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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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 -
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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-
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 itpost-
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 -
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-
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
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-
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 historickairos 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-
After the fall of socialism and communism and then after the frustrations produced by homo faber, homo technicus in 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-
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 -
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.
fr. Tomislav Pervan, OFM, 1995
Dr. Fr. Tomislav Pervan -