Reflection on the Message of June 25, 2000 - THE 19TH ANNIVERSARY
Dear children! Today I call you to prayer. The one who prays is not afraid of the future. Little children do not forget, I am with you and I love you all. Thank you for having responded to my call.
Dear friends, I greet you all most sincerely from Medjugorje. We have just celebrated the 19th Anniversary of Mary's presence here, and it was really a great festival. Before we begin with our thoughts about this month's message, I again would like to remind us of what Mary said to us in May when she wanted us to prepare ourselves for this anniversary. She told us that she rejoices with us and then called us to a spiritual renewal. The Jubilee Year and the time of these apparitions are both reasons for such a spiritual renewal. On the one hand, the Pope is untiringly calling us to a renewal in this time and on the other Mary, with her presence here for 19 years, has been doing the same. Thanks to God many people have during these 19 years come here and have experienced what it means to renew themselves spiritually, and we must hope that this will also continue in this way. Because we were also back in May preparing ourselves for Pentecost, Mary also asked us to be filled with the Holy Spirit so that we would be able to witness with joy to those who are still far from their faith. So, God wishes to give us the gifts with which we then can take up this assignment. For this we must pray as Mary has been praying this with Mirjana on the 2nd of each month since August 2, 1987, but then also to witness with our lives, our words, our actions and all our relationships. We also wish to remember that Mary asked us to pray for the love that will make us capable of coming nearer to the others in each situation. Only love has the strength to knock down the walls that separate us from the others. Love is capable of removing all hindrances so that we become near to one another -- in the family, men and women, parents and children, and in general, where-ever we meet people. Of course we all want people to be near to us and so we should, from our side, also want and do everything possible to be near to the others around us, because it is according to this that we will be, let us say, judged on the last day. It is only this that will determine whether we reach the Heavenly Kingdom or whether we will not. Then the combined gift of wisdom and love will give us the capability of overcoming all difficulties that we may encounter every day. Sometimes we get the impression that they are not to be resolved and we might become frustrated, but we still have the good advice to pray for these two gifts and we also have the assurance that we will conquer these difficulties. Then Mary also told us that she is praying to Jesus for each of us, and I hope that we will not forget to pray for a filling of the Spirit every day and here it concerns the gifts of love and wisdom.
We have celebrated the 19th Anniversary in a grand way. We had an enormous number of pilgrims from all over the world and it is natural that for such festivals that we would have the most Croatians. This resulted in there being up to 35,000 people at the evening Mass on the 25th and on the 2 days -- the 24th and the 25th -- we had about 70 Franciscans hearing Confessions more or less all day long. For the evening Mass over 150 Priests concelebrated and this made it, by any standards at all, a great day of prayer, and for this we must be really grateful. I also wish to mention that Archbishop Franic of Split, who has all along done so much for Medjugorje, was also here with us for 3 days and again gave his testimony that he believed in Mary's presence here all along.
At the moment all the visionaries are here in Medjugorje. Marija came with her family from Italy. Vicka, Jacov, Ivan, Mirjana and Ivanka are also all here. We also made a Novena and something special about it was that after Holy Communion one of the visionaries -- usually Marija or Ivan -- prayed the Magnificat, or My Soul Praises the Greatness of the Lord, and then everyone responded with singing. In this way we wished to thank God for the graces that Mary gave us during this time.
As you all know, Ivanka had her last daily apparition on May 7, 1986, and that day Mary confided the 10th secret to her, then told her that she would appear to her again annually, and that this would be on each anniversary --that being, of course, each June 25. This was not the case on June 25, 1986, probably because her daily apparitions had stopped so close to that anniversary. This year Ivanka again had her annual apparition. She was praying with her husband and her children and, as you all know, after her daily apparitions had ended she had decided to pull herself more or less into quiet seclusion with her family. She wanted no publicity and that is why no-one else was able to be present. Ivanka said that Mary was joyful and that she spoke to her about the 6th secret, but the secret, of course, remains a secret. She also told us that there had been a short message which was...
"I introduced myself as Queen of Peace. Again I call you to peace, to fasting and to prayer. Renew prayer in the families and receive my blessing."
