Some people wonder here, how come our Blessed Mother comes here for so long, repeating the same message over and over again…
May 21, 2011 – Fr. David Gibson from Limerick, Ireland
In the Scriptures, I always find one of the strangest sayings of Jesus, “Do not imagine that I have come to bring peace to the earth, I have come to bring fire and how I wish to ablaze it.” You see, when you hear the truth, it calls for a reaction in your life. When the truth is told to you, you must make a decision. “Do I accept the truth or do I reject it? Do I allow God to reveal Himself to me as He really is, or do I do what most of us do – do I try to create a god in my image and likeness, a god that is very easy to serve, that is not very demanding, that allows me to carry on my life as if he really wasn’t there?”
I think, on occasion, Pope Benedict has used the term, “practical atheists” for most of us. That is what we are, because most of us carry on our daily and weekly life as if God wasn’t there, as if He didn’t matter. He is something that we bother with on a Sunday morning for a particular length of time, and the shorter the better for most of us. The quicker the priest, the better for most of us.
I think to go back to that phrase of Jesus’, “I have come not to bring peace, but to bring fire to the earth and how I wish that fire to ablaze it.” As I said, when we are confronted with the truth, it calls for us to make a decision, and that decision must be as absolute as possible. That decision causes us to change the way we live our lives, so that now our lives must conform to what Jesus is trying to teach us. We must be making an effort to do the right thing. Most of all, we must disturb the people around us who are living in comfort, because they created their own religion around themselves that isn’t testing them, and it certainly is not going to save them. Only Jesus can save us and only following in the way of Jesus will bring us to salvation. Another way won’t lead us safely home.
Some people wonder here, how come our Blessed Mother comes here for so long, repeating the same message over and over again. Some people use that as a reason to be suspicious about Medjugorje. But I ask you who are mothers, who are grandmothers, who are fathers, grandfathers, consciences brothers and sisters, of people you know at home who are living their lives in sin and how often you wish that they would see the light. How often you would wish that they would change their ways, but you must challenge them. You must challenge them in the most loving way possible, but you must challenge them. We live in comfort. We don’t challenge ourselves. We accept what we shouldn’t accept in the lives of our children and our grandchildren. We let them off the hook. We place ourselves in a very difficult position. We don’t say to anyone: “Stop. What you are doing isn’t right. The way you are living your life at the moment is dangerous. It may be making you happy at this moment, but it will not guarantee your eternal happiness.” We need to be concerned about the eternal happiness of those we love – not just their immediate happiness – because we all know that what makes us happy in this world, is always fleeting, it is always something different. We run from one thing to another seeking happiness, contentment.
It isn’t until after His resurrection from the dead that Jesus starts to talk of peace. The first greeting He gives to His apostles after He rises from the dead is “Peace be with you.” He says it not once, but twice to them. “Peace be with you.” He can only offer peace because He has won the battle. So peace only follows after the battle has been won. But for most of us, and I say this to our pilgrims at the beginning of our pilgrimage, I firmly believe where most of us are – we are in ceasefire. We are not at peace, we are in ceasefire. We have settled for a ceasefire with the people around us, with the world around us. That is what we imagine peace to be. But you have heard Ivan speak through the week of what peace is, and how difficult he finds it to come to terms with coming back into this world after his experience with our Blessed Mother in the world to come. That experience is available to all of us, but we must move beyond a ceasefire to achieve it. We must want genuine peace in our lives, and that only comes from knowing deep within ourselves that we are doing everything we possibly can to live the kind of life that God wants us to live.
Do you remember that very sad story that Fr. Bernard told us the other day about the family that were very deflated? They were let down by their son – the family of balloons. I think for me, most certainly, it isn’t often the child who lets down the parents. It is more often the parents who let down the child. We don’t feed our children with good example. We know what the right thing to do is, but we don’t do it. We know what the right thing to say is, but we don’t say it. We allow our children to believe that whatever sort of lifestyle that the people around them are living, it’s okay. It doesn’t matter. When I went to school, my religious education in that school was lacking, to say the least. If it wasn’t for my parents, I don’t think I would have faith. Parents play such a huge role in the lives of their children. But you must be vocal. You must not rely on somebody else to teach your children the truth. That is a promise that you made before God the day you bring your child for Baptism. Nobody else can take that responsibility from your shoulders – not the priest, not the teachers at school, not their teachers at Sunday school – nobody. It is for you to hand on the faith to your children, not somebody’s version of the faith, but the actual, genuine faith of the Church. That is something they must all learn and grow in for ourselves.
Every member of the Church should have a desire within themselves to find out the truth. There are so many questions that we don’t know the answers to, but that cannot be an excuse for us. We all have access to the Scriptures. We all have access to the Catechism of the Church. We can find the answers to even the most difficult questions. And, thanks be to God, we are still blessed with many priests who are willing to engage with us in that practice of learning more about our faith all the time. So I think we really need to begin to take responsibility for our own faith, for the education of the next generation. We have left it to others for far too long, and the consequences are a generation of Catholics that know very little about their faith; a generation of Catholics that really don’t live the kind of life that God would wish them to live. And it is only half their fault. They were never presented with the truth, so they never had the opportunity to reject it. That is a good thing, that is something that gives us tremendous hope because we still have the opportunity to put the truth to them.
You all would have situations back home where you know people are living the kind of life that isn’t giving a great example to the people around them. It is a challenge for us, in a very loving way, to put that to them that perhaps they are not doing their best, perhaps they are not living their lives as they should. If nobody says it to them, they will continue living the way they are living and we will wonder why. Each and every one of us has a responsibility towards the people around us to try and guide them and direct them towards the ways of truth. That is not just the responsibility of your clergy, it is the responsibility of all of us.
My prayer for you here in Medjugorje, is that you will experience that peace that Our Blessed Mother wants you to have, that peace that Jesus won through His death on the Cross. And in experiencing that peace, you will want to share it with your children, with your grandchildren and that would stir up something great in their lives and that would give them a tremendous boost in their faith. And it will, through your prayers, change their lives.