The Historical-Theological Context of the Medjugorje Apparitions
Dr. fra Tomislav Pervan, OFM, 1995
THE BEGINNINGS AND THE HISTORICAL CONTEXT
Someone said that the problem of the meaning of history is precisely in this, does man know and is he at all aware and is it granted to him to discover the truth about himself while that history is still ongoing. Namely, does history, which offers so many signs of coincidences, so much irrationality, still reveal, in spite of everything, the necessity, which brings along some sort of justification for everything that has happened in the past? Is it possible to write history from a first hand consideration and still to observe the times in which we live from a certain distance and to give it a meaning, that is, to draw from it a meaning for the future. This especially relates to Medjugorje. It has been going on among already for fourteen years. The phenomenon itself is too complex to be able to observe in all of its ramifications and its components. Nevertheless, it has its historical-theological Sitz im Leben of today's world and the church, and it has long since surpassed its narrow boundaries. Medjugorje is indelibly inscribed on the religious map of the world, particularly of the Catholic Church. During these past fourteen years many have spoken and written about its meaning and importance, about the need for it precisely in these crucial times of ours. It seems unnecessary to be an apologist for Medjugorje, a defender, because it is by itself strong enough to defend itself all alone, and to succeed in defending itself and to survive before the highest tribunal of the Church, before theology, history and the world. All that is necessary is to fathom and look under the surface and to see and observe how great is the tectonic shift that has come into our Church and the world with Medjugorje.
Clemenceau, the French politician and agnostic, on one occasion said that each war is a far too distinguished and important thing to be left only to generals and soldiers. In the same way, Medjugorje is a too many faceted reality to be able to leave it over just to commissions, to the judgment and opinion of theologians and to commissions which approach the Medjugorje phenomenon with the kind of premises we already well know. It is impossible to leave it over to a decision made at some kind of desk, to idle theologians and to those who actually never made an effort to grasp the meaning of the manifestation, the ramification of the events, and the essence of the message.
Medjugorje is hard to define. It is many faceted and along with itself involves different judgments and evaluations by many experts from different fields of thought and science. No matter what anyone personally thinks or believes about Medjugorje, we still have to admit, whether we like it or not, that in the regions of ex-Yugoslavia, and, if you like, Europe and the entire world, it is the most outstanding religious phenomenon of the last decade, actually, of the last two decades of our century and of our millennium. If it were possible for us with a huge magnet to collect all of the particles on this earthly globe that Medjugorje has sown in countless souls and hearts, then we would experience a stunning effect, and would find out about incredible results. We would ourselves be surprised how much it is present in the consciousness and the life of believers and unbelievers. And how did it all begin?
Si licet exemplis in parvis grandibus uti, ie. if it is permitted in a small thing to use grand examples, that is, si licet parvis componere magna, if it is allowed to compare the great with the small, then I would begin with a quote from the New Testament, "What good can come from Nazareth?" as Nathaniel in wonderment asked himself and Philip (John 1:46). Nazareth was a small provincial place which in the dialect was spoken of only in bad terms, just the same as happened about Bijakovici, that is, about Medjugorje. The province, the village, the provincial people, the peasants, in quarrels, and the visionaries the same as that, were the offspring of poorly educated people. Without schooling and education, in a single moment of their personal life history, they were uprooted from their smooth running routine and began to speak with a vocabulary and language that belonged to another world and not their own. They began to speak about a manifestation from the other side and not from this side. Those little and unknown ones filled the ears of the world with a message and assertions because of which the authorities of that time trembled, and which new life and embryo they tried by every means to extinguish. It may be that Bijakovici and Medjugorje were two quarrelling villages in some kind of Herzegovina, but at that moment, they were written into the map of the world. There follows an expansion like in the Acts of the Apostles, "from Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (1:7). The same concentric circles are observable in the Bijakovici-Medjugorje phenomenon.
COMPARISONS WITH SALVATION HISTORY
For almost every occasion and pondering, history and Sacred Scripture can be our teacher and guide. They offer us sufficient illustrative material for our reflections in concrete situations, particularly in the context of Medjugorje and the historical turning point with reference to the collapse of communism in these past two decades of our century and millennium. Communism caved in on itself. It was unnecessary to go against it with weapons or force. Why did it happen that way? There are many reasons. In the first place, the ideologists and leaders no longer believed in their own ideas of creating a better future and a happier tomorrow on the principles of economy or a higher gross national product. Later on, it was impossible to hold the world under terror by the force of repression and the non freedom of thought, of self expression and self determination. Here I would compare the fall of communism with the fall of Jericho in the book of Joshua. Let us remember how the Israelites entered the Promised Land and the collapse of the walls of Jericho. The Bible interprets it as a direct intervention of God in the history of the chosen people. Human strength did not destroy the walls, but prayer and song, prayerful processions around the walls. That is, God himself, who moulds history and gives it direction, demolished the walls. It is a sign that God himself hands the land over to his people who came from a foreign land, from the wilderness after decades of wandering through the barren mountains. Military might or power did not demolish the walls, but devout singing, day and night processions around the walls with the Ark of the Covenant. The victorious march and the triumph are condensed into that one moment, and that should be for all the future a sign to the whole nation not to trust in itself, but rather in the Lord who tears down strongholds. It was, of course, soon overshadowed by moral decay within the nation itself, by sin and failures, both individual and collective. Life in the new environment continues to be jeopardized by all sorts of attackers and usurpers. However, the internal decadence of the nation kept on giving opportunities to attackers to conquer and subdue the nation with greater ease. Let us remember what happened with Jericho and the curse that Joshua pronounced over it, "Joshua laid an oath upon them at that time, saying, 'Cursed before the LORD be the man that rises up and rebuilds this city, Jericho. At the cost of his first-born shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates'" (Joshua 6:26). And in I Kings (16:34) it says, "In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho; he laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his first-born, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun."
That tissue, woven out of fulfilment and responsibility (under the threat of obvious punishment), knitted from the command and the gift of grace, automatically imposes itself upon us when we look closely at the political processes, the turmoils and the fall of communism in our own most recent history. Perhaps to some ears or eyes it will seem inappropriate to mention here the walls of Jericho, the trumpets and the prayerful processions around the walls. For a long time now our contemporaries no longer believe in that because they are enlightened, or they consider themselves to be so, but we are witnesses of a similar process that has developed among us. However, that which happened with the election of the Polish Cardinal K. Wojtyla as Pope, and after Medjugorje, namely, the collapse of communism in 1989, has not yet been adequately explained nor does it have its historical-theological interpreter. Maybe the reason for that is that only six years separate us from the collapse of communism, but it is, undoubtedly, the most decisive and the greatest turning point in the history of the world and civilization. The Pope is certainly the initiator of that process of the fall of communism. He was the first to penetrate the so-called iron curtain, in the first place of his own Polish nation, and then he went on laying the obvious indicators for a more human and freer life. The year 1989 is a historic date before which a person can only fall on their knees, be amazed and freely say: God does not speak only with words; he is at work. One should, according to Jesus' word, clearly read the 'signs of the times'.
