This book is the second of the four volumes of sermons and discourses given by Fr. Slavko Barbaric and Fr. Tomislav Vlasic during 1984 - 1987 in Medjugorje, and contains discourses given from January to June 1985.
30 Chapters of this book are now completed
First of all I would like all of you to give the other pilgrims the message that Medjugorje is going through trials, but not crises. These trails are something which must come, and if there is deep conversion, then the trials are greater.
If at Medjugorje, we had declared that Our Lady had appeared right from the beginning, this would be no good. It would have been just a statement, but conversion is a path, a therapy. When our bodies need healing, the diseased part must be opened up so that we can see what is the matter inside and heal it. If God wishes to bring the Church and the world to conversion, all those who wish to follow this road will have to go through difficulties.
Recently I read some mystical books and I liked the message Jesus gave to a Swiss mystic who was a convert. He said: "Gentle Providence takes care to provide you with bread every day. But when you ask for virtue, then my gentle Providence gives you crosses to bear so that you may acquire virtue." He puts bread and the cross in that order; without the cross, we cannot grow. As if it were nourishment for spiritual life.
I have experienced it: if you wish to go forward, you must expect crosses. But the crosses do not bring you bitterness, they bring sweetness and peace. And here we realise that human life develops along two planes: on the materialistic plane we live a material and consumer life; life draws in and ends in death. On the spiritual plane, life opens out more and more all the time; the dynamic spring of life, happiness, love and inner peace. So even if people finish on the cross, life becomes fuller.
The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is not an isolated fact; it is like a river, when life was extinguished in the Garden of Olives and on the Cross, it was not lost: it is like a river which goes underground to come out again. Along the Way of the Cross, Jesus never lost anything of His spirit; He was waiting all the time; He forgave and gave consolation. He gave consolation while carrying the Cross. He forgave while He was crucified; life was full even on the Cross.
For those who wish to pursue a spiritual life right to the end, there will be crosses. If we accept them with God, they do not diminish our lives, they give strength and life becomes stronger within us. This is the line we must follow now.
I have told many pilgrims that we Christians are making a mistake. We follow Jesus during Lent for forty days, we fast a little, we give up a few things and say a few more prayers, but when Easter comes, it often ends within the day. Easter time goes on for forty days.
It is a stage in spiritual life; to go with Jesus, who has risen, for forty days, so that each of us may be woken and be resurrected. Jesus is risen. This was not enough. Jesus went to search for the Apostles and the women to give them new life. He stayed with them for forty days for the Spirit to be reborn within them. And in the third stage, the Holy Spirit will come to give us light.
This tells me that this Easter is a wonderful time for understanding the apparitions of Our Lady, too.
After the death of Jesus Christ, it was important for salvation that He should show Himself to the Apostles. The apparitions are a stage in the spiritual life of the Church and of each one of us. Apparitions in the history of salvation, in the history of the Church go on bringing us towards a state of mind in which we shall be spiritually resurrected and become capable of accepting the Holy Spirit.
This period of time is very beautiful if you accept it like this, as the risen Jesus wanted.
The first words He said to the Apostles were: 'Peace be unto you.' They are the same words said at Medjugorje. But when one says: 'Peace be with you', it may sound empty. It is not just any word which appears in the newspapers, it is a profound reality.
Jesus walked with the Apostles on earth, in His physical body, He did everything to convince them. After the resurrection, He came closer. It is His body which enters even through closed doors, which enters into every man, into every problem, if people are ready to call Him. So there is no longer even that physical difficulty to prevent us from meeting Jesus. He found the Apostles closed, even spiritually closed, perhaps because they were disappointed, they didn't know what to do. They were even in a closed room. But this is only to understand that we too, with all our problems, also have Jesus who brings us peace: 'Do not worry, I can resolve all your problems. Open your hearts. I have come to save you.'
When we understand this, we reach a fundamental attitude, a spiritual one. If you want to understand better, you will see that after the Apostles, St. Paul for instance, while he was in prison, shut in, guarded, was full of joy, he praised the Lord and prayed. And the doors opened, his chains fell away he was free. Jesus is the Master of life !
