As commentators continue to write and speak on the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI there is much speculation as to who may be the likely candidate to replace him and what changes will be necessary for the next Pope to take on board to accommodate the needs of the ever-changing, fast-forwarding world we live in.
“The Church has to change” is the cry that goes out.
Mary, the Mother of the Church, is also aware that changes are necessary for the Church and for the world to be renewed.
She has been speaking of this in her messages from Medjugorje for the past 32 years. Big difference between her call and the call from the writers and commentators is that she recognises that change can only come from within. She calls for personal conversion. By this process the Church and the world is renewed.
Someone once said: “To change the world, first change yourself.” Pope John Paul II said “Before the Church can evangelise the world it must first be evangelised!” Pope Benedict XVI recognised these truths and introduced the Year of Faith to bring about a beginning of New Evangelisation within the Church.
Our Lady’s voice from Medjugorje is a call to turn around, change direction, to repentance and reconciliation with God and each other; to change our ways; to change our heart; to be renewed. And like the daily demands from the world for the Church to change, so Our Lady also asks that we walk daily along the path of conversion, the path of holiness, to become whole and complete – even perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
But we know many are reluctant or even unable to make that first step, let alone daily along the path the Blessed Mother desires to lead us, to lead the Church. In her message of September 25, 1998, she says: “You speak much, little children, but you work little on your conversion.” In another message (February 2012) Our Lady reminds us: “Little children, you speak much and pray little.”
These days, it seems everyone has an opinion and wants it heard (I include myself in this). That tells me we have a voice. We speak much, but who’s listening? Is it a case of just speaking to the wrong person, the wrong people, those who decide for the world, but not those who decide for life, or do we speak without charity and so become simply gongs booming and cymbals clashing as St Paul warns us?
Are we just contributing to the meaningless trend towards trivia and trash talk where it often seems nobody really wants to or needs to listen to each other any more, choosing instead to be cocooned in the many fantasy and superficial worlds which orbit our lives? With all the advances in technology and communication channels have we just simply raised the level of noise and distraction in the world? Who will listen? Who can hear our heart beat? Who wants to know? Who cares what we think or want to say?
Our Lady expresses a similar concern. She says: “Dear children, No, you don’t know how to love and you don’t know how to listen to the words I am saying to you... I have come to teach you how to listen out of love... (November 29, 1984)
Our Lady explains that if we listen to her messages then we shall be able to live everything which God is giving her to give to us. So perhaps the first step to making the inward change necessary to transform the Church and the world is to be able to listen – to remove the cotton wool or whatever else is distracting and preventing us from listening, out of our ears. Jesus once said to his disciples, “Happy are your eyes because they see, your ears because they hear!” (Matthew 13 : 16) This followed on from the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will listen and listen again, but not understand, see and see again, but not perceive.”
We are told that Jesus is a good listener, that he hears every prayer (even if we choose to doubt this at times), and will even respond and speak to our hearts. Can this really be true? He did so with the wise and learned men of the Temple, even at the young age of twelve. Luke’s Gospel describes the time Jesus was found among the ‘doctors’ listening to them, and asking them questions; and all who heard him were astounded at his intelligence and his replies. (2 : 46-47)
Jesus listens. Jesus responds. Jesus changes listening hearts. Water can still become wine. Prayer can bring change to the person, the Church and the world.
This is what is happening at Medjugorje. The Church is changing, is being renewed by prayer and changing hearts, by pilgrims returning to faith and the Sacraments of the Church. And so the world is also renewed through these wonderful graces. That’s Good News but the kind of news most Church ‘observers’ seldom want to write and speak about, perhaps unable to perceive what is there to see: the active role of Mary as Mother of the Church, caring for the Body of Christ in suffering and in joy, still adhering to her promise that her Immaculate Heart is Triumphant and will continue to be.
Dear children! Today again I am calling you to pray with your whole heart and day by day to change your life. Especially, dear children, I am calling that by your prayers and sacrifices you begin to live in holiness, because I desire that each one of you who has been to this fountain of grace will come to Paradise with the special gift which you shall give me, and that is holiness. Therefore, dear children, pray and daily change your life in order to become fully holy. I shall always be close to you. Thank you for having responded to my call. Medjugorje message, November 13, 1986