Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time, March 26, 2006:
There is a story that took place in
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” As most of you know, Fr. Mike and I just returned on Thursday from a 10 day pilgrimage to Medjugorje along with 21 other pilgrims in our group. It was a time of tremendous grace and I wanted to share some reflections with all of you on our journey.
For those who may not know
the significance of Medjugorje, it is a small village in Bosnia-Herzegovina,
part of what was once
Why do they go? Because over the course of those 25 years, the messages of Our Lady have revolved around a message of peace – in fact, in Medjugorje, Mary is referred to as Our Lady, Queen of Peace. Surely a timely message for our world today. Secondly, Medjugorje has become a tremendous place where the Catholic faith is lived to its fullest. In the course of her messages, Mary has reminded us of who we are as a Catholic people, and what we need to do to remain faithful members of God’s holy people. Mary has given us what she terms our five stones for the battle with our own Goliath. What are those five stones? What are the weapons that the Blessed Mother has reminded us that we need in to defend ourselves in the spiritual battle of our lives? Quite simply these: 1. Attend the holy Mass regularly, daily if possible; 2. Pray the rosary every day; 3. Read the Bible, especially in your family; 4. Go to Confession at least once a month; and 5. Fast – in Medjugorje, the entire community fasts on bread and water every Wednesday and Friday, not just during Lent but always. Mary has reminded us of something that has been true since the time of Jesus, but something we sometimes forget, that this way – the Catholic way, the way of faith, the way of the Sacraments – is the truest way to happiness and holiness.
During our 10 days there, we did a lot of walking, and a lot of climbing. We climbed Apparition Hill praying the rosary, where the Blessed Mother first appeared 25 years ago. We climbed Cross Mountain for 2 hours while praying the Stations of the Cross – let me just say Friday night’s stations back here never seemed so easy. We were present for the annual apparition of the Blessed Mother to one of the visionaries Marjiana, an incredible, incredible grace. We visited a nearby church for a healing service, we visited an incredibly successful alcohol and drug recovery program that uses prayer and faith to bring true healing to addicts, a home for orphans and unwed mothers, a place of prayer for peace, a group of Franciscan nuns, and more, but what amazes and inspires me every time I’m in Medjugorje is the life of faith as lived by the people in the local church. And this is, I think, the greatest fruit of what has taken place in this little Croatian village, and my greatest hope for our own parish and for the Church throughout the world.
Every day, without exception,
people gather in tremendous numbers, standing-room-only numbers, to attend the
holy Mass, pray all 20 decades of the Rosary, gather for a Eucharistic Holy
Hour, healing prayers and more. You
can’t go near the
Mary has said in her
messages, “It is not important for you to come to Medjugorje, it is important
that you bring Medjugorje home with you.”
This is the message on my heart every time I’m there. These great wonders don’t happen in
Medjugorje because there is something magical in that place. Yes, the life of faith as lived there was
sparked by the appearance of Mary. But,
the life of faith that is lived there can be lived any where, in any parish, in
any place in the world. “God so loved
the world that He gave us His Only Son.”
God gives us His Only Son repeatedly in the Sacraments – in the Eucharist,
in Confession – so that we might not die, but that we might live forever. It is the Sacraments that are healing, faith
that brings peace and grace. There are
healings and vocations and more coming from that place not because they can
only happen there, these things happen because that is what always happens when
people put God first, when people lead a life where God, and the Sacraments and
the Church are the most important things in their lives. We have the ability to experience the same
graces and wonders and holiness right here in
As we were preparing on
Wednesday to begin our return home, some pilgrims commented that they weren’t
ready to go back to “normal life.” I reminded
them that the life we live in
My brothers and sisters, this normal life of grace is available to each and every one of us. All we have to do is choose it. Let us live this life! Let us welcome God ever more powerfully, ever more fully into our lives. Let us allow God, allow the Sacraments, allow prayer and fasting to shape and mold and form our lives. And let the rest worry about itself. If we can do this, I promise you, I absolutely promise you, that you will receive greater blessings than you could ever imagine or that you could ever achieve otherwise.
Our Blessed Mother always speaks on the 25th of the month. Here is her message from yesterday, “Courage, little children! I decided to lead you on the way of holiness. Renounce sin and set out on the way of salvation, the way which my Son has chosen. Through each of your tribulations and sufferings God will find the way of joy for you. Therefore, little children, pray. We are close to you with our love. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
“God so loved the world that He sent us His Only Son.” Let us run to Jesus and accept the gracious gift that God has given us.
May God give you peace.