To this message one can say only one thing... Mary reminds us that she came to us as Queen of Peace, but she is also reminding us to pray and to fast in order to have peace. This we certainly do not wish to forget, but rather to remain steadily with this primary message. And again, the Lord only knows exactly how many times, but still Mary is again calling us to renew prayer in the families. This needs no commentary. All parents should absolutely begin, if it is not possible already in the mornings, to meet with their children in the evenings for a Rosary, and I hope that we all have received this blessing because this should not depend on where we are, whether here on the church grounds or out in the Parish somewhere or somewhere else in the world. Here I now wish to say, thank you Mary that you are loyal, that you accompany all of us, that you speak to us and I thank you for your blessing.
On June 26 we had a Donors Conference which included 200 people from 13 countries who were representatives of different organizations which, since the war broke out here, have helped us generously. It was wonderful to hear what our friends have done for our people in need, but all of them also told us that they, due to Medjugorje, had again found their way to their faith and that it is they that should really be thanking us because they had received more in their having come here than what they, in the meantime, have been able to give us. We thank, in the name of all those many recipients, all those who have untiringly been able to help. Here we speak on behalf of all the orphans, all the refugees, all those who had lost their homes and who, through the outside help, were again able to rebuild them. One can see and recognize all this in the first two Joyful Mysteries, in that they had heard and followed an Annunciation -- Mary is with us. In the 2nd Mystery, Mary then goes to help Elisabeth and in the same way the pilgrims, after the first Mystery where they had met with God, then had hurried to help those in need. We are extremely grateful for this testimony of love of neighbor and it was beautiful to hear that they had not limited themselves to the Catholics alone but stepped in for all the needy people which here included Moslems, Serbs and all the others. This was a great testimony for our Catholic -- this only meaning Universal -- love, and may God bless them all.
Mary gave us a really short message and its themes are prayer, fear, and Mary's presence and love.
TODAY I CALL YOU TO PRAYER
After even 19 years one can certainly still say that Mary called us to prayer in every single message, and she did again for this festival. Prayer is the primary instrument with which we travel with Mary to God. If we wish to summarize everything, Mary called upon us to take the time, and this, when seen externally, means that she wants us to pray three Rosaries, to go to Mass, to Confession, to Adoration, and to fast and read Holy Scripture. We should also pray individually, as families and as prayer groups. So she wants much quantity from us and this especially for those who had not at all prayed before or just a very little, but this she also repeated constantly. She also told us the times when to pray -- in the morning, during the day and again in the evening -- but in the end she also wants all our lives and everything that we do to become a prayer. We have also often reflected upon all of this. When she told us to pray with the heart she thereby touched upon the inner elements of prayer. With that call for praying with the heart, one must distinguish two things. 1) We can immediately begin praying with the heart when we accept with love all that she is telling us. So, when we take the time, when we really pray independent of how we feel inside, then that is already praying with the heart. The decision to pray no matter whether we are feeling something is to pray with the heart because we are praying out of love, whether we are distracted or not, or whether we are receiving what we want or not. I wish here to repeat my advice never to judge one's own prayer, and never to say that it was not good. If we have done what Mary wants of us in the external way and thereby prayed with the heart, then we have already done all that we are able to do. 2) The inner aspect of praying with the heart is then able to happen by itself and will also be given to us, but we are not able to open the heart like we would with a key and then say "now we are praying with the heart", but we can say "now I am taking the time pray". What then happens is something else again. But if we do not bother to take the time for prayer, then this other inner aspect of pray will absolutely never happen. Mary wants our prayer to become a joyful encounter with God. It can be this because always when we are with someone who loves us and whom we love, we are -- even when we are suffering -- always joyful because we are always, no matter how we are doing, joyful when someone who loves us visits us. If it is this way among us, then it is even more so this way when it concerns God. God loves us immeasurably, so when we encounter Him, then it simply must concern a joyful encounter. Mary called us also to a way of prayer that in fact changes our intentions. In our prayer we are able to be egotistic and this even completely so, and that is if we only pray when it is we who want or need something. In another message Mary told us not to seek God according to our needs but to seek God because of His love for us. This mirrors what her Son, Jesus, said when He told us to first seek the Kingdom of Heaven, God's Kingdom, and that all else will then be given to us. But still it so often happens to us that we seek everything else but not at all the Heavenly Kingdom. This way we are so easily discouraged and stop praying because we come to think that God does not give us what we want. We are permitted to pray for everything, but to always also say "Thy will be done". We should seek God who loves us because He loves us, so that our yearning, which only love can cause, keeps pushing us to prayer.