Now you will see how important it is to live this Easter time, live it more intensely than Lent, to be resurrected, to live this spiritual reality. We can reflect on a message from Our Lady, when she is speaking about prayer and says: "Prayer must be a rejoicing in God, thriving in God. To be full of peace, to be full of joy."
Every prayer, then, should be a resurrection if, during this time of resurrection, we walk with Jesus who walked with us. We shall reach a much stronger inner attitude, spiritually, and we shall be capable of accepting the Holy Spirit. And then everything will become clear. Many people ask me this question: 'How can we reach a stronger faith ? How can we manage to pray more deeply ?'
Many worry about how to reach their goal, but forget to make the steps. Faith is not knowledge of a truth. From below the mountain, you cannot see a city on the other side; you have to start walking and climb up the mountain to see the city.
It is the same thing with faith, with prayer and with spiritual life; you must put one foot in front of the other, you must start walking. If you want to make a step forward, then God will open the way; if you take two steps God will open out your horizon more and more. To ask for faith means to walk in faith. To ask for the gift of prayer means to walk with prayer, to practise prayer. To ask for greater recollection means to go towards it and to put aside everything that prevents it. In this way, faith becomes very easy and one need not worry about when the end will come; I must follow the steps, I must be with faith now, walking in the way of the Lord.
I want to remind you of something which will be very useful to you in living this Easter time. We shall be able to live the Easter time insofar as we shall have wiped out our sin, insofar as Good Friday has happened within ourselves, if we have crucified our ego.
Recently I was reading an interview with a young American pedagogue who had dedicated himself to handicapped children. Amongst other things he said: 'My greatest sorrow is when I go back home weeping because I have left children crying. The children cry because they do not understand my love. They understand it as pity, not as pure love, because they have been disillusioned in their parents. This disillusionment, the sin of their parents is inside them and they are incapable of accepting the love of others, as they have not accepted love.'
I thought about it and I said to the people: perhaps God the Father will come back to us weeping at this Easter time, when He gave us all, absolutely all; He even offered His Son, He gave Him to be crucified, because we are incapable of accepting, we have not lived Good Friday, we have not crucified ourselves, we have not destroyed sin.
If we wish to walk with Jesus during this Easter time, we must live Good Friday every day within ourselves, really destroy sin; not even a shadow of sin must be left within us. Then it will be easy to meet the risen Jesus and to understand all that God does today in the world; it will also be easy to understand the apparitions of Our Lady and, living this time, we shall be able to understand the spiritual themes.
Examined from the outside, even scientifically, the apparitions at Medjugorje, like every other apparition, will not yield results. Those people who are limited to solely scientific fields, will always limp along because rational themes, rational arguments can never justify spiritual themes, those concerning faith.
We have not enough human reasoning to understand the conception of the Virgin; how can a virgin conceive ? How can we understand that Jesus said to Peter: 'Walk on the water'? It is not something we can accept, we have no explanation. How can we understand that the Son of God could be put on the Cross ?
Human arguments are not enough in spiritual life to understand the apparitions. There must be an inner progress. The messages given by Our Lady are the path to understanding the apparitions and the path to salvation. Only those who try this path can understand, because they will feel the fruits Our Lady offers through divine grace immediately or very soon.
With all this I wanted to tell you that there is no need to ask for extraordinary items of news at Medjugorje. I have followed and still follow what Our Lady said; everything can be reduced to : "Get up, open your hearts, open your eyes; look, pray, do not go to sleep."
She does what a mother does to look after her child, her children. There are no extraordinary principles, she does everything with simplicity and humility; she draws close to humanity and says "Go forward !"
What we must understand and emphasise, and what the visionaries emphasise, is that the events announced by Our Lady are coming nearer.
I cannot speak about this, but we can all understand it if we really try seriously to see humanity as it is, and what is written in the Gospels. We will then be able to understand what Our Lady means, not anxiously but joyfully, because our every step is close to the Father and at the same time close to happiness. I must say that all the difficulties along the way as, for instance, certain obstacles can only be overcome by prayer, by love.
