This book is the third of the four volumes of sermons and discourses given by Fr. Slavko Barbaric and Fr. Tomislav Vlasic during 1984 - 1987 in Medjugorje, and contains discourses given from July to December 1985.
Not all chapters of this book are yet included
With regard to the latest events in Medjugorje - there are events in Medjugorje and there are events in the press. When one talks of Medjugorje regarding press articles which are critical of it, the path to follow is the one indicated in the 1st reading of the Feast of St. Peter : "St. Peter, watched by two guards and tied with two chains, was sleeping, whilst just outside the iron gate the sentries were guarding the goal ... "
At this point something happens : "Wake up, arise, get dressed !" and an angel leads him through the gate into the street.
What strikes me here is the presence of the Father who takes care of his children, even when everything appears impossible. St. Peter is asleep in chains and the opposing forces are on guard, ready ; on the human level it is impossible to save him, whilst on the divine one everything is possible, everything begins to move and he is saved. God wakes people up and takes the steps that a mother and father usually take towards ther child : "Wake up - he says - get up, get dressed and walk." And when he is well on his way, he says, "Now you are capable of walking on your own - go !"
What happened, in my opinion, has happened for two reasons : one, because the Church has not brandished the sword against Herod, but has, instead, got down to praying unceasingly, and two, because St. Peter has put himself totally at God's disposal by being ready to be crucified.
St. Paul says, "Everybody has abandoned me, but the Lord has been near to me and has given me strength."
The same applies to Medjugorje and to whomever wants to walk in God's path. Medjugorje is often on trial, but never in crisis, because a crisis is something interior, whereas trials are exterior. Everyone who wants to move forward in one's faith will be tried ; the more forward one is, the more one is tried. He who wants to climb a higher mountain will have to surmount bigger obstacles, and the same goes for faith.
For me, Medjugorje is a divine grace for the whole world and, therefore, we must not wonder whether we are being and will be tried ; however, on looking back at it from the beginning, we have been undergoing trials during all the time of the apparitions and in no trial were we strong enough to face it.
It is God who has taken care of everything; we were not capable of overcoming our trials, but God has seen to it all.
I can say at this moment that God guides everything and that there will be still harder trials, since salvation has to go right down to its roots. We cannot be healed by theories, but we are healed, we are saved through God's work - the kind of love which, embodied in the church, for all those who want to follow Christ radically goes as far as sacrificing one's own life for God, suffering for Him and offering one's own blood for Him.
This is the maximum Jesus accomplished for us and, if we want to belong to God until the end, then we must cross the path on which God's salvation is fulfilled.
When we talk about conversion, we cannot debate it on a theoretical level, but we must practise it in such a way that our old self is truly destroyed. It follows that we can also expect the destruction of a false world around us. In the Gospel we have, therefore, two choices : - the first one telling us, "Be converted, so that you may not be destroyed", and the second, "If you will not be converted you shall all perish together."
When I am talking about conversion, we must understand that it is not something theoretical. And so, I make a plan and move along slowly; above all, allowing God to guide me along various ways and to even make me suffer, to even make me destroy the false world within me, including the false world, as it were, within the Church herself and all of us. If we are able to face all this, then we can honestly expect some results. The same could be said of a house we intend to renovate; we have to pull down walls, get rid of so many things, sometimes we even have to sleep outside, in order to put everything right, so that everything might be renewed. We are incapable of seeing all these things by ourselves alone. God, on the other hand, sees even the falseness within us and the world. We have to allow God to lead us through these trials. I am telling you - try not to fall into a crisis; that is why I would like to stress the fact that the primitive church used to pray whilst its leaders were on trial. She used to pray, without discussing. She did not fear, nor did she write any articles on the subject, or worry, but prayed, abandoning herself to the Lord.
It is God who is then able to guide those in authority, events, no matter how chained up everything might look, because everything is possible to God - starting from the Virgin's womb, where the impossible human logic began, the one that we ourselves, as well, must follow in the same way the Saints Peter and Paul did.
It is useless looking just at the messages given by Our Lady, as there are many pilgrims who learn the messages by heart - I repeat it is useless ! The pharisees also knew the scriptures by heart.
Our Lady is, for us, a sign ; he, however, who despite having understood the sign does not go ahead shows himself not to have understood the sign in the first place, since the sign is there not for its own sake, but in order to enable us to move forward. Our Lady, therefore, does not answer questions. She does not give out recipes, but simply says, 'Pray, fast and have faith'. And this means going beyond the sign. Open yourselves to the Holy Spirit, may He enlighten you to understand the times, your sickness, your difficulties. And so, even in moments of trial, as now, all of you pilgrims must lead the others to a positive attitude of hope. The attitude of Medjugorje is the attitude of peace, which is the root of hope, and the fruit of hope is peace.
You must not, therefore, in the moments of trial lose your head and allow yourselves to become prey to anxieties, to fears. Our Lady said, 'These come from satan'. We must, instead, be full of peace, using the very weapons Our Lady pointed out to us - prayer, fasting, fraternal love and humility - with these alone we will overcome all obstacles and be stronger in all adversities. This is all very important for priests, for group leaders - that they should bring this hope. Trials are themselves a grace, since only when on trial and after undergoing one, can we see and understand more clearly, better, and can go further ahead. Without trials one cannot go further, one cannot deepen one's faith. Look, therefore, at your trials with peace, with joy, carrying on praying, loving, offering everything to God.
The messages given by Our Lady become slowly, slowly, for us, similar one to the other. For those who accept them with an open heart all messages are similar because they encourage us, call us again and enlighten us ; but this applies only to those who go forward.
To those who have sat down and stayed put, no new message whatever can bring light, but instead it will only disturb them. It disturbs them, as the message wants people to walk, whereas people want to stay put and say, "we are disturbed by this logic, by these messages."
What I want to tell you is - be brave, go ahead, do not worry ! If someone puts the messages in doubt, do not allow that to happen. If a Christian doubts about peace, love, penance, prayer, then we have been throwing our words to the pigs.
We have thrown out of the church even our own saints, and yet they have become saints thanks to the fact that they have been following this path. So, there is not much to discuss with people on what might be the extraordinary happenings at Medjugorje, but rather there is a great deal to talk about on a fundamental, spiritual level and to tell the people "If you believe, this is the way leading to God, to the Gospel". He who does not believe takes the easy way out. I must believe.
Our Lady is inviting us to this, but as we do not want to accept this way towards God, we are disturbed by Our Lady who is telling us : 'Be converted, pray'. We need go no further than this : it is necessary to understand the fundamental points and then Our Lady's message will become clear to us.
This I wanted to tell you - get stronger, do not argue, do not talk things over much, but pray.
Trials are there so that we may become stronger and the others may grow. They will grow, though, only to the degree in which you will be the spokesman of hope, and hope always brings security, joy and peace. And what happened to St. Peter will happen to everybody. God will lead the Church to the salvation of the world.
(Fr. Tomislav Vlasic - 1st July 1985)