I greet all who are following and thinking about the messages that Mary gives us here in Medjugorje. First let us again remember the message of May 25 with which Mary tried to prepare us for the Anniversary. From that message it was clear that Mary was following and had remained loyal to the program that she gave us in the very beginning. She called us to conversion, and conversion is a process that never ends. Every day we must stay on the path of conversion which means to stay with the decision for the good and the decision against what is bad and against sin. It means turning toward God and turning away from sin and away from the world. Conversion is an ongoing growth in faith, hope, peace and prayer, and therefore it is so important for us to remember that we may not become tired of ourselves and with the others when we are in situations in which we fall back. Mary also called us in May's message to believe in God. In the very beginning she told us that she had come here to tell us that God existed, and throughout all the 18 years she often repeated that we must place God in the first place in our lives and to open our hearts to the Lord. She called us to trust, and all these definitions are in fact simply different expressions for the same thing -- to place God in the first place in our lives and to do everything that He tells us. She also speaks of what God has in mind for us and that is to fill our hearts with His love, but that we have not yet opened our hearts to Him. The question always remains with us: Why do we not give our hearts to God when he has such a wonderful program for us -- to fill us with His love -- something for which every one of us yearns. This is the mystery of sin. It is good to again ask ourselves what it is that hinders us from letting God fill us with His love. It could be pride, selfishness and any of the other programs that exist outside of God's plan for us. Pride means to only follow our own plan and to thereby refuse to follow God's plan for us. In that message Mary also showed herself as being our mother and our teacher who remains with us to teach us how to come closer to God's love. We accept Mary as our mother without any problems because she is the one who says: "I love you", "I protect you", "I bless you", "If you knew how much I loved you, you would cry with joy", but we really ought to review our behavior toward Mary as being our teacher. Whether we are really accepting what she has been telling us when she calls us to prayer, to fasting, to faith. Here we ought to ask ourselves what our reactions have been. Thank God that there have been very many people who have listened and accepted Mary when she speaks to us as our teacher such as when they have started to pray personally and individually, and in the families, and when they have formed prayer groups. These are Mary's good students. But still questions about prayer always remain current for us all. Mary told us that when we love God, then prayer will become easy for us and our hearts will open themselves for God. As our experience also tells us, it is when we love someone that we are always with joy and our hearts are always open to them. We should also not forget to pray for this grace of love so that our encounter with God can happen on a daily basis, so that our hearts can then open themselves completely to God.
We have celebrated the 18th Anniversary in a grand way and a huge number of people came here, and especially because the war in Kosovo has ended people again had the courage to come here on pilgrimage. As a visitor we also had Archbishop Frane Franic -- a courageous man who from the very beginning supported the Apparitions and involved himself with Medjugorje. He told us that he was very happy when he saw that more than 160 Priests were concelebrating and such a huge crowd was attending evening Mass on the Anniversary -- June 25. Pilgrims were here from all parts of the world, but of the foreigners the Polish, it seemed, had the greatest number of all. Yet there were more Croatians here than any other nationality.
At this moment all the visionaries are here. Marija came from Italy with here family. Ivan, Mirjana, Ivanka and Jacov are here with their families, and Vicka is here speaking with the pilgrims as always. Marija and Ivan told us that on June 24, the day before the Anniversary, that Mary reminded them of the first days. They spoke to us with great joy, yet also with some tears. For example, she said: "Do you remember when I came the first time that you did not recognize me, but that you were fearful and then ran away?" Then she also said: "Do you remember when you fled and hid from the Police?" Then the two added that Mary was very happy. We are all very grateful for the 18 years that Mary has been with us here, and are happy that she is still with us.
Ivanka had her annual apparition, as it had been promised to her by Our Lady when her daily apparitions ended in May 8, 1985, even though Our Lady also told her that there would not be an apparition on the Anniversary of 1985. So, since 1986 until now she has had her annual apparition on the Anniversary. This year's apparition lasted 7-8 minutes and Ivanka was alone with her husband and her children. Ivanka also told us that Mary was very happy and that they prayed together for the Parish as well as for all the pilgrims. This is the message that Our Lady gave to Ivanka:
"Dear children, I invite you to thank my Son for all the graces that He has given you. Pray for peace, pray for peace, pray for peace. Thank you for having responded to my call."
So Mary is reminding us here very clearly that it is Jesus who gives us graces, but in our case we can say that the graces are given because Mary is here and because we have also prayed for them with her. Then her so urgent call for us to pray for peace, and here she did so three times, must also be taken very seriously. Here we must remember Mary's first call to pray and to fast so that wars may be averted. Back then no-one here understood, but today we know that after 10 years the war came to us, and this war, with so much suffering and destruction, is only now ending down there in Kosovo. We hope that the physical war is now over and over forever, but the message of peace is still current because the war is still in the hearts of so many people in the world. There are wars against the families and against unborn life, and so many people are being treated unjustly. The world is becoming so materialistic that often there is no room at all for the sick and for the elderly. There are so many other problems that we can so easily speak of a complete lack of peace. So, please, let us take this threefold call or even cry of Mary's extremely seriously, and let us all listen and react to our mother's urgent invitation. So let us start immediately to pray with Our Lady for peace!