THE ONE WHO PRAYS IS NOT AFRAID OF THE FUTURE
This most certainly is true. Because prayer, as we now know, is an encounter with God who loves us, who knows us, who is merciful, who after all created us and in His hand is our past, our present and our future, and when we think about the word 'credo' we must also remember that it simply means 'to give the heart'. When we have given our heart to the loving God, then there is only love in our hearts and any fears no longer have room there, and it is also this way when we trust in God because we know that He loves us and this too should send away all fear. But, our experience also tells us that many people these days are still living in fear -- in fear for their own lives or for material things, in fear for the fate of the world, while many parents are also fearful for their children; but Mary gives us the most certain key with which we to escape all fear, and that is with prayer. But when we think about fear in the context of what Mary is saying here, then we can say several things.
First there is a fear that comes from illness and especially in much mental illness there exists a panicky fear, and there one must listen well to a Doctor and also do what he says, but, at the same time, one should very consciously begin to pray more.
Then there are fears that come out of our past wounds, for example when someone had problems with their father or with a Priest or with any sort of teacher. Then he might be fearful of authority figures that he is not even able to explain. There one ought to speak more about inner healing by way of prayer.
Then there is fear that quite naturally and also most often of all comes because of sin. The first experience of human fear was once Adam and Eve had sinned. They were unable to bear God's presence because they had broken something, because they had simply made themselves guilty by breaking a Law or a Commandment. And it is there that most roots of fear were able to grow. Also when we are often not aware of or do not even know the Commandments, always when we have done something wrong something inside us is wounded, and then fears follow. So, one also can say that fear comes due to the absence of the loving person. Why this person is absent is again due to sin when someone has turned away from the family or has, due to other reasons, seen humanly, done something that caused either the child's father or mother to be absent, and then the child will remain full of fears. The absence of the loving person is always a reason for fear, so what delivers us from fear is again the presence of that loving person. It is for this reason that forgiveness, reconciliation and ability to ask for forgiveness are so very important and the most certain ways of entering the realm of a loving presence again and thereby becoming safe and free of any fears.
When one thinks even more about fear, then one can in general say that the more one loses freedom of sin, the more one will be in fear. When someone has lost his freedom of sin by way of alcohol, drugs, bad habits, immoral behavior, a refusal to reconcile, a search for material, for success or for power, then when one does not find what one thought one would, it will again cause new fears in us. Fears which come about due to the loss of our freedom of sin lead us to aggressions, violence, injustice, constant competition, and to jealousy, envy, greed and other imbalances, while all these again are only attempts to regain what one has already lost and what one only thinks one wants. It is here that one so easily gets caught in a devilish circular and thus also endless dance. The way to break out of this aimless circle is to regain our inner freedom and then always becoming more and more free, finally needing less and less, so that one can again become humble and then fears will no longer find any space inside us.