Here we would like to mention the example of today's Pope, the only modern recognized moral force in the whole of mankind. He is the shepherd of entire mankind. He offers his leadership because he is aware of his own mission that he has from Jesus Christ, the power that stands behind him. He is explicitly a Marian Pope because after his election he spoke like this: "I was afraid to accept this election but I accepted it in the spirit of obedience to our Lord Jesus Christ and in full confidence in our most holy Mother. . .And so today I stand before you all confessing our common faith, our hope and out confidence in Christ's Mother and the Mother of the Church." When some day the history of Europe and the modern world will be written, the history of world communism and its fall, its collapse, and caving in on itself, the present Pope will also certainly have his own unique, honourable, and historic place. Who does not poignantly remember all of those images in which were clearly seen the Pope's self-confidence, self-awareness, determination, and superiority over the contemporary, particularly the communist, leaders and 'big shots'. If there is any image that more strongly signifies the fall of communism and the Marxist idol, the complete shakiness of that system, then it is an image that went around the world and is related to the present Pope during his visit to his Polish homeland after he was elected as Peter' successor. In Poland, the military dictatorship was already in power. Pope Wojtyla and the leader of the junta, General Jaruzelski, appeared on the stage before a multitude of millions. The one has behind him all the military power and force, the strength of weapons, terror, violence, the system of retaliation, godless communism. But there is one thing he does not have behind him. He does not have the people. The other one on the stage, the Pope, fragile in himself, has Jesus Christ behind him, eternity, the word and the promise of God. Force and weapons were standing against God's word and eternity. The General and the man of power, whose authority rests on clay feet, was standing against the Pope who speaks with powerful words and a conviction which only the Holy Spirit gives. He speaks without quivering, but when the General takes the paper in his hands, they are shaking, his words are fading away or are swallowed in his throat. He is afraid. His hands quiver at the Pope's words. He is dripping with cold sweat. Once upon a time the dictator Stalin queried, in fact made fun of, how many divisions does that Pope have in Rome, while Jaruzelski did not dare to ask nor even literally to pronounce how many divisions this Pope has, because he was aware of the power that this man has in his nation. He knows that the entire world is behind him, all of Poland. He knows well what a military dictatorship brings with itself, and he himself had much to be afraid of since recent world history took a totally different direction away from communism. In a single Pope there is the primordial power of the Christian faith, a faith which is alive and which is proclaimed simply and comprehensibly, without an excessive defense. It is a faith of simple testimony for which the modern world is yearning.
With the election of the present Pope and, later on with the Medjugorje apparitions and events, and finally with the fall of communism, certainly the deepest incision of all European history was made. Not only regarding the Croatian people and all the nations that were enslaved under the communist reign of terror, but also regarding the end of the cold war and the conflict between East and West. The fact that that process and truly revolutionary event was achieved without an explicit protagonist, without an explicit historical personality, without a clear program, without a strategy, and what is even more noticeable, as has never happened in the history of mankind - without bloodshed, must still be more surprising to us. Of course, abstracting from the fact of this genocidal war that is taking place on the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. The historian stands dumbfounded and stricken before these facts and is not capable of mentioning adequate reasons or causes. He must either on the one hand renounce causal connections, or else on the other hand admit and embrace the idea that we are precisely the ones who are in this historical moment faced with the direct intervention of God himself in history. It is painful to recognize that in times past we have not developed a sensibility to this within ourselves and, in particular, that we are not even grateful to God for this. It is still far away from being present in our consciousness and we have not grasped the depths and authentic meaning of these events. If God is at work, then we have no greater obligation than to refer to this event in a human and Christian way, rightly and justly, with dignity and gratefulness. If a historical miracle can exist, then what has happened is a true and magnificent miracle of our times.
Because in our understanding of miracles and wonders, we are used to observing them only when an individual experiences healing in his body in the absence of a doctor or of medicine. However, miracles are not limited only to individual destinies. Miracles exist in history. Here we should learn something from the Jews and Judaism. Namely, the Jews have considered their own entire history as an actual dialogue with their God, as a miracle in their origin, their continuation and existence. Therefore, the demolition of the Berlin wall and all other walls in the world are like a miracle. The ideological walls, that were dividing not only Europe but the whole world, no longer exist in their previous form. These walls were not demolished by armed force or violence, but with persevering prayer and the revolution of candles, the outbreak of the Spirit and spiritual expansion in the world, in so many marches for freedom that were more powerful than the barbed wire and the concrete walls. The Spirit revealed its power and strength. The trumpet of the Spirit and the cry of the spirit for freedom was manifested as being stronger than the walls and the prisons in which human freedom was languishing in exile. Although it is not permissible to gratuitously implicate God in a game, we are still left with the possibility, real and tangible, of thinking also about such an option in our reflections, because faith in God was setting the tone for these movements of the spirit and the new Jericho trumpets of freedom.
Closed and locked gates were opened. Dividing walls were demolished. The breeze of freedom began to be felt. All of these are the consoling and encouraging processes that appear in the most recent history of which also Medjugorje is a participant, actually a true contemporary and initiator. We must not lose sight of these processes. They remain our signpost and the foundation of hope. But we must also not abstract from, nor lose sight of what followed in the history of Israel after the Jericho walls were demolished. Soon the joy and rapture, the happiness and enthusiasm over the conquered city was transformed into tasteless, daily routine, and all that enthusiasm disappears amid every day worries and torments. For survival of the nation, it is not enough to inhabit the same state or the same land. The oblivion of God and the social injustice, a consummate egotism or egotistical understanding of freedom, pushed the entire nation into internal decadence, moral and spiritual decay, at the end of which we again find enslavement to foreigners and enemies of the nation. The internal decay, moral as well as ethnic, leads into a renewed loss of freedom, which the Book of Judges unmistakably speaks of, on its every page. Freedom, such as this in the post-communist period, is always excessively demanding. Man does not get it served on a platter, and it vanishes precisely at the moment it desires to be unlimited. In other words, the decline of Marxism and communism does not automatically give birth to a free individual or state, nor to a healthy society or a healthy person. Let us remember a parable from the mouth of Jesus: In the place of one exorcized devil, the unclean spirit finds seven others worse than itself and returns to find the house well swept and clean, but empty (Matt 12:43-45). That parable of Jesus is continuously renewed and verified all throughout history. One freed from the yoke of Marxism does not automatically find a new life style nor has he thereby based his life on a new foundation. The loss of the ideology, which gave the tone to all of life and, to a certain extent, carried it along, can easily turn into egoism and nihilism, and that would be the same as the return of the seven evil and worse demons. Who can deny that the relativism that is reigning everywhere, and the indifferentism to which we are exposed are not the way into nihilism, into the denial of everything positive and human?
