Fr. Neil Buchlein from West Virginia summarized in a homily at Saint James in Medjugorje, the recommendations Our Lady has made in Medjugorje to be successful in growing in holiness and maintaining a close relationship with God. The question is are we doing it? Are we following through with Her direction in our everyday lives?
– Fr. Neil Buchlein from West Virginia in a homily at Saint James in Medjugorje
It is certainly a great joy to be back at home. I call Medjugorje my home. I first came here in 2003. This is my 16th trip. I was here for the youth conference last month and the month before that I was here. Why do I keep coming? Because the Blessed Mother has my number and She keeps calling. My cell phone never stops ringing. I guess the Blessed Mother never sleeps. How many of you are here for the first time? Raise your hands. Wonderful, praise God. So far, has it been a great time? Do you want to go home? No. Because now this becomes your home. You’ve been called, we’ve been called. Why? We’ve been called to deepen our relationship with our God in a much more intimate way.
We hear in our Gospel today the Pharisees once again going after Jesus, and I think how Jesus had a great sense of humor. He always loved going head to head with the Pharisees. They knew the law—it’s all up here, in the head all up here. But nothing here, in the heart, nothing here at all. And what did they want to know? ‘Why are you doing what you’re doing on the Sabbath? Plucking the heads of the grain and rubbing them in your hands. Do you know that’s work? Do you know we don’t work on the Sabbath? And Jesus said, “C’mon fella’s—(the lights in St. James Church suddenly went out and Father Neil said, while everyone laughed, “OK Lord.” “I don’t know what kind of sign that is, maybe it’s our Mother”.) And Jesus is saying “C’mon fella’s, it’s time to eat. You know, we have to eat.” We can’t do anything when we can’t eat. What can you and I do when we don’t come to the Table and be nourished by the Body and Blood of Jesus? We commit spiritual suicide. We die. We die. Yet, we don’t know it because physically we feel good.
We’ve come here, once again, as I said, to become more intimate with God in our relationship. And how do we do that? By becoming more committed, by following His Word—and yet how often we don’t want to follow His Word. The psalmist has said, “Your statutes and decrees bring joy to my heart.” Really? Don’t we look upon the Word of God at times as constricting, as saying ‘you can’t do your own thing?’ This is the way I want you to follow. The Word of God is alive, it’s alive. It’s not dead. It’s alive. Why is it alive? Because don’t we say, “The Word became Flesh and dwelt among us?” What Word became flesh, who is the Flesh? Jesus! Is Jesus dead or alive? He’s Alive!! The Word is alive. And He’s got a better plan for us.
This is one of the five stones. Remember what David did? Slaying the giant, Goliath. What did he use? He used stones, right? We’ve got stones. Medjugorje has a lot of stones, right? But we’ve got five stones. One of them is the Word of God. And it is alive and yet do we love the Word of God? Do we read the Word of God? Do we listen to the Word of God?” Yes and no. But when it becomes too constricting, we say, I’m not into that. I’m not into that. I don’t really want to follow what God has to say.
Then we have the Rosary. Oh, it’s so easy to pray the Rosary here in Medjugorje, isn’t it? It just happens. Watch what happens when we go home. “Let’s see, I have to pray the Rosary today. Well, let’s see, I have to watch Glenn Beck and then I have to watch Fox News. Well I can squeeze it in.” And as the day goes on, all of the sudden what happens? “Oh no, I never prayed my Rosary.” What is the Rosary? Do you know that the Rosary is the Gospel of Jesus in prayer? When we pray the Rosary, what are we contemplating? The life of Jesus. So when a Protestant friend of yours says, “The Rosary? How can you pray the Rosary? You’re worshipping Mary!” No we’re not. We’re contemplating the life of Jesus. Do you know Jesus? Do you believe in Jesus? Then let me tell you about the Rosary. And then go through all the mysteries. And it was wonderful that John Paul II added the Luminous mysteries, because now what happened? We have the entire life of Christ and there are only two mysteries in the entire Rosary that are not in the Bible. The Assumption of our Blessed Mother and the Coronation of our Blessed Mother as Queen of Heaven and Earth.
Do you know how St. Padre Pio referred to the Rosary? One day he was sitting there and he said to his companions, “Bring me my weapon.” Father, you can’t have a gun. I don’t need a gun. The Rosary is the weapon. satan hates the Rosary. he’s even said, and I can’t remember what saint said it, “If the faithful only knew how much power, how much pain is inflicted upon my head when one Hail Mary is said.” Well, grab those beads and give him a migraine that he won’t forget! Think about it. Send him back to hell. Send him back to hell where he belongs.
And then, of course, we have the Eucharist. And yet so many times we approach the Table and our eyes are not open and neither are our hearts. Doesn’t it say in Scripture, Jesus says “This is My Body. This is My Blood.” It’s not it could be, it’s may be, it’s a symbol—No! It is! It is! Go back and tell your Protestant brothers and sisters, hey, you know what? I’m a fundamentalist because we do exactly what Jesus says, ‘Take and eat, this is…’, it’s a definitive statement. For those of you who don’t believe that this is real, go home on your computer and check out YouTube. Type in Eucharistic Miracle of Argentina and listen to a testimony given by a cardiologist. He took a sample of a Host, a consecrated Host that had fallen on the floor. The priest had put It in water to dissolve. When he went to take it out of the Tabernacle he noticed that there was a spot and it was red and he took it and he gave it to this man. And he couldn’t believe what he saw. Well, he could believe, but he wanted to go further. Here was heart muscle and do you know what? The cells were alive. The cells were alive! How could that be? It’s Jesus, that’s how it could be. And we’re called to come out of our doubt. We’re called to shed our negative doubting Thomas and to come out, step out in faith and to be nourished.