Fear also finds a cause in our, so to say, spoiled behavior, when we insist on having that which we are not getting or have not deserved and here again fears come in. Just as an example for clarity... The student who has not studied will go to the examination in fear of a poor grade and when such a person comes to us and complains about his fear, then we may not just console him in perhaps saying that tomorrow the professor will be in a better mood and so it will then go well, but rather say "the fear is a normal reaction to the true situation, sit down, start working and then you will be freed from this fear". And often in our lives we act exactly this way. We are not ready to exert ourselves but then we become fearful of not getting what we were looking for and are fearful of something bad. When we speak of fear then we can say that every one of us has experienced different fears in different ways. God knows this and therefore someone once said that on 365 occasions throughout the Bible the expression, 'have no fear, peace be with you, I am with you', is written. Jesus repeats such words especially often after the Resurrection, and so this is decisive for us right now. When we begin to pray and thereby encounter our loving God, we will then absolutely overcome our fear of either our past or of our future. This will not mean that we will no longer have any problems when we pray, but we will simply be carrying them and experiencing them in a different way. It is always important to know that we ought to place our pasts into the merciful hands of God and our futures into His love and His protection and simply always do whatever we are able to do. From this point of view, when one looks at the Sacraments one can then see how they help us in all this. Baptism brings us back into God's eucharistic love in a special way and Confession brings us back to reconciliation. The other Sacraments confirm and strengthen this for us and each time deepen our understanding for this love of God for us. It is the Sacrament of Confession that in a special way frees us of any fears because we, through the Priest are insured that God has forgiven us and that He embraces us as a merciful father always does. I believe that it is not exaggerating when one says that fear grows more and is more present where Confessions no longer are happening. One reason for the presence of fear is that this can come due to the proximity of evil spirits, and so when someone is fearful of the cross, of holy objects and of the church, and therefore cannot come close to them, then this might be a symptom and a reason for us to attend to it from this direction. One ought to be careful when proposing a diagnosis concerning the presence of exaggerated and panicky fears, but for whatever deeper reason one still ought to come to a Priest and then to seek further what is causing this. One thing we must always remain aware of is that we may all come to God because He is our loving Father, and even when we have sinned He primarily still sees His own child, His son, His daughter, and only then what has happened there. This must give us all the assurance that we too, as does the Psalmist, can say that God is our haven, our safety and our shepherd, and that we ought to fear nothing. At the end Mary tells us...
DO NOT FORGET, I AM WITH YOU AND I LOVE YOU ALL
Forgetfulness can become a great problem because when we have forgotten what God has already done for us just because something that we have been wanting from Him has not been given, then we are in danger of losing faith, love, hope, peace, and everything else. How often have we been called throughout the Bible not to forget God's great deeds? If we forget, then this can become a danger that we might soon lose everything. If we forget what others have done for us then one little problem can soon wound and destroy all the other good relationships that we have and thus have many people distance themselves from each other. The only other possibility is really gratefulness, because whoever is grateful does not forget and therefore we do not wish to forget that Mary is with us, that she loves us and that she has already done so very much for us all. Her loving presence alone is also a great help in becoming free of all fears, and therefore many people have throughout these 19 years testified that they have had the experience of true peace here. This does not come from nothing or somehow by itself, but rather because she, as our mother, is present here, because she is praying for us and because she loves us all. Our hearts feel this even when we are unable to see or feel her presence and her help. I also hope that we all remain thinking people and thereby also to stay grateful and mindful of what God has, due to the intercession of Mary, already done for each of us. If only one such thing is forgotten then this alone can again throw us back into the darkness of fear. Now let us all pray...
God, our Father, in the name of Your son, Jesus Christ, and with Mary, the Queen of Peace, we wish to thank You for all the graces and gifts that You have given us and especially for the many times that You have told us "have no fear, I am a with you". We bring before You all those situations when we experienced fear and also all reasons out of which this fear arose. We ask You on behalf of all those people who out of reasons of illness experience fears or who due to sin still need to be healed or who have fears from the influence of evil. Father, in the name of Your Son, we ask You to speak one word and free each of us from all fears, so that we all may come before You in complete freedom and then stay before You constantly. Free us of everything that distances us from You and that keeps You distant from our lives. Bless us all and especially the parents who are fearful for their children and all those who are fearful of the future, so that we all can live in and become witnesses to peace. With the intercession of Mary, the Queen of Peace, give us the grace that we may be able to remain loyal on the path to peace along with Mary and that we may never again forget that she is with us and that she loves us. Mary, we all promise you that we will remain loyal to you and accompany you to the Father through Jesus. Thank you, Mary, for your presence, for your love, for your intercession and for your blessing. Along with you, Mary, we ask our Father, in the name of your Son, for all people who at the moment are at the hour of their death and who are afraid, so that they may be consoled. Now we wish to bring before you all those situations in which we will still be fearful, so that we may become yet more conscious of your presence and that you are leading us to our Father. We also give you our hour of death so that that hour may become a loving encounter with the Father through Jesus Christ. So may it be. Amen.
Fr. Slavko, Medjugorje
June 28, 2000