Therefore, a crucial question is put before us: With what spiritual content are we capable of filling in the spiritual vacuum that appeared in souls and on the spiritual scene after the breakdown of Marxism, that is, of the perilous and dreadful Marxist experiment? On what spiritual foundations are we capable of building and able to work on a new future so as to be able to link not only East and West together, but also the North and the South of this Planet? While straining over the diagnosis of our contemporary situation and while giving some predictions for tomorrow's development, tasks and opportunities, it has to be developed on a world wide dimension because nowadays the destiny of one part of mankind is dependent on the totality of events among nations, and decisions made at the highest level reflect on the lowest and vice versa. In speaking of what is personal, we must think of the global and vice versa, and, the same way, in thinking of the global we must think of the personal and the individual.
DIAGNOSIS OF OUR TIMES
The code number, the characteristic of our century, might be epitomized in several points: Faith in absolute improvement, progress, the absolutizing of scientific-technical possibilities and civilization, and political messianism embodied in Nazism and later on in Marxism. Nowhere is there a mention of God, who gets replaced with earthly goals. That systematic elimination of God from the moulding of history and human life is that Novum and really dangerous element this Europe and epoch of ours brought forth from its bosom. By banishing God from consciousness in contemporary literature, art, film and theatre, a gloomy and dark image of man prevails. All that was once great and noble is today called into question, gets torn down from the heights and is attempted to be exposed. Morality has become hypocrisy and happiness self-deception. It is impossible to be a follower of the good and the beautiful and the only correct stand is doubt. The one who exposes others becomes the hero of the day and will reap the greatest success in publicity and in the media. Criticism of society, of politics and of individuals has become the highest code of the media, and in such a spiritual atmosphere, there is hardly a place for values, faith, optimism, and a future.
Yet, today schizophrenia is present on the world stage. On the one hand, the world sees its own deceptions and, on the other hand, it is impossible to renounce the life style of living high on the hog, at the highest standard, at least in the West. That division is especially noticeable in taking a stand in the face of two facts from most recent history, namely, after the atomic reactor catastrophe in Chernobyl, and the spreading of the AIDS virus. The Chernobyl catastrophe clearly reveals how great the danger of atomic energy is. Everyday there are all the more advocates who are willing to renounce the benefits of splitting the atom. Yet, on the other hand, when the AIDS virus was discovered, the same kind of alarm was raised. Without doubt, far more people will be infected and die from the AIDS virus than from the Chernobyl disaster. But is it possible to raise one's voice in public against the sexual behaviour of our contemporaries, the fruit of which is this plague of our century? It is precisely licentiousness, immorality, and debauchery that are the main causes for the spreading of the AIDS virus. Meanwhile, what is going on? If one in the name of Christian morality, of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, advocates restraint and discipline in sexual behaviour, then he is written off in advance as ultramontane and obscurantist. He is sentenced to silence and failure, even if it were the Pope himself. Because, in the eyes of our contemporaries, that is an inadmissible criticism of man's freedom and behaviour, hence, the obvious schizophrenia in thought and action. Along with it comes also increasing methodical doubt in science. There is a diminishing of faith in science, progress, and technology. Scepticism and antipathy make their appearance. But can these characteristics be the solid foundations of a positive future in which something sound, intelligent and constructive should be built? Resentment and scepticism are not capable of providing a sound foundation and of overcoming ideas that can not be vanquished by mere negation or half-heartedness, but only by a greater, more positive idea, by a greater and better assent to something that gives meaning to life. Meanwhile, faith is chased into the sphere of privacy and, thereby are destroyed the foundations upon which all of Europe and its culture are built, and the moral codes and traditions woven into the European being and society are excluded. Therefore, on the one hand, faith is a private thing, and fundamental ethical convictions either disappear or are extinguished, while, at the same time, occultism, magic, and spiritism spread on all sides. All possible forms of superstition gain ever more influence amid all social classes. For that reason it is just one more proof that the trace of the Immortal, of God, is inextinguishable and indelible in man, torn apart and broken.
We are confronted with massive secularisation and secularism, and exodus from the Church, especially on the part of women. Churches are left empty. Eastern forms of mediation have all the more followers. Youth are in search of something to fill them from the outside and inside, which can give sense to their life and activity. In spite of all remarks to the contrary, there are signals of a renewal of faith in souls, particularly among the youth. Youth movements can be encountered in the whole Church throughout the world. They carry in themselves enormous strength of renewed faith. They possess persuasive moral and ethical seriousness and readiness to pledge one's own life for the ideals of the Gospel. That is so noticeable in and around Medjugorje. Such movements can be a fertile yeast that can again pour new life strength and credibility into those human values that characterize our life space and civilized environment. But, the fact that all the more young people abandon the Church should not surprise us. As we have already said, the expectation of direct and unconditional salvation exists in man. People have the feeling of being unredeemed, of alienation, and the need for a sense of and fulfilment with something sublime. Therefore, we have at work, especially among youth, modern forms of gnosticism and esoteric people. Here we meet with manifold forms of religious surrogates, often with unusual mixtures of the rational and the irrational. Occultism and magic are always attractive, and then parapsychological and astral-mythological tendencies, of cabalistic and of all kinds of other provenances. In this, one is always dealing with religion that does not seek the human heart, faith and trust, but with the aid of all kinds of rituals or psychological effects, tries to penetrate the deeper regions of a human being. One is dealing with attempts to achieve a feeling of disengagement and getting unhooked and of liberation. It is an expectancy of the help of hidden, mysterious forces that give strength against that which threatens us as people. People wish to master the technique of redemption or self-redemption and, for that reason, they reach out for non-European or archaic religious rituals of druid, Celtic, shamanistic, Indian, and like origins. Being that the contemporary spiritual scene is caught in apersonalism, just as philosophical thought is apersonal, then an impersonal, apersonal faith and piety responds to that apersonal thought just as is the case with Asiatic religions. Today it is possible to observe such a trend among Christians: the melting away of piety at the expense of personal commitment. Cosmic piety, immersion into divinity or divinities is celebrated so that one can justly talk about Asiatic divinities or divinity and the Christian God. Piety is something like immersion, evanescence, unburdening, liberation from the burden of being and existence, return to the stars, faith in horoscopes and astrology.
If anything has burdened the contemporary world stage, then it is drugs. Since man has existed, he has always used drugs in one way or another, but never to such a degree as nowadays. Why such frenzy for drugs? It comes from man's internal needs and deficiencies, from the emptiness of his soul. A lust for drugs is just an expression of the cry of the soul for happiness, for an authentic life meaning and response. With the aid of drugs, man wants to liberate himself from the prison of the body, and drugs are just a protest against the present condition and the facts that surround us. The one who is taking drugs is not at peace with the present world, but is seeking a better one, and one that can make him happier. Drugs are the fruit of disillusionment with the world which man feels to be a dungeon, and the fruit of longing for adventurism and nonconformity. They are a protest against the world as a human dungeon and a cry for a new reality. The grand journey into the wide-open spaces that the use of drugs offers is just a form of deviate mysticism, deviate human instinct for eternity, infinity, life. They are an attempt to step out of one's own being and skin, of one's own prison by means of chemistry. Drugs are the visible, external attempt to anticipate the world of the future and of happiness already here on earth. That is logical because all contemporary builders of mankind and of the future are not of the conviction that they themselves will live to see that final happiness and, therefore, they decide for the reckless step with drugs. It is a totally flawed path because we know how the mystics achieved their experiences: by the path of renunciation, humility, asceticism, the small steps of the ascent of Mount Carmel or The Interior Castle, or into the depths of one's own heart. Some want to skip over that path by means of the magic key of drugs, while morality and ethics are replaced by technique and chemistry. Drugs are the pseudo-mysticism of the world, incapable of believing, and plunged into pseudo-religion, the instinct of the soul for a return to Paradise, which cannot be suppressed by anything. Therefore, the contemporary scene, especially in drugs, is an alarm that uncovers all the emptiness of our society. It is the cry of man in the wilderness of this life for his own human realization, which is immanent in his soul and heart, already in his very creation in the image and likeness of God.