External reasoning does little or nothing. I have experienced this. When we abandon ourselves to God and pray, God easily moves both things and people. Human reasoning cannot enlighten human hearts. Therefore, I ask all the pilgrims to pray for Our Lady's work, so that, through Her, the divine plan may be fully accomplished.
I want to add that those who wish to heed the apparitions must understand that they must go beyond the messages. The messages are empty words unless we go beyond them. 'Prayer' is a word which we have known for a long time , but we must go further; if we start practising it we shall we shall understand it more. Now I see, I understand certain things I did not understand at the beginning. If we go forward this inner light grows in us.
The apparitions are an appeal to the world to reflect, to enter into the Gospel and, when the Gospel in understood, then also the apparitions can be understood. Half way through Lent, Our Lady taught us to pray saying the Our Father in a prayer group. For hours and hours, we prayed, saying only the Our Father. As in the messages, and through little Jelena too Our Lady has pointed that in a prayer group it is important to make three steps; the first is to be emptied of every sin; it is not enough to go to the confessional because, according to her teaching, one must live a prolonged confession. I must behave as a friend with you.
If I am afraid before someone, I must tell of my weakness. If I feel oppressed by something which closes me to you, I must put it away from me, I must free myself from all sin and from the shadow of sin. Before praying, the group or the person must make this first step and throw off every sin which is a disturbing element.
The second thing is to be free from all worries. Give all your worries and problems to Jesus. After this step, one finds inner freedom and enters into prayer. As Our Lady said: "Many Christians never enter into prayer. They manage to begin and them stay at the beginning." There are many people who pray, who are full of anxiety, remorse, and analysis of sins etc ...
But all this must be unloaded at the beginning and when we enter into prayer, we enter into a divine plan which is in our hearts and then it is the Holy Spirit who prays within us, as St. Paul says to the Romans: 'Now that we are free from sin, free from worry, now we can enter into prayer.' All this is preparation for prayer.
It is not easy, but we must go forward, we must understand it in groups and in private. And all this is done through prayer. For example, a nun told me that she had had to repeat for more than a month: 'I forgive'. She had realised that when she said the Our Father, she did not really manage to forgive. And so she went and stood before the Crucifix and said with regard to certain people: 'I forgive you'. And she could not physically pronounce those words. So she began to shout, to forgive; at first physically and then spiritually. At the end of a month she was able to pray the sentence: 'Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.'
You see that in prayer, you must live. Preparation for prayer brings us to prayer. Our Lady says: "Then you can ask for programmes. Inside yourselves, you can hear what God wants in yourselves, in a group and then ask for a blessing."
But the blessing Our Lady talks of is not mysterious, it is tangible. I discovered God's plan in prayer and so now I ask: 'God protect me now and let this be accomplished.'
And we must accept this blessing and keep it carefully as if it were a pearl of great price. If we start from prayer in life, we force ourselves to live prayer all the time. End our prayer to enter into life, to accomplish prayer in life we come again into prayer. So we pray continuously. Prayer is valid insofar as we live it in our lives. And as we pray better and better, so will our lives improve and as life grows more and more in God, so our prayer improves. Try to say the Our Father in fifteen minutes, then twenty minutes, very very slowly, thinking about every word, praying. You will soon see that certain sentences stand out.
I remember when, for a whole day I had to repeat the second part of the Our Father, in particular: 'Do not lead us into temptation.' I felt so very weak, so limited; I had to shout 'I am not capable of walking here, give me Your hand, lead me forward, I am not capable.' The second sentence: 'Deliver us from evil'; I saw that we are all immersed in evil and I began to shout: 'Save us ! Save me, save the Church, save everyone because I can't go on Father. You must deliver all our brothers.'
To pray, we must always open our hearts and at the same time as we priests well know do spiritual reading; real spiritual reading can help us a lot to increase our prayer.
(Fr. Tomislav Vlasic 10th April, 1985)
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