I remember well the first time I came to Medjugorje. It was in 1997 and I was 14 years old. That pilgrimage marked a turning point in my life. It gave my life a definite direction. The journey, of course, is gradual, but at different moments I have been asked to give my response to God, and in total freedom I renewed my “yes” each time.
I was a boy at the time, and when I first came here to this blessed land I had no particular expectations or biased opinions of any type. As I look back I think I was simply led here by Our Lady. She took me by the hand and led me towards the God of Love. Till then I knew God only by hearsay, but I was soon to be seduced by Him.
The experience at Medjugorje that touched me the most was the talk by Vicka, and her unforgettable smile. I remember it as though it were yesterday. There was something profoundly authentic in her smile that drew me, arousing in me something I can now name: desire for God. Many are the pilgrims that experience this when they listen to Vicka’s testimony, and through her simple witness she continues to express a joy that goes way beyond human joy. Her smile reveals the reality of heaven.
I recall that when she had finished speaking, everyone moved towards her, wanting to greet her and shake her hand. I stood back for a moment, then I joined the crowd. Vicka took their hands and smiled at each person, and when it was my turn she looked into my eyes with love, smiled and greeted me. It was special, however, I also know that God’s love for each of us is unique. Though he sees the whole universe and loves all creation, He also loves each person as though there were no other.
Each of us yearns to be unique and special in the eyes of someone, because God impressed deep in our hearts the desire to be loved. A soul begins to convert when it ceases to seek the attention of others, and when it opens up to the special love that God has for each of us and chooses the Supreme Good: “My God, and my Everything.” Isn’t this perhaps the greatest miracle of Medjugorje? Twenty-five years later - even though many things have changed - this unique and precious miracle is still repeated: people discover that they are loved by God and decide to believe in it and to follow the crucified love of the Triune God.
This love is revealed to us when we see it embodied in our neighbour, in those who know how to communicate it gratuitously with their own life. These are real apostles, authentic witnesses that Our Lady is calling for these times. And we are all called to become bearers of grace. Mary calls each of us without distinction. It is a natural movement where the rule is written within us: when we are filled with God’s love, we can (and must) communicate it to others.
I know that each person who offers himself totally to God inevitably bears within himself this joy which must flow out onto others; this interior smile that is reflected outwards in ways and shades that vary. It is the smile of those who have experienced God’s Love and know how to live for Him every day. It is the smile of those who surrender themselves totally, who have total trust in the One who desires our good. I don’t mean a superficial smile, but the smile of those who, upon encountering suffering, know how to bring hope, who don’t flee from sorrow, but share in another’s suffering because they know it is merely a means and that it will pass.
This smile shines on the faces of those who have encountered the Risen One after experiencing suffering, the cross and death, and thus become bearers of the good news for all those they meet. It is the humble smile of those who expect nothing for themselves, and it is for this reason that they are free to give, and to give unconditionally. It is the smile of those who experience daily that there is more joy in giving than in receiving; of those who renounce self and live for God and neighbour. This smile is not founded on material joy, it does not depend on passing emotions, but is solid because it comes from a heart that knows it is loved, and because it is founded on the “rock” of incorruptible and eternal love.
Back from Medjugorje I kept the memory of this smile in my heart. It accompanied me when I returned to school and was immersed in my daily routine. There was a new desire within my heart that made me reject the idea that my life could continue as before. The fullness of the joy and the true life that I had discovered had to be donated and communicated, and I felt the grace of God within me that was changing my thoughts and my gaze, that also touched the people I came into contact with.
I feel certain that it is this smile that shines in every authentic witness of God. I am certain that each person, even the least sensitive, is able to recognize the authenticity of this smile. It is the same smile I found on the faces of the brothers and sisters of the Kraljice Mira Community into which the Lord has called me. It is the smile I have promised to always have on my face, for I feel it is an integral part of my vocation. It is this smile that I wish to donate to the world, to each person, in whatever situation, so as to announce without shame: “The Lord loves you! Let yourself be loved.”
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