I greet all of you who are, in your hearts, accepting Mary's messages and then trying to realize them in your lives. Before we begin to reflect on this month's message, I invite us all to first remember what Mary said to us last month. It was a very short message in which she called us not to forget that this is a time of grace and that we therefore should pray, and "pray" she again repeated three times. Not to forget is a very often used call in the Bible and especially so when it concerns prayer. The one who does not forget God's love, mercy and miracles is also the one who is able to pray, is able to believe and is therefore also able to trust. The best example for this is Mary's prayer, 'My Soul Praises the Greatness of the Lord.' Mary could praise the Lord because she did not forget that He is merciful and loyal, that He would stand by what he had revealed to Abraham and his descendants, that He lifts the lowly and feeds the hungry, and that He humbles the mighty and causes the rich to end up with empty hands. Mary could also express her 'yes' because she had not forgotten who God was when He had entrusted her with His program and who had therefore offered her to become the Mother of the Messiah and the Savior -- Emmanuel -- God with us. And this is the way with all of us. We too are called to discover God's love, mercy and loyalty in our lives. May I suggest that we, in this time just ahead of us now, very personally also find and pray our own MAGNIFICAT. It is very important for us to discover God's love and mercy because this is the condition for our faith, for our trust as well as for our peace. But when we forget what goodness God has done and continues to do for us, then we begin to stop believing. We also have another problem in that we forget the good so very easily while we tend to remember the heavy, the difficult and the wounds for so much longer. Here then comes the problem of forgiving and of reconciliation. The freer the heart is, the easier we remember what is good and the faster we can forget what has been bad. The "time of grace" concerns only us, and this is because God is always merciful and cannot be more merciful today than He was yesterday or tomorrow more than today. But rather, it is only from our side that we must remember that times of grace do exist, but sadly it is usually when we have realized that our own methods and our logic have brought us into a dead-end and that it is then the time for us to turn around or thus for our conversion. It is then that we begin to search for God. That is the moment about which we can say that everything will turn to what is good for those who love God. Here I again wish to remind us what Mary said when she led the prayer group by way of her messages. When she told them that they were praying: "Mother, do not forget us", she then also responded to that: "It is you who should not forget me." I am certain there is much greater reason for her to say that to us than there is for us to say to her: "Mother, do not forget us." The time since the beginning of the apparitions is truly a time of grace because so many people have opened themselves to God and His graces precisely because of Medjugorje. The threefold call to pray should really echo in our spiritual ears all the time so that we may not forget to decide for prayer, and may it also be this way.
Regarding the visionaries one can say that Vicka is at home, Ivan is still in America and Marija is with her family in Italy. Jacov, Mirjana and Ivanka are all here in Medjugorje and are living a normal life.
Until about November 15 we had a large number of pilgrims here from all over the world, but during the second half of the month the stream of pilgrims has again become smaller. Yet still we have Korean, Hungarian, Austrian, English, American and Polish groups here, and also some smaller groups from Italy and Argentina. But regardless of the number of pilgrims, the Medjugorje program continues loyally every day and I here now invite all those who are unable to come to Medjugorje to also remain loyally with their own programs that they have built up according to Mary.
Already at the first glance one knows that this message from Our Lady is her message for this Advent, and therefore a message that calls us to prepare well for Christmas. To start with it is the repeated call...
We have spoken about prayer so very often, and so I only wish to say that we should pray for the grace that we really can come to be able to pray all the time. Mary then says...
Mary wants us to accept the cross as a sign, but the cross does not only point into one direction. When we look at the cross we see one vertical beam pointing toward Heaven, and one horizontal beam that reminds us of the world, its people and of ourselves. We should also see unity in this way, in that the vertical and the horizontal meet one another and it is that junction point which should then point us in our correct direction. Our human path must go toward both the vertical as well as the horizontal. Only when these two directions are in balance with one another can man really experience true love and unity. These beams, the vertical and the horizontal, must have their junction in our hearts. So if we have the love for God and the love for others and for ourselves in the center of our hearts, true peace will have come. Sin is in fact a destruction of this central point of this junction, and therefore by way of sin an imbalance is caused and one then looses true peace. It happens so easily that we forget the vertical axis within us and then concentrate ourselves too much on ourselves, close ourselves or get stuck on people or the material world, and that we then, by way of bad habits, simply get pulled away from our centers and then as men and as Christians soon begin to lose our dignity. Conversion means to try again that both the vertical as well as the horizontal meet one another in our hearts all the time, that we love God above all else, and then others as we do ourselves. It is very important for us during Advent and the preparation for Christmas to understand that we are only able to find love and unity when we accept the cross, because every time we have tried to find and then have love or unity without the cross, and have thereby lost our good relationship to God and the others around us, we have always had to suffer instead. So only through prayer, fasting and especially by way of confession inner healing can then occur and then a new and good relationship to God and the others around us can again be realized.
This is the heart of and the purpose for all our preparations for Christmas. When we really take Mary's message seriously, and then try to take the cross as the sign of the way for our lives, then exactly in the middle of our hearts can Jesus be born. When some people think that Jesus can be born in their hearts without accepting the cross, then they will be badly mistaken because it is impossible to have Jesus born without our accepting the cross as the sign of the way to love and unity. This again is the new impulse for conversion because only in this way will we have the creator of peace and therefore peace itself within us. If we live this time of reflection before Christmas in this way, then we will certainly become apostles.