In the same or a way very similar to that, it is possible also to interpret the modern scene of terrorism and revolutionary movements. Disgust with what exists and a longing for an overthrow are just the external expressions of the internal need for a change of circumstances. However, all this rests on the wrong premise: Namely, the unconditional is sought by means of the conditional, the infinite by means of the finite, the eternal and heavenly by means of the temporal and earthly. That internal contradiction of the current scene reveals all the tragedy of the phenomenon with which we are confronted, and where the magnificent vocation of man becomes the means of a terrible lie and deception. Because the final goal is not paradise on earth, a utopia that cannot be realized, but rather the Kingdom God as a foretaste of eternity, and the Gospel as the norm of life and activity. Although, in the meantime, political messianism is in decline and the zealous terrorism, as well, that attempted to be the actualisation even of the Gospel and of Jesus' revolutionary demands, even though in Jesus' words it is impossible to find a fulcrum for any form of violence, still deep wounds have remained in the modern psyche. The increase of drug consumption is just a sign of emptiness of the soul, for which nothing was left after the loss of ideological promises and deceptions. Films, television, and the media scene are overflowing with violence and hatred. Directors with all their power are trying to present world of crime where the law of might makes right.
A RESPONSE FROM FAITH
Life is neither a game nor does the 'law of might makes right' rule in it. It is woven of suffering and love, of sin and grace, the devil's temptation, of trials, but also of the rejection of trials and of victory over the tempter. In Medjugorje we are confronted with an explicit call of conversion to the God of life, with a call to personal prayer as the response of human freedom to divine freedom, as the encounter of two loves. Medjugorje is the explicit affirmation of personhood and individuality in contrast to emergence into some sort of union or cosmic One as New Age, for example, wants it to be. No matter how much individuals claim that theism is disappearing, we are witnesses that faith is not being lost, that religion is not being atrophied nor is it disappearing, but it is only assuming a new and different form and, thereby, changing its internal essence. In Christianity, we have a perfect synthesis of reason, will, and feelings, which is not at all easy. It is too subtle and in danger of being turned this way or that way at any moment. It is always in internal tension. The same tension we shall find outside Christianity as well. Almost all religions of the world are aware that there is only one God. It is clear to polytheism also that gods are not the plural of one God, because there is no God in the plural. God is one and only. Gods, even if we call them by the same name as the God, are always powers or forces on an inferior level. But, in religions, that one God is usually lost sight of, disappears from practical life, and divinities make their appearance on the scene. That one God is not dangerous. He is goodness itself. He does evil to no one. But in religions all ritual and worship is not referred to God, but to the divinities and the powers which surround our life and with which man has to reckon. That falling away from God is chronic in the history of religions, and is present also today in our post-Christian Europe. That is why we are today being jeopardized with neo-paganism. The man who excludes God as the one and only good, as one who is far distant from him, will turn to tiny, insignificant powers, that are close by, that surround us, and thereby humiliates his very self, creates for himself artificial gods, as the atheist Freud once expressed himself. That is then, the decomposition of Christianity and of the Christian synthesis. It is the decomposition of God that leads to this disintegration and the decomposition of man. And Paul clearly expressed himself about this, "For, though we live in the world, we are not carrying on a worldly war, for the weapons of our warfare are not worldly but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ " (2 Cor 10:3-5).
In the search for a response and a real cure, we must, first of all, start with our very selves. What kind of powers do we have available, and what kind of powers can we count on at this moment? What are the tasks put before us? What are the dangers that lie in ambush for all of us? First of all, we must overcome nationalism and ideological division. Communism left behind it an ideological wasteland in souls, economic decay, an excessively burdensome heritage, and with us here even a war. A common and decisive will is necessary to overcome the existing condition and to move on into the future.
First of all, we must search for common grounds. What is the foundation that is common to all of us? What is the common basis? We would say: belonging to the Western cultural milieu and at the same time the Christian basis in the foundations of our reality. Nowadays everything aims toward a state guided by law and a freedom based on law. Freedom and law are not two opposing terms, but freedom and law mutually condition each other. The legislator cannot proclaim odds and ends as law and law cannot be deduced simply from statistics. There must exist a consciousness of responsibility before history, the dignity of man, and before God. Everything must rest on foundations that the legislator cannot prescribe, but must presume. Today these presumptions are undermined quite a bit in society by the permissiveness and moral collapse of Western civilization. That is why it is necessary to look in retrospect in order to be able to analyze both the times past, and the present times in which we are living, as well as to be able to cast a forward look toward tomorrow.
In the sixties, a great turning around was felt in the atmosphere. On the one hand, at the end of that decade we had a student unrest that cannot be looked at separately from the Church. They called into question the painfully achieved progress on the social and economic levels and there was a threat that all would end up in chaos and anarchy. A crisis of authority shook the foundations of the social system. This unrest came out of the post-conciliar ferment within the Church itself, but also from the revolutionary American Protestant theology. The Eucharist was celebrated on barricades in Paris in 1968 as an expression of fraternization among fighters for anarchistic liberty and as a sign of hope of the political messianism in the world that was emerging through violence and terror. This clearly indicates that in the foundations of that revolutionary movement, there is a religious, that is, pseudo-religious, characteristic. That theological implication we shall also find in the Italian and German terrorism of the seventies. It is impossible to understand Italian terrorism if it is abstracted from the crisis and turmoil of post-conciliar Italian Catholicism.
Namely, let us remember: at the end of the fifties, John XXIII announced, we would almost say, a utopian plan, the convocation of an Ecumenical Council. The council in its opening and unfolding grew into the central event of the second half of our century. It is deliberately aimed at being pastoral, as the opening up of the Church toward the world, the opening of windows and doors, but it intentionally avoided the pitfalls of previous councils, namely, it did not go in for dogmatising or a proclamation of moral-theological or dogmatic definitions. Perhaps the defining of the dogma on Mary's Assumption into heaven was felt somewhere as a burden during the pontificate of Pius XII. Namely, the Pope wished to crown his pontificate with it, but actually, he caused the opposite effect. The intelligentsia remained frustrated and the interconfessional fronts were blocked.