How often have you skipped a meal, and then complained? How many times have you had to go to the doctor and you’ve had to skip a few meals. You can’t eat after midnight, only drink some water but the tests don’t happen until 10:00 a.m. And boy, you were starving. You couldn’t wait to eat, it didn’t matter what you were going to pick up on the way home. Something that was good or something that was bad for you, just to curb that hunger. And yet, we kill our souls. I tell people, “Hey, I haven’t seen you for awhile, where have you been?” “Well, you know, I’ve been busy.” “Bob, busy? Yeah, I’m busy too. But are you too busy for the Lord? The Lord invites you to the Table. What are you doing? So, how many meals did you skip last week? How many meals did you skip last month, for an entire month? Did you not eat for an entire month but yet you missed, what, four Sunday’s?” Youch!! Dangerous. That’s dangerous. Once again, we don’t see any relevance, we don’t see the importance. We’re saying, “Jesus, I don’t like you’re idea, I’ve got a better idea.”
And then we have fasting. When do we fast? Lent. Lent comes at a good time, after winter, when we’ve been a little bit more inactive. “Yeah, I’m going to fast. I’ve got to lose a few pounds.” It’s not about losing weight. It’s about denying ourselves. We don’t like to deny ourselves. And it’s real hard to fast here on bread and water on Wednesdays and Fridays. Especially when you are addicted to Medjugorje pizza like I am. But, you know, I can stretch it, “Jesus, it’s still bread, it just has a little bit of toppings on it.” It’s kind of hard to fast in Medjugorje because of the fact that we are so active, on the run, but when we go home can we fast? If we can’t do without food, can we do without the internet, can we do without television? Can we do something additional to deny ourselves, to curb our own self will? Because you know, we’re selfish. We are very selfish. We like things exactly our way. When you go home, well, you don’t even have to go home—how many of you sit in the same seat, in the same pew Sunday after Sunday? C’mon let’s be honest, I do. What happens when someone is sitting in your seat? “Oh my gosh, I’m being denied my space.”
And then, another great Sacrament: Confession. Once a month. Why? Because we need to dump, that’s why. Do you think we are all ready to enter the Kingdom of God? Do you think we are ready to enter eternal life right now, the way we are? The only way that we are ready to enter into seeing the Face and the presence of God and the Mother of God, all the angels and saints is if we did a complete confession and got struck by a lightening bolt and dropped dead, or had a cardiac arrest—then we would be ready to see the face of God. But otherwise, we’re still a little bit dirty and we need that time to clean up. It’s what’s called purgatory. Come and dump. This is a great place to dump. You know this is, right now, this is the septic tank for the world for sin, right here. Not Lourdes, not Fatima—Medjugorje.
When I was here for the youth conference it was amazing, absolutely amazing. People waiting in line. We had temperatures between 100-120 degrees. And there the priests sat, inside the confessionals and outside. And there were people walking up and down video taping because they had never seen so many people coming to get rid of their sins, to become reconciled with God. Tremendous. And you know, the priests, the priests are happy to welcome you back. And you know what is great about the sacrament for us priests, we don’t take it with us. We don’t go walking out bent over, tired. Some of the people on my group last month, they said, “We sat out and watched people go to confession.” I said, “Why did you do that?” Because it was wonderful to watch them stand up straight and smile and walk away a new person and a holier person, a person who said yes.
So we have these five stones to lead us closer to God. That’s why Mary has called us here. It’s not about Her, it’s about Her Son. Even Mother Teresa believed in Our Lady of Medjugorje. She and her nuns would pray one Hail Mary in honor of Our Lady of Medjugorje before every Mass. And they prayed the Rosary every day, every morning before the Blessed Sacrament for one hour. Did she have an easy life? No. Did Jesus have an easy life? No. Do we have an easy life? No. We’re not going to have an easy life here. But you know what’s going to make it more better? It is that we have these five stones. Don’t become what I call a Medjugorje Pharisee. Don’t take these five stones home and say, “Do you know this, do you know that?” DO IT! DO IT! Don’t talk about it. Do it! When you go home you are going to be under scrutiny. I don’t care if you’ve been here only one time or if your 28 times, you are going to be under scrutiny. People are going to look at you to see how much you have changed. If you take anything home with you, as a gift, make sure it’s a Rosary. Forget all the other stuff. Tomorrow is Sunday, don’t be walking around in the shops. They’ve all got the same stuff. You are here to pray, not buy stuff. Yes, trinkets are nice, but they are not going to save you. Your relationship with Christ is going to save you. Let us become a committed people.
– Fr. Neil Buchlein from West Virginia in a homily at Saint James in Medjugorje