How often has Mary called us to become carriers or apostles of peace? So, let us never forget that precisely this has been her primary goal since the very beginning of these apparitions -- that we may have peace and that we then can offer this same peace to the others. We do not need to speak much about what "world without peace" means. Here one just has to see all the families that have been destroyed; all the conflicts between men and women and between parents and children, and children and parents; all the conflicts in the Communities and in the Church; all the conflicts between the others and the Christians throughout the whole world -- a world which is so full of wars. Then it quickly becomes clear how important our assignment really is! The last sentence of the message is a point about which we should reflect, because it is so deep.
Here one can see very clearly that there are two parts in the program of prayer that are equally important. So that we can come to pray with joy we should primarily just start to pray. So we must see very clearly that we should decide for prayer and that regardless of what we are feeling until we start to feel joy in doing so. And in the first part of the program, in which we learn to pray, one must emphasize very clearly that we are able to do several things that depend solely on us. First we must make the decision for prayer, so that this decision can then become concrete in that we take time for prayer and then how much and where we pray, and to do this all the time. We should become very aware that regardless of any inner feelings that we are still able to take much into our own hands. This is what brings about our loyalty. When we remain loyal, when we pray a lot, when we pray regularly, then the joy of doing so will eventually come. Prayer itself can in fact become a joy because prayer is an encounter with God, and God is God of love, God of peace, God of light, God who is the way, God who is truth and God who is life. And when one encounters these, then the human heart will be filled with joy, and joy is what the human heart is afterall yearning for. But also, in order to experience the joy in encountering God in prayer, one must first persevere through times of prayer when one does not yet feel joy. We may ask the question -- what comes first, prayer and then the joy of prayer, or the joy of prayer and then prayer? It is easy when the joy is there, but when it is not there, then still the decision and the loyalty to prayer remain. When I ponder the many experiences of pilgrims, then I wish to emphasize that, as we all know, Mary on the 2nd of very month, prays with Mirjana for the non-believers so that they too will come to experience the love of God. So we really need not worry about this when it is Mary who is herself praying for this grace for us, and the experience of many is in fact that they completely unexpectedly and very suddenly have joy when praying. This we should understand perhaps as the "First Aid" and then if we ourselves continue to pray then I expect that we all will reach the still deeper joy of praying. When we then really stay loyal to prayer, we will also, however -- and of this no-one needs to be afraid -- experience desert-time, the times when everything seems dry and stale and when we feel almost nothing but dryness. Still, even this remains a good time for prayer because one can also mature during this time and become more selfless because otherwise it could easily happen that we could pray only because we have found joy and peace while praying, and this then could continue into some egotistic reasons. When we think of St. Theresa of Avila, she became a Master of Prayer because she lived in a desert when it came to prayer for some 18 years. So, Mary is praying so that we can begin and many have truly begun, and so it depends only on us to remain loyal and then our prayer-lives will really mature, will deepen and then become a real encounter with God. When we become mature in prayer it will not depend on our feelings in prayer, and will then again lead to new positive experiences. Still, whenever we pray we will always be given strength to build our lives according to God's will. And when we especially in the upcoming Jubilee, which begins with this Advent, really wish to fulfill our assignment, then one thing remains, and that is that we really accept this message, not only as a program for this Advent, but also for the entire Jubilee year. Then, as the Holy Father has called us so very often, we will all be able to begin the Third Millennium along with Jesus and Mary. It is in our accepting and then living Mary's words that we all can find the hope needed to continue on the way with Jesus, and so all pessimism or all just letting things go their own way will not be appropriate, and especially not for those that are in Mary's school. At the end of these thoughts I would again like to wish you all, on behalf of all of us here in Medjugorje, a truly joyful and fulfilling Feast of Christmas. It will become a joyful Christmas if we do what Mary is asking of us, and for this we may also pray...
God, our Father, at the beginning of this new time and this Jubilee Year, in the name of Your Son who You, along with Mary His mother, sent to us 2000 years ago, give us the spirit of prayer, gave us the light, the courage, the love and the trust that we can take the cross as our sign, that we can grow in love for You and, out of this love for You, also toward all people; that Jesus, Your Son, may also be born in our hearts; and that we can then also become apostles of Your peace. Father, bless all those who fear the cross; bless all those who are behaving only according to the horizontal beam and therefore have turned only toward other people, toward themselves or toward the material world, and who have therefore forgotten You. Bless all those who have, through drugs, alcohol or other dependencies, become incapable of accepting the vertical beam into their lives; bless all those who have destroyed their human dignity and who live imbalanced, that in this time of grace they too may open themselves and that they may receive the grace of returning to You. Also bless all the youth so that they may find and keep peace during this time in that they may accept Your Son, the Creator of peace. Bless the visionaries, this Parish and all its pilgrims so that we may remain loyal to Mary's school and, in so doing, may show that You are the Good Father who during this time is especially thinking about us by sending Mary to us. Bless all the sick, the suffering, the sad, the dying, all who have lost courage, all who have lost trust, faith and their beliefs in You, that especially this time may for all of them become a time of true peace. May it be this way, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Peace be with you all! Amen.
Fr. Slavko , Medjugorje
November 26, 1999
Powered by www.medjugorje.ws