The following scripture reference was provided by Mario Magro:
Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. All the people were astonished and said, “Could this be the Son of David?”
But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.”
Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.”
These people that refer to the apparitions at Medjugorje as the work of Satan are influenced by Satan to turn God's people away from the Blessed Mother message of encouragement towards God. (In the scripture above, The Pharisees were also influenced by Satan to turn Gods people away from the message of Christ)
Scripture also mentions that you will see the work of God by its fruit. Millions have gone to Medjugorje, and the majority have at least taken with them the spirit of peace - God's peace.
Find out who is active in the churches, especially the Catholic church, where many have fallen asleep in faith. Many times you will find people who went Medjugorje trying to re-establish prayer groups, starting up relief efforts. They've begun to pray the Rosary, and some make the sincere effort to do it daily. Look at who is behind the organization of perpetual adoration, and who you find spending hour after hour before the blessed sacrament. You'll find many "graduates" of Medjugorje start to go to daily mass, and get involved in other Christian-based activities. Often times, these are people who never did much more than attend church on Sundays, or didn't even go to church. Some weren't even Christian. If it is Satan who makes up these lies and misleads people... the fruits of his work are backfiring because it only has resulted in people praying more, forgiving more, loving more.
I find it very difficult to believe that satan would urge people to pray for peace, to return to God, to confess their sins, to fast, and to receive the Eucharist. Look at the fruits!
1.1) How does anyone know it's Mary that is appearing? No one I know has any idea what she looks like.
Those who have claimed to be visited by her have given pretty good description of her... but you are right, you can not prove it's really her. Furthermore, when she's appeared in different places, her appearance often "adapts" to the race or color of the people to which she appears. So you can't really "know" that Mary is appearing. Some things depend only on faith... and if it doesn't help you in your faith, then maybe you don't need to believe it. That's fine. For me, I had an experience in Medjugorje that defies anything in the physical world can prove scientifically, and it brought me closer to Jesus and to God, and to an understanding of what Christ's sacrifice on the cross meant. I can't prove that it was Mary who was involved in that, nor do I need to.
(Mario Magro provided the following...)
God has the power to make man from dust, but yet he chose the virgin Mary to be the Blessed Mother of God. If God himself placed such high honor and love on Mary, why then do we find it so hard to believe that God has sent Mary to encourage us and bring us back to him? Didn't he send the Saints, the Prophets and Moses as well. Mary herself has told us who she is. You must have faith in the power of God for nothing is to hard for him to do.
1.2) Isn't believing in apparitions a form of worshipping Mary?
The dear Mother of God through all of her messages has directed us to the love of her son. It is incorrect for a person to suggest that we are honoring Mary above God. Mary in the time of her life was a servant of God committed and devoted to his love and will. As a servant of God, Mary calls out to us with her loving heart, that we may turn and be fully committed to God's holy will.
See question 3.0
1.3) Didn't the Pope say that people shouldn't go to Medjugorje?
In a word... No. But to clarify, the following is a quote by Fr. Ken Roberts (if you have a chance you should hear his testimony!), who replied to a similar question asked by a friend of mine:
"...there was a statement issued by some Cardinal from the Vatican stating that official pilgimages to Medjugorje are not authorised. That means sponsored by a diocese or parish as they do at Lourdes. Private pilgrimages are permitted. The press may have used this information, which is not new, and misquoted it as coming from the Pope. That same statement also said that Medjugorje was still being investigated by a commission of Bishops."
For more information, click here.
2. Living the Messages
2.0) For people who eat rice, how can they do fasting? Are they required to eat nothing for the breakfast and lunch ? If they can eat a little, how much is good for them to eat, and can they eat any time of the day?
Our lady considers "bread and water" as the perfect fast, although we can set our own fast, and we should limit it to three simple meals of only those items which we have chosen to fast on. Of course, the idea is both sacrifice and discipline... so we should be avoiding sweets and unnecessary snacking. Some people start by fasting on fruits, or by abstaining for the day (no meat).
I would guess that rice and water is equivalent to the perfect fast. If you think about it, bread is really just grain that is ground up and combined with yeast to make it leavened. Rice pretty much falls under the same category... so I'm sure that fasting on rice and water is welcomed and pleasing to God.