In contrast and in spite of the expectations of the Roman Curia, the Council had a very dynamic unfolding. It opened itself to the questions and problems of the times and epoch, to the problems of the church, the developing countries, the non-Christian religions, and the non-catholic confessions of faith. It undertook courageous steps in the direction of liturgical reform and mediated extraordinary pastoral initiatives. At the peak of the council it came to the succession of Popes. The bishops little by little had grown weary of everything. There were too many requests for changes and modifications of the Council schemes and proposals. Some could hardly be woven into the tissue of the conciliar documents that the Council published in the end. But what followed after the Council?
We would say, there was a lot of wild growth and wilderness, of misunderstanding of the conciliar decisions, a true galimatias in many fields of life and activity, the falling away and exodus of many from the priesthood, religious life, and the Church. The pontificate of Paul VI was characterized by renewal and progress, but also by a certain restoration and restraint. Today's pontificate of John Paul II is characterized by his countless journeys and pilgrimages throughout the world. It brings along with it an opening up of the Church to the whole world, the transition from a static into a dynamic Church, and, thereby, also brings collegiality, that is, solidarity of the Pope of Rome with the whole world and with mankind. Today's Pope dialogues with all religions because, according to the Council, we find the elements and seeds of truth in each one of them. His travels throughout the world are also at the same time an adieu to the western concept of Christianity in favour of an openness to the whole world and of the integration of Latin American, Asian and Negroid culture into the Church. Also the new term pilgrimage making contributes toward that, in the foundations of which, seen from the viewpoint of the history of dogma, lies a new understanding of the Church, not as a static unit, but as a journeying people of God, accordingly, not of a Church as the institution divinely superior to the whole world, but of a Church as the people of God that is journeying toward its eschatological goal together with the rest of the whole world. Therefore, the Pope is the symbol of that pilgrimage making and all those who travel and make pilgrimage to Medjugorje can be compared to that. It is the overcoming of all boundaries and the merging of all into one union. Thereby is being fulfilled what Paul VI already formulated under the term civilization of love that John Paul II wholeheartedly accepted. That is why it is necessary to confront the omnipresent culture of death in which we are living with Jesus Christ and a vibrant Christianity, the alternative that faith in Jesus Christ offers to the contemporary life style.
THE NEW UNDERSTANDING OF FAITH: FAITH AS THE FRUIT OF EXPERIENCE
At the same time that we had student unrest on the scene at the end of the sixties, we meet with unusual manifestations in the field of religion. We could almost call it post-modernism. Youth are filled with enthusiasm for Jesus, Jesus People communes and the musical expression in the rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar were created. As a person, Jesus is attractive. His divine attributes are stripped away. He is wrenched from the Church. Jesus yes - Church no, is the slogan on the lips of many. The council did its part regarding a greater personalism in the Church but also regarding a greater personalism in the act of faith. The image of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ was prevalent up to the Council. The idea and term People of God prevailed in the Council, while the dogmatic constitution on the Word of God, that is, about Revelation, expressly says the following in talking about faith: "The obedience of faith" (Rom 16:26; 2 Cor 10:5-6) must be given to God as he reveals himself. By faith man freely commits his entire self to God, making "the full submission of his intellect and will to God who reveals," and willingly assenting to the Revelation given by him. Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the grace of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and "makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth." The same Holy Spirit constantly perfects faith by his gifts, so that Revelation may be more and more profoundly understood (Dei Verbum 5).
If that is compared to what was said at Vatican Council I, then there is an essential difference. In recent times, we are the witnesses of a turning around in the understanding of faith. The problem is no longer believing in dogmas, in truths of the faith, and acceptance of them in our lives, but the problem is one of religious experience. That element of experience is dominant in almost all religious questions and problems. The elements and moments of experience have become, we would almost say, the condition for someone's readiness to believe and to put one's confidence in someone, that is, one's heart (lat. credo = cor do). As if it had become an unwritten law: Give me your experience, show me your experience, and then I will believe you. That could consequently be reduced to a problem, which is particularly actual today. Namely, all the way up till now the fundamental rule for the transmission of faith was the mediation of a certain deposit of faith, information of the faith, and religious contents. However, information - no matter how complete - always carries with it some shortcoming. It is losing its foundation and basis particularly in the contemporary spiritual situation. There is nothing that one could or should prove to our contemporaries because they are mature and grown up. They are no longer in the state of immaturity. Even Jesus did not do his signs and miracles in order to prove something to someone, but to introduce and lead people into the mystery of his person and mission and into the mystery of confidence and faith.
That is why it is necessary, and it is being done in Medjugorje, to pass over from an instructional model of transmission of the faith to an inspirational. Namely, the Spirit of God is active in individuals, and the individual opens oneself to what the Spirit is inspiring. One might mention here the example of the theologian K. Rahner. At the end of his life, near the threshold of eternity, he complained about the frozen, winter season in the Church, about the cold church. By this, he was probably thinking about the directions of restoration in the church itself, the frozen theological fronts, the winding down of the ecumenical movement, and the far too weak echo of the Council itself and modern theological thought in the public at large. But even under the winter snow and frost the germs of a new spring are hidden. New life is being generated and spring is gradually awakening. That is why the same Rahner could have been correct in saying that a believer, a Christian of tomorrow, and of the next century will either be a mystic or he will be no longer. By what right does a Rahner say that? Faith and prayer, that is, scientific theology and mysticism are always inseparable. There is not one without the other. The internal meaningfulness and confirmation of this statement originates from the very fact that only mystically deepened faith can give a man an inner sense in the search for his own identity, a man who carries with himself his existential fears and troubles. Are we not confronted with the syndrome of reincarnation, which essentially is just the fruit of an unsuccessful search for personal identity? In such a constellation we have a mystical response, that is, a mystical epoch as a response, as the path to a personal goal. Again, in this case the path is the goal itself, that is, the goal is the path.
In the centre of all mysticism stands Paul's thought which neither theology nor spirituality has adequately treated, namely, "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me" (Gal 2:20). The Christianity of tomorrow must not, nor may it remain in its own vestibule. It must penetrate to the core of its possibilities. The more that happens, the more strongly its image is changed, and the more it is directed toward its mystical form. According to that then, Christianity becomes a religion of hope, freedom and peace, and above all then of the overcoming of existential fears, since modern man is surrounded by fears, in his life energy he is bound up, incapable of accepting himself and his future, and he lives with his back turned toward his future. It is impossible to help him with initiatives that would move him to endure the challenges of the present and to turn himself toward the future with confidence and trust. Already the philosopher of existence, Karl Jaspers, said that the fear of life in the heart of modern man, that is present today in so great a measure as never before, has become man's atrocious companion. Fear is the unambiguous characteristic of modern man. It is an acid eating away at every joy of life and the will to live. Therefore, faith is the only true antithesis and antidote to such a fear because faith anchors us in the reality of God present in history, while fear takes the ground out from under our feet. Frightened man is hanging over the abyss of nothingness. Such a fear has as its fruit also the impossibility of authentic communication among people because one who is in fear, is not capable of articulating his own state and trouble to another. For the frightened man his words stick in his throat. The last word, actually the summary of Jesus' entire kerygma in John's Gospel in the farewell discourse of Jesus, says: "In the world you shall have fear, but do not be afraid. Have confidence because I have overcome the world ..." (cf John 16:33).