From June 23 until July 6 we are having a Retreat for Priests and its theme is in union with this year that the Holy Father consecrated to God the Father. Its theme is 'GOD THE FATHER AS SOURCE OF ALL LIFE' and 'PRIESTS IN THE SERVICE OF LIFE, OF UNBORN LIFE AND OF WOUNDED LIFE' and then 'THE HEALING OF PRIESTLY LIFE', and until now 160 Priests from different countries have registered and we are expecting around 200. So, I ask of everyone to pray especially for the Priests and for Priestly callings this week.
This expression of gratitude is meant for all of us. It has already become normal that Our Lady thanks us because, as we all know, at the end of every message she says: "Thank you for having responded to my call." In other messages she called upon us to thank without ceasing but more than that she also thanks us. To whom is this gratitude addressed? Again, I dare to say to us all. Mary does not thank us because we have all already become perfect or because we do everything that she is telling us or because we are doing it all the way that she has told us. Mary only looks at us in a positive way and she sees the smallest good in us and thanks us for it. To see and to thank is the easiest way for us to live in peace, joy and love with other people. Or one can see and discuss the negative, but when this is the case peoples' hearts close and nothing but conflicts follow. This is why Mary thanks each one of us, thanks the Parish and thanks all organizers of pilgrimages. She thanks those who have organized prayer groups and Centers for Peace. Mary thanks each one who has changed something in his life. And I think most especially Mary is thanking those who have given more time in their lives for prayer, for fasting, for the Holy Mass, for Confession and for reading Holy Scripture.
Being strong means fighting against what is bad and evil, against sin and all bad habits, and then also to be strong for the fight for what is good. When we become tired in the fight against what is bad and evil, then evil is given a greater chance and then grows. When we become tired in doing good, then what is good will no longer grow, but will wilt and finally disappear altogether. This in fact is the greatest assignment for each of us -- to decide every day quite consciously to fight against what is bad and against evil, and in the same way to work on what is good. All of us have experienced weakness, and it is in weakness that we have done bad and then sinned. But this should not discourage us, and it is here that St. Paul's experience helps us, when he said: "I see what is good, but I do not do it. But I want to. I see what is bad, I do not want it, but still I do it. I am a poor man, but I thank God, Jesus Christ, who gives me the strength." Then he says that he heard God tell him: "Paul, my graces are enough for you, and then where I was weak, there I became strong through the grace of Jesus Christ." We have all been given the grace of strength at our Confirmation. Our strength, of course, lies in the love of God the Father who wishes to turn everything for the good, but it only depends on what we do when we are weak and give sin and evil more space; and then act discouraged and say that we are unable to do anything else which then is bad. But if we in our weakness turn more strongly toward God and ask Him for the strength, then we will also experience what St. Paul experienced -- God's strength in our weakness. This is why all of us Christians have reasons for the grace of courage, hope and trust that God the Creator will always show and give us His Creative Strength, and in this way also save us. Then Mary tells us...
It is prayer that we need for this strength, but here the daily decision for it is what is urgently needed, and then to have the time to be with God, because it is He who gives us life and strength, and it is He who gives us trust and love. So when we have gained more experience with our weakness and have therefore become discouraged or vanquished by sin and feel weak in our fight against what is bad, then one should say that we ourselves are at fault for this. God is ready to give us His strength, but we can only get it when we pray, fast, confess, attend Mass and encounter Jesus in the Eucharist. The joy that Mary speaks of here is the same joy that comes to us after having won and have brought offerings and have fought. Here it does not concern the simple joy that comes from sin and from worldly living, but the joy that no-one can take from us because God has given it to us. This is the joy that God wishes to give us. The fact that today there are so many people who are sad and have lost the purpose of life is because they have yet to receive this joy from God. The reason that so many people and also in the families have lost joy in being with one another and therefore having terrible sufferings to endure is that they have not received their joy from God. It is due to this that so many divorces and other problems happen in the families. It is only God who can give us joy all the time and then through this joy also the strength to live with one another and then to create a beautiful life with one another. It is this that Mary wants us to have -- to be strong and joyful so that we may become people of peace.
It is only in living this way that Mary can then lead us toward salvation. Mary is our unconditional mother. There are only conditions from our side. When we do not accept what she is telling us, then our lives will not show that we belong to her, and no-one will recognize that we are her children. The path of salvation is the path of peace, path of faith, and path of trust, and the other way is the path of destruction, of sin and of bad habits. Therefore we need the strength, the faith and the trust to leave the path of destruction, and to go with Mary on the path of salvation. But we all know that evil is very active and that evil does not let go of its victims so easily, but it is possible to leave the path of sin and of destruction when God gives us His strength.