2.1) Our Lady mentions that God respects all religions, and that they are not separated in Heaven as they are on Earth. Since most religions do not have the Sacrament of Confession, and many do not celebrate the Eucharist, then how can we as Christians comply with Her request?
I believe Our Lady was emphasizing to the visionaries that we need to stop hating our brothers of different faiths. We must not hate somebody who is of another faith, and it is not our job to judge our brothers & sisters. Many of them are born into a faith, and that is what they are taught. We need to love them regardless of that, and be their neighbors, their brothers & their sisters.
We are responsible for ourselves, and the sacraments are a special gift given through the church, which are provided for our own spiritual health, development and growth. Mary, as our mother, is encouraging us to participate in them. Remember that the Catholic church was a single church for the first 1000 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, at which point the Eastern Orthodox church split off. Both churches maintained all the sacraments for the first 1400 years. It was at that point when some very poor examples & leaders in the Catholic church and others who brought heretical teachings, began to cause division among Christians. One of the most harmful was the belief that we could trust in "solo scriptura" or by only the contents of the Bible and our own personal interpretation. This led to many division in the church, the loss of tradition handed down from the early church, and the loss of most sacraments in many of the Christian faiths. This does not mean that a Protestant can't be a good Christian, nor does it suggest that a Protestant (or Muslim, Jew, etc) can't make it to heaven because they don't partake in the sacraments (this can be deducted from what Our Lady says).
But getting back to the original question, anyone can comply with Our Lady's request to participate in the sacraments if we:
2.2) How long does a fast last? Should it go for a full 24 hours? How does one do this properly?
Mary asks us in Medjugorje to fast on bread and water. This is a perfect fast. Bread and water, of course should be taken with temperance as well. Two or three times throughout the day, we can eat a portion of bread and drink some water to keep us going as needed. A recommended time frame is from midnight until two hours beyond midnight the following day (this is for discipline purposes, so we don't sit around waiting until midnight to raid the icebox).
This, however, is only a recommendation. Fasting really is an individual sacrifice. God knows what is in our hearts, and one way that we can express our love of God is to offer sacrifices. Many people will find it difficult to jump into this type of fast the first time.... and that's okay. We can start by fasting on light meals, or by fasting on something we crave, whether it be meat, sweets, television, etc... the last time I was in Medjugorje, Marija suggested that Europeans could fast on smoking, Americans on Coca-Cola, and Italians on talking (that got some laughs).
We need to remember the spirit of fasting. Why do we do it? In the first place, out of love! We should want to unite our sacrifices with the suffering of Christ on the cross. There are many things in this world that we can become attached to and for the purpose of attaining eternal life, we really don't need them. As long as we are making the sacrifice, exercising the discpline, we can please God, atone for our sins, and at the same time feel the peace and joy that comes in having control over our cravings and passions. Oh, how we need to be masters and have control over our human passions and desires!
Mary, our mother, knows what is best for us! We can't do this alone, we need to unite ourselves with Christ and offer these sacrifices in a spirit of prayer.
2.3) What exactly is meant by conversion? Conversion to Christianity? To living God's word and commandments?
This is an excellent question, and it does need clarification. What is conversion? John the baptist cried out from the desert, "Reform your lives." And Mary, who first appeared on the feast of John the Baptist in Medjugorje comes echoing this same plea in her call for conversion.
There really are two parts to conversion. First of all, I can say that I was converted at Medjugorje. Now I claimed to be a Catholic before I went to Medjugorje, but I wasn't really living the life of a true Catholic Christian. What happened in my conversion? Well, my outlook changed from a life where I did what I wanted to do, to a life where I began to seek to do what God wanted me to do. This is where we convert to really seeking to live the most important commandment: "Love God with your whole heart, your whole mind and your whole soul." This is the primary conversion that you will see in people who have had their lives changed through Medjugorje, and in some cases it may mean a conversion to Christianity and/or Catholic Christianity.
The second part is that as Christians we are called to continually reform our lives. Going to church once a week does not mean we live a Christian life. And just because we seek to do God's will does not mean we are good Christians! We are obligated to continually evaluate ourselves, and strive to become better. We are weak and we are sinners by nature, and just as it takes time to keep a house clean, it takes time, diligence and patience to keep our souls clean. More often than not, our souls are burdened with tons of baggage that need to be slowly removed. Often we can't even see clearly as to what we need to work on. This takes prayer, patience, and grace. This takes the sacraments as the tools to help clean up our act, and to become the loving people that we are called to be. As we clean up our souls, we are called to forget our very selves, take up our cross and follow Christ. These are all steps in conversion, and in St. John the Baptist's call to "reform our lives."
