Jesus said, and from these comparisons she could come to her own conclusions and then simply say: "Yes, it is He, about whom the prophets had spoken." Mary's heart was a heart that meditated and reflected, not only in the active sense of making such comparisons, but also a heart that lived well in silence and that did not allow itself to be overturned by the outer or more superficial things going on around her, but rather one that remained in silent contact with God and with His word. In this way she could also learn and recognize how much God loves His people. If we reflect on her beautiful prayer, the Magnificat, we will get to know how well and how deeply she came to understood the history of Israel, God's love, God's leadership and God's caring for His people. God cares for the small ones among us, for the lowest in society, for the hungry, and He is their protector as well as their defender from the mighty and the proud because it will they who will fail in the end. God showed His love for us most especially in that He sent us His Son as our Savior, and the Father's love also came into complete revelation through His Son. How beautiful are Jesus' parables in which He speaks to us about His Father! Here let us think about the merciful father in the story of the lost son -- the father who with an open heart welcomes joyfully and is happy about the one son who had wasted everything and then had come back home. God the Father's love and worry for His people went so far that He did not even spare His only Son, but rather gave Him to us for our own salvation. And Mary then tells us that...
HIS LOVE SHOWS ITSELF ALSO IN THE PRESENT TIMES BECAUSE HE SENDS ME TO CALL YOU UPON THE PATH OF SALVATION
Throughout all of history God called upon the Prophets so that they would spread His word, would call upon the people to convert and would try what they could to get them back onto the path of salvation. Even when, as already said, the Father's greatest proof for His love for us was the death of His only Son, and even when we also know that all revelation ended with the death of the last Disciple, still God's love for us is an active caring for us that does not suddenly end. His caring for us is and will always be an eternal love for us, and so Mary sees her apparitions and her presence with us here as proof of God's love and caring for us. And she, as Jesus' mother, also wants us, by way of her apparitions and special presence among us here, to recognize this same love of God who cares for His people. I also believe that I may say that in fact many millions of people have also recognized exactly this love when they have come here -- that God has not forgotten us, and that He loves us. These include all those who have found the strength to leave behind sin and have become free again, all those many who have been able to reconcile and forgive others, all those who have experienced a spiritual or a physical healing, and all these know very well that God really loves them and that Medjugorje in a very special way has become a revelation of His eternal love for us all. It is also very important for us that we think about and then also ask God that all of us may come to recognize God's love. It is, of course, not always easy and especially when we are suffering, or when we have a true cross, but it is probably also our faith's final lesson when we are asked to recognize God's love for us also when things are very difficult for us. All of us are also in great temptation, and especially when we suffer, to begin hesitating concerning God's love as well as His mercy. Often we could in a way blame God for the suffering, but our suffering is not God's will, but it is His will that even when we do suffer, that we may even more deeply come to meet His love for us. It is the experience of many people that it was a suffering that had brought them back to God. It is certainly also appropriate to mention here that when we hear that Mary is appearing -- not only here in Medjugorje but also in other places -- that some people will then wonder about the multiplication of apparitions and come to suspect their authenticity. Some people who believe in apparitions also always seem to see something that seems to point at catastrophes, that they start understanding and then also presenting Mary as the Prophet of catastrophes, but such reactions are always inappropriate for it is never Heaven that brings about catastrophes, but only mankind. When God sends us Mary it is always because He loves us, and in this way He is showing us that He has not forgotten us, and that He wants to lead us on the path of salvation, so that we may experience peace and salvation, and that we may someday enter eternal peace alongside Him. For this we must really also be grateful to God, moreover, also ask Him that He may reveal His love to all His people while still in their daily lives, and that they then may open their hearts to Him. And for this we now wish to pray...
God our Father, in the name of Your Son, Jesus, along with Mary, your most humble servant, the Queen of Peace, we wish to thank You that You love us, and we wish to thank You for Your love, but we also now ask You to enlighten our hearts, through the Holy Spirit, so that we may respond to Mary's call to prayer and so that in prayer we may also open ourselves to You. Give us the grace that we may, through Mary's apparitions, especially recognize Your love for us all and that we may throughout all our lives respond to Your love for us. We also ask You on behalf of our families, fill the hearts of all mothers and fathers, and their children, so that they may renew prayer, that they may all recognize Your love for them in Holy Scripture, and that they may, as families, also respond to Your love for them all. Give us understanding for Your word and for Your love, and may Your word become light and the truth for us all. Give us all new hearts that are similar to Mary's heart, so that we too may retain and actively reflect on Your word. We ask You, on behalf of all those who are suffering at this moment and who therefore might be doubting Your love, that they may, through the Holy Spirit, be enlightened and be led to You, our good Father. In the name of Your Son, Jesus, and Mary, the Queen of Peace, lead us all onto the path of salvation, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Fr. Slavko, Medjugorje
January 27, 1999