St. James Church|
Croatian Parish of Medjugorje
Celebrant: Fr. Jozo Zovko|
Gospel Reading: Luke 19:25-27
Dear faithful, thank you that you came to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Our Lady's apparitions here and give thanks for so many gifts and graces that our Church received in this short time. For history it is a short time, but for us believers it is a long time of graces. We want to give thanks tonight for the millions of people who passed through this shrine. We want to give thanks for these children who witnessed through these 15 years to millions of people to what they saw with their own eyes, to what they heard with their own ears with love from Our Lady, the Queen of Peace.
Wonderful is the name, "Queen of Peace." Wonderful is this place which is marked by her who said, "I chose this place, I chose this parish." In the very beginning she said to the children, "Do not be afraid, I invited you, I chose you, I need you, and you are important to me." Then the same words she said to the parish, so that this parish can witness with its life to all the pilgrims who come and who are to come, of what is happening here. Who could even imagine that 15 years later there will be a gathering of such a great multitude of people here. When it all began there was a Godless regime and the threatening power of fear. But through only 15 years all of that "melted" away and today we sing, we are joyful, we celebrate. Today, after 15 years we can see how important the visionaries were, how important their witnessing was, how important parishioners were, and how all the pilgrims were important to whom Our Lady says the same: "You are important to me and I chose you."
Tourists and curiosity seekers are not coming here any more, but those who are invited, those in whom Our Lady woke up the desire and grace to come here. Why? So that again and again she can put into our hearts the seed of her message. That seed contains life, divine life, which brings new grace every day, new fruits every day, new blessings every day. After these 15 years it does not seem like a miracle any more that Our Lady comes daily, that heaven opens up every day, that Our Lady can be seen and heard and touched here. But the miracles are we, you are a miracle who came from North and South America, from New Zealand, from Australia, Africa, Europe and Asia. Each one of you are a great sign and a miracle. Yes, this place is miraculous and every pilgrim becomes miraculously filled with grace and so becomes noticed, "different," recognizable in the world.
If we ask ourselves how did we use these 15 years, what did we do as a Church, we can proudly say: here the Church prayed for 15 years, here the Church fasted for 15 years, here the Church gave sacrifices for 15 years. All of this was transformed into healing of heart and soul, it became a sign of grace, a blessing to all.
It was not a coincident that Our Lady said, "Dear children, prayer should be put in the first place in your families, and through prayer you will discover the will of God." Yes, through these 15 years God was in the first place here, and when people come here they are able to destroy their idols and decide for love, for truth, for sacrifice, for the way of the Gospel. This is why this place is a holy place. This place is not a place of loud night parties. This place is at war with satan. Satan fell to the Earth, as John sees the vision (in the first reading) he sees the woman clothed with the sun, clothed in chastity and dignity, in holiness, in grace. He sees the woman about to give birth. The woman is the Queen, crowned with stars, crowned with the whole Church. Woman faces an enemy, the beast (that cannot be identified) waiting the birth of a son to separate him from his mother. Mother knows the clever plot, decides to save her son... and so - the war between the woman and the beast (satan). John tells us the ending of his vision - mother wins and saves her child.
So, we understand the Gospel when Jesus says to John, "Here is your mother." Brothers and sisters, this same sentence is repeating itself for 15 years here. "Here is your mother." Without her you cannot win against the beast. She is stronger than satan. We need the mother. With her we are on the winning side. With her we can persevere in everything. We cannot be without her. She is the substance of the Church, without her there is no Church, without her there is no salvation. She came here saying, "I am your mother, I am the Queen of Peace." Who else can give us peace: Who can give peace to the world? Who can give peace to our suffering nation? United Nations? No! You heard all the languages praying together tonight. Here is the Spirit of God. This is the mother's tongue of our Church: prayer, love, faith. This is what is uniting us here. Our Lady and her Son are the heart of the Church and they are inviting all nations into one nation - the holy nation of God. "Here is your mother." She can win the battle for you if you, "Do whatever He tells you."
To millions of people who came here through these 15 years, Jesus is saying the same, "Here is your mother." Dear mother, thank you for each prayer that poured out from the heart of the Church through these 15 years. Thank you mother for all the priests that came here to greet you. Thank you for the visionaries whose witness to your presence made a difference in millions of people's lives. Thank you mother for this parish that you chose and for our Croatian nation, our homeland, which you filled with your presence. As we prayed for 15 years, tonight we also pray: pour out your motherly blessing into the hearts of our bishops, priests, all the religious, and all the Church. May we all realize the great event happening here as Anna and Simeon realized when you presented your Son in the temple: in your arms the Savior of the world, God among us. Amen.