This modern man, the seeker of God, needs the faith of the witness, and not intellectual arguing or argumentation. He cares more about the testimony of those who have learned by experience rather than of those who learned something by heart. Faith is not transmitted so much in an intellectual manner as it is by the witnessing of those who with their life and suffering give faith a new meaning and credibility. That is obvious particularly in the former communist bloc where faith proved to be stronger than the so-called scientific socialism just by the witness and humility of the suffering in whose life the hope and promise of faith became visible. That faith is not a resignation or withdrawal, that is, retreat into irrationality before the dangers of the practical mind, but it is courage to be, boldness toward essence and being, and the prophetic call and swing toward the wide open spaces into which the total reality around us is calling. On the one hand, today aversion to reason, science, and technical rationality are all the more widespread, and, therefore, it is of extreme importance to emphasize the essential logicalness of our faith so it would be a reasonable worship and sacrifice (cf. Rom 12:1),a living synthesis of the whole man, and not the fruit of an irrational leap into the unknown. In itself, the mystery is not irrationality, but the extreme profundity of the divine mind into which we cannot penetrate with our own finite human eyes. That is why St. John can also say: In the beginning was the Logos, that is, the creative Intelligence, the power of divine recognition that bestows meaning and is the beginning of all things. It is up to man to discover the traces of that divine Intelligence and to develop and interpret the meaning of things and of created reality in that direction.
THE PASTORAL WORK THUS FAR AND THE THERAPEUTIC ROLE OF MEDJUGORJE
The modern spiritual condition requires of the Church a reflection on its own pastoral work. If the pastoral work thus far was directed toward the disciplining of the faithful, from now on, the sense of pastoral work is the enabling of the faithful for the struggle of life because the decision for life is simultaneously the preamble of faith. Hence the need, then, for the correlation of faith and prayer. It must be clear to modern man that the foundations of faith are in prayer because prayer, understood in its internal make up, accepts the problem of God and responds to it in the full meaning of the word. Faith and prayer are the keys to a richer life, a life of understanding and acceptance, forgiveness and relatedness, security and surrender, peace and joy, something Medjugorje has demonstrated countless times. The future belongs to that kind of faith and, with everything happening there for a full fourteen years, Medjugorje tends only toward that kind of faith. That faith includes and accepts freedom as the final goal of all human strivings as well as peace as the universal focal point of all human strivings in this century, a peace not as the absence of war, but as the omnipresence of God in his own creation.
This is exactly the way Medjugorje presents itself to the world through new forms of pastoral work, personal and evangelical. Almost from day to day it inspires us to optimism and fearlessness, in spite of all the possible war and apocalyptic surroundings and trumpeting because Christianity is the faith of the Good News, the joyful message of man's call to freedom, to a life without paralysing fear.
The modern economic scene is characterized by an increase in the logic of the market, capital, trade and gross national produce, that is, income. It brings with itself standardization and equalization, comparison not only of merchandise but also of spiritual utterance, which leads to the equalization of souls and the regimentation of opinions, the cessation or loss of the personal freedom of formation. It was thought possible to transfer the American or Western European model of conducting business onto the communist, or third world. But these attempts went bankrupt for now. Eurocentrism has become something like the sordid conscience of Europe that was noticeable on the occasion of the 500th anniversary celebration of the discovery of America. In place of unity and triumph we had instead indignation and lamentation and the history of European discoveries and triumphs has become the history of its moral falls, sins and failures. That is why faith in such an atmosphere is in no way an easy path. Whoever presents it like that will be stranded on it. Faith puts challenges before us because it thinks of man in a more sublime and better way than man thinks of himself.
If we started our exposition with a biblical comparison, we could then also cast Medjugorje's effectiveness in a biblical context, although any comparison limps. The effectiveness of Medjugorje lends itself to comparison with the effectiveness and expansion of Christianity, particularly in its first centuries. The Roman Empire was falling apart from the inside; cancer of the bone marrow consumed it. To heal the cancer and revive the organism it is necessary to transplant the marrow. Christianity was something similar to fresh bone marrow. It brought in a freshness, a new core and the world was revived. Christianity understood in a literal sense Jesus' command and mission: to proclaim, to spread the good news and to heal! Let us recall the closing words of Mark's Gospel and what are the signs that accompany the apostolic proclamation. Man is actually the same. Jesus proclaimed in healing and healed in proclaiming. Those two are inseparable. Jesus is teacher and preacher, healer and therapist. The apostles knew that well. It was also accepted in early centuries by missionaries who, along with evangelisation, offered health: psychological, spiritual and physical. Modern man longs for health and salvation and, therefore, he needs a therapeutic religion, a therapeutic proclamation of faith. For what else is the word salus, Greek soteria, German heil, if not, in the first place, health, and only after that salvation? We translate that as saving, salvation, in abstract terms, while it was always a concrete intervention into the being of man in the sense of total health and healing. Every generation, all people of all times, are yearning precisely for that. Where are we to find salvation and healing? We see what is offered today in the market of ideas, in what manner man tries to be healed, how many offers from various healers and charlatans there are. The same spiritual situation was also present in early Christianity. The world is avid for health and the feeling of being saved, and Christianity is precisely in such a thicket and a vast forest of all kinds of offers of saving and salvation that it, in its uniqueness, overtook all other religions and cults. It accomplished what it promised. The victory was guaranteed even before the theoretical foundations of that victory were laid. Instead of the myth of Asclepias, we have Jesus Christ, the real healer and helper, leader and teacher. Early Christianity defined itself as the faith of healing, authentic therapy, the medicine of soul and body, and it is precisely with Christianity that systematic medicine and care of the sick began in the world. That is one of the most important and most effective fields of Christian activity. Let us recall here the closing lines of the book of Revelation where it says that there are trees of life around God's throne that bear fruit every month, twelve times a year. Their leaves serve the health of the nations and nothing deserving a curse can be found there (Rev 22:2). Medjugorje is presented that way in the contemporary Church and the world. Indeed would so many hasten to Medjugorje had countless numbers not experienced healing and salvation?!
MEDJUGORJE AND THE HISTORY OF SALVATION
The historic-theological context of Medjugorje is the history of salvation. That is neither strange nor unusual in the history of God's activity in the world and in his creation. God has never abandoned man or mankind to hopelessness. Whenever man would abandon God and trust in his own power, which is especially visible in the Old Testament, catastrophe and destruction would regularly appear. It must be clear to Israel and thus to us today that economic or military power do not constitute us as a people, but the direct intervention of our God into our history does. He has chosen us; he has led us and is leading us. Only under the leadership of one God is it possible to preserve a pure concept of God and to mature as God's people. Man is longing for a space wherein to feel relieved, be accepted, affirmed. He longs a space where alienation disappears and where he becomes a citizen in faith and life. That is why one needs the Church of the God incarnate who, like a good host, is the God of all people. Medjugorje has offered and accomplished that from its first days.