Here we ought not forget that the only new message of Medjugorje is Our Lady's special daily presence with us. It is only through Mary's special presence with us that we can come to understand what is happening here and why Medjugorje has survived all the great difficulties over these 18 years. Only in that Mary is here and is praying with us can one understand all the graces and all the healings that have occurred here. This is the grace -- this extraordinary grace that is the foundation of all the other graces and movements for the Church that have been born due to Medjugorje. This is the special grace about which Mary in one message said that never before has this huge grace been given anywhere in the world. Here we must all very consciously think of and also be grateful for the perseverance of the visionaries who, during these 18 long years, have given of themselves on a daily basis to share with us what they have heard and seen. Their testimonies have certainly helped a great many people to find their own ways to God, but we must also be grateful to all those who have given their time in getting the pilgrims here, to those who have given of themselves to keep the pilgrims comfortable while they were here, and to those who at home and in the work places have witnessed being Mary's children by way of the words or behavior. All these people, in believing that Mary is appearing here, have in their own ways helped Medjugorje survive. Mary then ends this month's message with...
Here again Mary is showing us her wish and her assignment, and all that she does for us always has its purpose -- to meet God, to experience His love and to witness His love for us along with her. And what the whole world needs today is exactly this -- people who have experienced God's love and who, through this experience, have been given the strength to joyfully witness God's love to those many others who have yet to experience it. Only in this way can the world be saved in that a new light and a new life enter it. So all of us who have met Mary here are in a way especially privileged and graced and from this we get our assignment to show the rest of the world that a loving Father exists, One who knows and loves each of us, and Who also wishes to save every one of us. If we were, here at the end of this reflection, to ask ourselves what is going to happen to Medjugorje, then the answer is really very simple: In our messages we have very clearly been told who God is. He is peace for all people and it is His will that we all become filled with His love and that we ought to witness it to all people every day. It really only depends on what we do with this. It is also clear that Mary does not wish to make spoiled Christians of us. She does not only wish to give, to give and to give, but she also wishes us to become active with what we have been given and to be witnesses of it. A true Christian wants only peace and takes onto himself the reputation to reconcile, to forgive, to pray, to fast and to love under all conditions with which he might be confronted. A spoiled Christian wants peace, but is not ready to love the others. A spoiled Christian wants to have joy, but is not ready to receive this joy from his encounter with God in prayer. We certainly do not wish to remain spoiled Christians, and we must accept this 19th year of the apparitions and the existence of God here as another great gift from God and through these great gifts to also recognize our own specific assignments, and to live these assignments with joy. So I really wish God's joy and strength to all and especially to all those who might have become tired or who have not yet seen the results of their efforts and are therefore a little discouraged or sad. And for this then let us also pray...
God, our Father, at the beginning of the 19th year of Mary's presence here with us as Queen of Peace, we wish to thank You very consciously for Your love, for offering us Your love, and for Your sending us Mary who is accompanying us on a daily basis and who wishes to lead us on the path of salvation. We thank You, dear Father, for Your infinite love and that You have, rather than rejecting us due to our sins, instead taken us closer to Your heart. With Mary, and in the name of Your Son, Jesus Christ, we ask You, O Father, give us Your Spirit of strength, so that we can, through Your grace, fight against all sin and bad habits and may come away triumphant, that we may untiringly fight against all that is negative and that we untiringly fight for what is good around us. Give us the strength of Your Spirit to be able to witness to Your love in every situation. Father, we thank You for all those people who have, out of faith and trust toward You, gone on the path of peace and those who You have given strength and joy in the Sacraments of Confession and the Eucharist and have therefore become witnesses for Your love. Free them of all temptations and let them all discover that You can turn everything for the good. We present to You all the times when we have become tired and have lost the courage in the fight against sin and evil. We present to You all those who might have become tired of prayer and of fasting, and who might have again been weakened by their old habits. Bless them all through Your graces and let them experience Your love again, so that they may again be cleansed by Your love and again wish to go on the path of salvation with Mary. Bless our Parish, bless the visionaries, bless all prayer groups, bless all organizers of pilgrimages, and bless all the pilgrims, so that Marys' words that she has given us at the beginning of the 19th year of her presence here may touch and move them all. Give us all the grace that we may remain loyal to Mary, and that we may receive Your strength, Your joy and Your love, so that day to day we may belong to You more and more and in this way may help You to bring about the plans that You entrusted to Mary. This so that the entire world may come to live in Your peace and that all of us may some day enter Your infinite Peace and Joy. Amen.
Fr. Slavko , Medjugorje
June 28, 1999
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