Recently, a group of students from the University of Notre Dame in the USA spent their Spring Break in Medjugorje. While there, they met a priest from Canada, Fr. Mike, who was able to spend time with them sharing his experiences and encouraging them. One night, he shared with them his testimony and a special message :
He was ordained at the age of 26, and six months later he was involved in a terrible automobile accident. Upon impact, he found himself below a tunnel of light that he knew was the portal to heaven. He experienced in that moment great joy, and a completeness he had never known. He was going to meet Jesus, and he was filled with peace. But then he became aware that he was being asked to return to his life on earth, that his work was not over. He said he was returning with an incredible desire to tell everyone he met that life is short, that God is real, and that we must not waste a moment on anything less than God. He then woke up in the hospital.
For a year or so, Fr. Mike convalesced and told no one about his experience . During that time he felt lost, out of focus, and he mourned for heaven. Then one day a parishoner invited him to go to Medjugorje. He wasn't interested, but politely checked his calendar to see if he had the time free. When he found he was free, he decided to go. Why not? A free trip to Europe! But it was in Medjugorje that he found his focus. Fr. Mike fell in love the Gospa. He found that he loved her so much he could hardly stand it. And then, during a talk by Fr. Jozo, he became convinced that Jesus wanted him to share his near-death experience with others. He had never done so. It made him very uncomfortable. But after the talk, his group wanted to have Mass, and they hoped that Fr. Jozo would preside. Much to Fr. Mike's dismay, Fr. Jozo could not do it and told him that he should say Mass for them. Fr. Mike tried to get another priest to say Mass, because he was afraid he would end up sharing his experience. But of course, Gospa had her own plan, and Fr. Mike ended up giving the homily about his experience. It was a powerful witness for all. He has since made 15 pilgrimages to Medjugorje, and he shares his experience of death as he is led.
Fr. Mike then told the kids that he had a burning desire to tell them something from his heart. He saw them, young and at the beginning of their lives and vocations. He begged them: "Don't wait to live your life for Jesus. Don't say to yourselves, 'When I graduate from college, I will give my life to God, and serve him. When I get married, then I will be able to serve God. When I am done with graduate school, then I will be ready to do God's will.' No!! Decide to live your lives for Jesus right now! From this moment on, place yourselves in God's hands. Don't wait a second. Believe me, you don't know how long you have to live. I was only a lukewarm priest when I came close to death. If I had died then, my life would have been a waste. Only a life lived for God matters, when you come to the end. You don't know when it will be. Don't wait. Live for God, seek God, love God. Do it now, not tomorrow. You don't know if there will be a tomorrow!"
Believe me, it was a deep moment for them all. Only three days later, the students were present at the yearly apparition to Mirjana, March 18 . In the same Spirit, Our Lady said in her message, "As a mother I implore you, open your heart and offer it to me, and fear nothing. I will be with you and will teach you how to put Jesus in the first place. I will teach you to love Him and to belong to Him completely. Comprehend, dear children, that without my Son there is no salvation. You should become aware that He is your beginning and your end. Only with this awareness can you be happy and merit eternal life. As your mother I desire this for you."
Wow!! "Put Jesus in the first place!" "Belong to him completely!" "He is your beginning and your end!" "Only with this awareness can you be happy and merit eternal life!" What a gift these words were for the pilgrims. They returned to Notre Dame only to receive Our Lady's March 25th message through Marija : "I call you to unite with Jesus in prayer. Open your heart to Him and give Him everything that is in it: joys, sorrows and illnesses. May this be a time of grace for you. Pray, little children, and may every moment belong to Jesus!" With such a call, how could they miss the point? They glow now with a fire to seek and serve God that shines out to all those who see them. May we all respond to Our Lady's call, and to Fr. Mike's warning . May we all live each moment for Jesus, with Jesus, through Jesus. May Jesus be our only desire. And in this Holy season, may Jesus be our Risen Hope!!
In Medjugorje it seems the graces are increasing for putting God first in our lives. Meghan, a grad student studying theology who was on her first pilgrimage to Medjugorje, joins the others in encouraging young people to come: "You have to GO THERE if you can! God's grace is present in that place like the very air we breathe. I felt my own heart open up there like a flower does to the sun, and now that I am home, that same joy remains and I can share it with others."
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