St. James Church|
Croatian Parish of Medjugorje
Celebrant: Fr. Ivan Dugandzic|
Gospel Reading: Luke 11:27-28
Brother and sisters, when we who remember the beginning at the Hill of Apparition in Bijakovici 15 years ago, look back and compare Medjugorje then and today, we see a big difference. We see that many things changed, but still some things stayed the same. The essence is the same, the heart of the matter is the same, and that is Our Lady with her messages and the answer of the faithful - the Church that prays.
Those six children from Bijakovici after their first meeting with the illuminated beautiful woman, uttering some words with fear about the event, are not children any more. They are young adults with their own families, their own directions in life, but one thing remained common to all of them. they are still witnesses today to the presence of Our Lady who entrusted her messages to them. Franciscans who were in this parish at the beginning of the apparitions are not here any more. Some of them moved to another parish, some moved to eternity, but they all have something in common: all of them cherish experiences and blessings they received here and would not change it for anything else. The villages of Bijakovici and Medjugorje look different now but the basics are the same: the Hill of Apparition, Cross Mountain, and this church of St. James. These three points stayed the same, everything is happening around them, everything is tied in with them. We can go further... The state regime disappeared with its Godless ideology which trembled at the news of the apparition, as Herod trembled at the news that the child Jesus was born. The regime tried everything to kill the child in the beginning, but thanks to the wisdom and courage of God's people, it did not succeed.
Six years ago Herod's fury tried to destroy God's people, destroying God's temples, destroying life - ethnic cleansing... We are asking ourselves whether or not it would come to that if all God's people, the whole Church accepted Our Lady's message of prayer for peace. At the beginning of the war, many pilgrims disappeared from this place but they did not stop praying, caring, helping and working for peace. Peace came, thank God, and now we are here today in a great number to give thanks, to celebrate.
Brothers and sisters, Medjugorje goes beyond the boundaries of this parish, it goes beyond our local church and Croatian nation. Medjugorje became the possession of the whole world. Therefore, Medjugorje is understood by those who know how to read the signs of the time, who can see through the curtain on a stage, who see hardships and tragedies of this world, who know how to listen to God's answer, because God would never remain silent. He has a way to give a word of comfort and encouragement to His people.
Brother and sisters, through history we learn that the world was always awaiting the next millennium with some anticipation expecting something to happen. It is so at this time also. We are witnessing changes in many things, things that seemed so strong, they became weak. Many institutions that were solid before are now weak, especially the institution of marriage. Many marriages are crumbling and many children are unhappy. Institutions of states are in crisis today because many want anarchy instead of law and order. We see also the Church in crisis in some areas. These crises tend to bring out the prophets of the apocalyptic spirits who spread fear and condemnation, because they do not know anything else. For if their dreams are not fulfilled in this world, then they do not see any other solution for it. On the other side, for some people the deep desire that is ingrained in every human being, desire for the lost paradise, comes to the surface, the desire for God. It comes to the surface today in so many different forms that the Church in some places cannot cope with it or the Church itself might be in a dormant stage... and so many dark spirits are using this opportunity forming different cults for themselves. There are also those who offer another kind of teaching; that man does not need God, that man can save himself if he achieves balance within himself or with the universe. Many are preaching and selling this theory in the world today. But, brothers and sisters, what we are facing today is that even such people who chased God out of their midst are becoming afraid of what could happen if they continue to live without some moral laws. They even try now to gather all religions together to outline some moral guidelines. These people are not interested in what God already said and is still saying about these matters, but rather rely on human decisions. On all of this, brothers and sisters, God is giving us His answer. He is sending us the Mother to wake up the dormant Church, so that the Church lives again as she lived with her in the beginning, when the disciples, in prayer with her, waited for the power of the Holy Spirit. This is exactly what is happening here for these 15 years. Here, Our Lady is waking up the dormant Church. Praying first with this parish and then with numerous pilgrims who came from all over the world. Our Lady is preparing ground for the action of God's Spirit and so in the best possible way renewing the Church of God. This brother and sisters, is that great miracle that is happening here and this is the only way our Church will have a guaranteed future.
Many who forgot the prayers came here and learned how to pray again. Our Lady did not come here to satisfy human curiosity and bring some interesting teaching. She came only to remind us of what we forgot. Through her presence and teaching, simple prayers like the Our Father and the Creed became interesting again as did all the words our ancestors tried to save for us. We discovered again the power of prayer that Jesus taught us, and which many forgot or prayed only mechanically. We understand more the hidden power in the professing of our faith in the prayer compiled by the first apostles 2000 years ago on which our Church is founded. Those to whom 40 minutes of Mass was too long, now come here to celebrate the Eucharist every evening praying with Our Lady for three hours and discover how beautiful it is to celebrate the great miracle of Our Lord who gave himself for us and remained with us in the form of bread and wine. Many pilgrims coming here discover the true meaning of the Eucharist and also the meaning of the prayer of the Rosary and reading of Holy Scripture. This message went into the world and so many came here and discovered the simple truth, found encouragement for their life, and with renewed faith, hope, and love, took the message from Medjugorje becoming living witnesses of God's presence. So Medjugorje was spreading itself through these 15 years like the ripples in the water and therefore, we can truly say that Medjugorje became the parish of the world and that here the living Church gathers, the Church that believes and prays.
So, brothers and sisters, while many in the Church search their brains on how to step into the new millennium, how to announce again the Gospel to parts of Europe which is not Christian any more, here in Medjugorje the rebirth of the Church of the 21st century is already happening. This is the meaning, the importance, and the greatness of our gatherings here. In the 21st century, the main direction for the Church will be man with God and nothing else. One prophet said 50 years ago, for the next millennium: either mankind will recognize and accept God or it will disappear from the face of the Earth. It is a clear alternative. mankind will endure only if it decides to serve and help one another and not to rule over one another. Our Lady is teaching us the same from the beginning. She is teaching us of God who serves. Jesus said, "I did not come to be served but to serve, and to give my life for many." Our Lady is teaching us here about this kind of God, not God who rules and makes divisions, but God who helps and serves. In her we see the same, the servant, the handmaid of the Lord, who continues to serve to the end of her mission. Jesus gave us the best example in serving. He said that we should not be like kings and rulers of the world but, who wants to be the first, the best, let him be the servant to all others. This is the truth our Church has to accept and practice and as such, enter into the next millennium... only then it will be the strong and true Church of Jesus Christ. Amen.