Looking back in the history of the Church and Christianity, we will see how always at the peaks of crises there were signs for a turning point and a turn around and reorientation. Both historical and epochal. All the great reformers, renewers of the Church and society, appeared when crises were prevalent. The appearance of religious life in the Church lends itself to being interpreted precisely by the critical situations in the Church. They are a response to the crises of faith. Likewise, on the spiritual scene we have similar manifestations, that is, antidotes. After the destructive reasoning of Descartes there is the ingenious Pascal who gives new parameters to the spirit and spirituality of Europe. After Kant, Hegel, and idealistic philosophy, we have the existential philosophy of a Kierkegaard, and after the destructive, nihilistic Nietzsche, the Russian philosopher Soloviev appears as a response that God exists, after Nietzsche had announced the death of God. But no matter how strong the criticism of religion is, the miracle of theism surpasses all traps and problems. Criticism leaves in its wake emptiness, frustration and agony, and in the end every criticism speaks on behalf what it denies: If religion is denied, the denial itself becomes the symbol of the need and exigency for what is denied. Religion becomes a necessity. Explicit anti-Christianity is always salutary for Christianity because it calls attention to its problems and the neglect of what is essential. And in this is visible the remarkable, therapeutic role of Medjugorje that has appeared at the peak of the crisis of Western thought and the communist reign of terror throughout the world.
Man's governing is serving. His freedom is connection with the necessary internal truth of things, and openness for love that makes him God like. Therefore, it is possible to place the Medjugorje events and visionaries in that category of rational foundation and witnessing. Mary, as the witness and prophet, and God, who in an elementary way intervenes in the life of individuals, take them into his service. It is a direct call, psychologically unfathomable and inexplicable, that is impossible to break away from without denying one's own self. In the same way, the message of Medjugorje is, in essence, prophetic and on prophetic message Martin Buber expressed himself this way: The prophetic spirit never thinks as a Platonic one, namely, one that possesses a universal or transtemporal conceptual truth. It rather receives message after message in totally concrete situations. And precisely for that reason its word, even after the passage of so many millennia, speaks to people in the changed and changeable life situations of the national history. That message and truth are ordinarily unpleasant and apprehensive and man becomes the mouth and medium of God. In our case, Mary and several visionaries. The relationship of the prophet to the future is not for predicting it. To prophesy means to place the community and the individual, directly or indirectly, before a choice and a decision. The future is not something offered in the palm of the hand, as something about which everything is known. On the contrary, the future depends, on what is essential, on the correctness of decision, that is, on the decision that man makes at this moment and in which at this historic kairos he participates. The prophet always puts people before an alternative. He tries to turn the steering wheel in another direction. His whole soul is in it. His words are trembling from fear and hope, on account the magnitude and power of the decision. The prophet is ordinarily a great prosecutor. He does not proclaim any boring morals or ethics of behaviour, rather the infallibility and eternity of God's word and law.
Modern man is confronted with terrifying possibilities of technological advance that chill his heart. Namely, genetic engineering, an intervention into the creative possibility itself, then the possibility that man by his own power bring down an apocalyptic reality upon this Planet because of an excessive arms build up. For that he needs a prophet, who will with his own life tend toward and direct toward the reality beyond, the transcendent. The reality here below is immanent for man, but too straight and narrow for him. In abnegating the reality beyond, man has given himself over to exaltation of this reality below, of life, and has affirmed life at any price. Greed and the lust of life for anything and everything is reaching its peak, but at that peak there is no satisfaction, but only insatiability and disgust, the devaluation of life and the rejection of everything that he does not like or no longer likes. Therefore, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide are just symptomatic manifestations and the natural fruit of that kind of understanding of life. They are the fruit of a denial of the fundamental decision for life, namely, denial of responsibility in view of eternity and eternal hope. The lust of life ends up in disgust and in the end man becomes refuse, as modern literature testifies or as the omnipresent culture of death instead of a culture of life and love.
It is possible to deluge or falsify the profundity of the divine message and truth in man, but it will always re-surface and makes its way back into the human soul. That is why everywhere there is a repeated call for concentration, meditation, contemplation, the sacred, for contact with God himself. It is an inevitable call at a time when the (un)truth of the way of thinking, of which drugs, violence, terrorism and revolution are the externally visible forms, bases itself only on the world of facts, on what is manifested, and on restricting reason to the measurable and the quantitative, and not the qualitative and invaluable. Because for man to be man, he needs morals and ethics, and in order to have ethics he needs a Creator, and faith in immortality and in God. That is why the good news of Medjugorje and Christianity is precisely in this: responsibility before God, oneself, the world and history. Medjugorje is a real challenge and call in the true meaning of the word. The goal of history is neither evolution nor progress, but conversion. If the almost complete post-Hegelian epoch was carried away with the thought of continuous ascent and progress and constant pacing toward a happier tomorrow, then today we are harvesting the bitter fruit of that process. The bible speaks of conversion, and not of evolution. Medjugorje is based precisely on that thought. All pseudo-religions, and technology and science are just exactly that, have turned against man. This is why it is terribly wrong to think of man as a being of progress and growth. As a person, he is already defined in the bible as a being pitched between Good and Evil. Neither progress nor science give him security. It rather depends on a decision for God or against him. And that is why there is so much talk about the human, which is actually being jeopardized on all sides. After unlimited faith in reason, we have entered the period of irrationalism. Therefore, in the face of today's crisis of reason it is possible to find salvation only in the return to mystery, the one that will save reason. It is not against reason, but is directed toward the meaningfulness of being and the existence of the universe, sustained by the power of the one Intelligence.
After the fall of socialism and communism and then after the frustrations produced by homo faber, homo technicusin his technical achievements, many reasons speak in favour of faith and of a conversion to the God of the Scriptures. Medjugorje in that is a visible sign, the City on the mountaintop, that is, the place between the mountains. Especially today, everyone has to confront oneself with the fact that it is impossible to achieve spiritual realities by material means or promises, that it is impossible to achieve meaning, happiness, peace of mind, health, the strength of conviction and life by material or economic well being or progress, but only by accepting oneself as a spiritual reality and as a given. In our contemporaries, the sense of the spiritual is gradually being awakened. New visions and broad perspectives are being opened in spite of the seductive voices of a New Age. In spite of so many advances in the field of technique and technology, physics and chemistry, in spite of so many achievements in all fields of both the micro- and macrocosm, micro- and astrophysics, biology and regarding the structure of atoms and organisms, science and even modern philosophy remain helpless and without a clear position in the field of being and meaning. Already long ago the philosophers Adorno and Horkheimer spoke about self-destruction of the Enlightenment. That takes place where Enlightenment is absolutised, where calculation and prediction are valued, where transcendence and the reality beyond are denied. In other words: A society whose web and woof is agnosticism and materialism, cannot survive in the long run. Its consequences are the decay of morals and of all values. Even the philosophy of meaning, so-called logotherapy, of one Victor Frankl, which give its counsels to those who have lost every tie with religion and the church, cannot help those who are still within the Church but facing great questions. The first task is the healing of morals and the acceptance of moral values in society. It is not permissible for man to trespass limits with impunity. Man is free when he acknowledges the law of freedom as the atmosphere that defines him. On the one hand we are facing, we would almost say, pathological concern and fear for man's physical health, physical integrity, and ecology, while, on the other hand, there prevails a general insensitivity in regard to man's moral integrity. That, in fact, is a denial of man as man, a denial of the freedom and the dignity of man. Therefore, the question of revelation and God's speaking in history and the modern world is again put before us, and, in that, Medjugorje is an unavoidable milestone. Without God man remains just a little cog, a tiny piece in human history and this is why Medjugorje forces us to return to the sources of our own faith, namely, to the return to a revelation whose peak, purpose and meaning is Jesus Christ, the mediator between God and man, in whom is hidden the mystery of God himself. He is the Word in whom every treasure of wisdom and knowledge is hidden (cf Col 2:3), and as such he reveals the mystery of God himself and pierces the silence in which God seems to be wrapped.