3. Issues of Catholic Faith
3.0) If we are commanded to pray only to God through Jesus, why pray the Rosary? Isn't that worshipping Mary?
We are commanded to worship God, and to have no other idols. Yet we can ask other people to pray for us, just as we can ask angels to look over us. In the prayer of Mary (the "Hail Mary") we quote two lines of scripture and then ask Mary to pray for us now and at the hour of our death. While that part of the Rosary is a prayer petition, the essence of the Rosary is the meditation. What do we meditate on? The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ. In doing so, we recall how deep God's love is for us by sending us His only son that we might be saved. In recalling His love, we develop an appreciation for how much God loves us and through our appreciation and recognition of Christ's act of redemption, we love God back. So praying the Rosary is actually one manifestation of the number one commandment: "Love God more than anything in heaven or on earth!"
For the first 1500 years after the start of Christianity, Mary was very deeply revered and respected. The loss of this devotion among Christians has occurred primarily since the Reformation period (1500's), which is somewhat ironic since Martin Luther, himself, had a special devotion to Mary. In scripture we find that Mary prophesied herself, "All ages to come shall call me blessed." Mary is a special instrument in God's plan. Her example is a powerful one to both men and women because she accepted God's will without contest (and she was the only person in scripture -other than Jesus- to accept God's will without contest). While she is not to be worshipped, she is "blessed," and she deserves great respect for the role she played in our salvation by being the human tabernacle of Christ. She is model for all of us to follow.
(the following was provided by Mario Magro...)
By praying the rosary we recognize and honor God's work in the Mother Mary, particularly when we recite “blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus”. As you know, Gods blessings are with Mary for it is written in the holy bible “and he conceived in her the baby Jesus”. So by reciting the rosary you are paying homage to God in his work through Mary.
Also when Jesus was nailed on the cross he looked down and saw his mother and John at his feet and he said to John, behold your mother and to his mother behold your son. Now then since we are brothers and sisters of Christ and also known as the children of God, for our souls all came from God. It seems very fitting that we should ask Mary, our Mother for her help in praying to God (as we do in the rosary) by asking her to “pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death amen”.
3.1) Many of the teachings and practices in the Catholic church lack support from scripture, why believe in them?
While you find many things in the Catholic church not referred to in scripture, that it partially because Jesus never formally told the apostles to go and write the gospels. He told them to go out and teach others. Those teachings started right from Peter... the "rock" on which the church was built. Since then, there has been an unbroken succession of Popes for almost 2000 years. No organizational structure, government, or any social structure created by man has lasted as long as the structure and tradition (handed down by the teachings of Christ) as the Catholic church. While there have been corrupt individuals who have invaded this structure, who have broken moral laws and who have lived unholy lives, the teachings on faith and moral law have not wavered even once. Find any structure made by man that can claim the same. Only divine intervention could maintain such "infallibility." For those who don't understand the teaching of infallibility of the pope, it is believed that the Holy Spirit works through the Papacy to make sure that only the correct teachings on faith and morals come through this representative of Christ. It does not guarantee that he is holy and perfect in all aspects of life.
3.2) What does "catholic" mean?
Catholic comes from the greek, "cathos" which means "universal."
3.3) Why pray before a piece of bread trapped in a Monstrance?
For those who don't know what a Monstrance is, it is a fixture (usually gold) that has a round glass center where the body of Christ is placed for prayer and worship.
Jesus said, "I am the bread of life, he who eats of my body and drinks of my blood shall receive eternal life..." and he repeated himself three times to really drive this point home (see John chapter 6). He didn't say this to tell a cute story that we should share bread with our buddies. The Body of Christ (also called the Eucharist) is central to our Christian faith. When the bread is consecrated (or blessed) we believe that it becomes the real presence of Jesus. While we can pray to God through Jesus anywhere, this special gift of spiritual food that we receive at the sacrifice of the mass is like having Jesus physically present to us. In this special presence of God on Earth, He deserves to be worshiped and exalted. Such reverence of the Living Presence builds upon the virtues of humility & obedience.
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Updated 12/06/97, MLD.