If the spiritual scene thus far in Western liberalism and Marxist communism denied faith any right and capacity to mould society, public affairs, and a common future within mankind, today we meet a different trend on the scene. Turmoils on all sides clearly warn that religion and its subjective expression in personal faith - both on the personal and social level - is a force, which neither lends itself to be uprooted or deleted from man's consciousness, nor can the world give up its role in moulding mankind. Without faith, it is impossible to mould the future. But all the traps of past centuries must be avoided, including any kind of usurping of faith for political goals. The primary role of faith is concern for man, and in that, the Church is called to prepare in hearts a space for the God who comes, not by its own power but by the power of the Spirit, not by institution but by witnessing, not by law but by love, life and suffering, and thus help society to find its identity again. All history is just one great struggle between belief and disbelief, between Good and Evil, and today we are witnesses of the great world drama in which we must not hesitate, but, by the power of faith, hope and love, withstand the omnipotence of resignation, indifference, fatalism, and despair. To enable people to love is the imperative of the moment. Also to withstand public opinion and to do it the way Jesus did it before Pilate and as the present Pope does it before the mighty of this world. Jesus was not afraid of the cross but the modern believer fears the very thought of suffering and martyrdom. Everyone, and in particular high Church dignitaries, fears for his image, even if it were a simple stinking commentary in some daily paper that is written today and is forgotten tomorrow. One should be ready to take a risk and to dare follow the call of Jesus. Mary is teaching us that everyday in her school in Medjugorje.
INSTEAD OF A CLOSING WORD
In all of her apparitions Mary shows herself to be a caring Mother. Everyone can understand her because her option is for the little and the poor, God's favourites. She is always full of compassion. She intercedes for the little ones and gives them her own heart and voice. All who are despised and deprived of rights, those on the fringe of life and society find refuge in her. She does not appear in mansions and bishops' palaces, but on hills, in villages, in inaccessible places, and her partners are the little and insignificant, the shepherds.
It is as if she wants by that to say: The duty of evangelising the world, the clergy, the hierarchy, bishops and priests, belongs to the little ones. These are the amazing processes in almost all apparitions. It is known often to happen that also expert theologians and scholars come to visionaries and seek advice from them in the spiritual life. The little and insignificant become evangelisers. Throughout the history of the Church adults were known to reach for weapons as means of evangelisation (let us remember the inglorious pages of the evangelisation of Latin America) while the little become authentic evangelisers by the power of their word, their person, and their life. In this is realized that parable of Jesus about the little ones and children as the paradigm for his kingdom. If the Church today is turning to the poor, if our Franciscan Order has made its priority option for the poor because an immense potential for evangelisation exists among them, then we could freely say that precisely today it is "in" to learn from the little how to be evangelised and how to evangelise, and how to proceed from the centre to the periphery. Mary reveals herself as one who loves, cares about everyone, readily helps and participates in the work of redemption as the merciful Mother. Mary is the place where cries and sighs are heard, where trouble and misery are consoled, where tears are wiped away and pains are healed.
Ordinary people, the Christian laity, are not longer the object of evangelisation, on whom thoughts and ideas are imposed from above, but they become the subject of evangelisation which directly receives inspirations by the power of the Holy Spirit and becomes the carrier of the Good News into the world. Everyone must turn toward the needs of the world, especially of the most little ones, from the top down to the littlest in God's people. Only in that way does evangelisation become authentic. Evangelisation is not in the service of fortifying the hierarchy, but the birthing of new communities of the faithful. That is the effect of the Medjugorje apparitions. Everywhere living communities are being born that live in the spirit of the messages and of Mary's option for the most little, for the poor. Mary's call is directed to everyone and everyone, like Abraham, must begin their way into the unknown, into the unknown and uninvestigated regions of faith, led by God's call to freedom.
The effect of the Medjugorje apparitions is immeasurable. That which the critical mind and philosophy destroyed, what Catholic theology largely neglected, that which pastors in the Church do not dare, the Holy Spirit is trying to do through Mary's apparitions and her messages to the world. Conversion and the revival of the organism of the Church, which has died out in many. Little people understand Our Lady's language and accept it. Amid hopelessness hope is revived, God is with his people. Biblical faith and biblical experiences are again becoming present and alive. Medjugorje is a rereading of the Bible. God proves himself the leader and the liberator, the strength of the future. If a theology of liberation is being proclaimed, then we have experienced it most powerfully in Medjugorje, and at the same time also, the theology of the people of God as the bearer of renewal and the accomplisher of God's plan in history.
God's work of the renewal of the world is carried forward with the help of Mary. Through her apparitions and intercession, peoples are being healed, freedom is being glimpsed and birthed. People are becoming aware of themselves and are resurrecting. Mary becomes a creative symbol for the entire people. In her apparitions, she gives back to places and peoples their authentic dignity. She reveals herself as the custodian of the bequeathed inheritance and the original sign of authentic inculturation of the Gospel in peoples and cultures. She is simultaneously also the manifestation of the maternal face of our God. Where she appears, God's creative work is revealed in history. That is said in the beginning of the gospel of Luke and also in the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. Where the Spirit descends on Mary, he leaves behind himself a perfectly formed image, in the first case of Jesus Christ, in the second of the Church as the perfect artistic work of our God, as the realized social utopia of which Jesus dreamed, as the space of peace, freedom and love. These are the essential existential truths by which the world lives and which are able to give the world a meaning and a future. In this, again, Medjugorje is an unavoidable road sign to the entire epoch on the threshold of a new millennium.
fra Tomislav Pervan, OFM, 1995
Dr. Fr. Tomislav Pervan - born November 8, 1946 in Citluk. Ordained priest 1969. Doctorate 1976 in Theology of the New Testament. Worked as assistant novice master in the Herzegovina Franciscan Province. Served as pastor in the parish of Medjugorje from 1982 - 1988. Named Vicar Provincial in 1990 and in 1994 was elected as Provincial of the Herzegovina Franciscan Province.