March 25, 2020
The Annunciation of the Lord
Dear Family of Mary!
Today is a most wonderful Solemnity! We behold the moment when all heaven and earth held its breath, waiting to hear the answer of a most pure and grace-filled Maiden to an invitation from the Heavenly Father to become the Mother of His Son. All creation was held in the balance at that moment. Would Mercy win, would Salvation come, would God become incarnate? Would she say “yes”?
We all know the answer. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be unto me according to Thy Word.”
This is enough good news for one day!!
But I also want to share the homily that Fr. Marinko, pastor of St. James Church, gave on March 23, 2020. Fr. Marinko spoke powerfully to this moment in time, this moment in human history. And he showed us how to respond to the situation before us. He also links the message of February 25, 2020 to this moment. So, it is a good way to review and thank Our Lady for that message as we await the message for today.
Here is Fr. Mariko’s homily:
(The Gospel for March 23, 2020)
At that time Jesus left Samaria for Galilee. For Jesus himself testified that a prophet has no honor in his native place. When he came into Galilee, the Galileans welcomed him, since they had seen all he had done in Jerusalem at the feast; for they themselves had gone to the feast. Then he returned to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. Now there was a royal official whose son was ill in Capernaum. When he heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, who was near death. Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” The royal official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” Jesus said to him, “You may go; your son will live.” The man believed what Jesus said to him and left. While the man was on his way back, his slaves met him and told him that his boy would live. He asked them when he began to recover. They told him, “The fever left him yesterday, about one in the afternoon.” The father realised that just at that time Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live,” and he and his whole household came to believe. Now this was the second sign Jesus did when he came to Galilee from Judea. (John 4, 43-54)
In the words Jesus gives to the royal official, we can hear a sort of an objection – “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will not believe.” This objection is Jesus’ invitation for us to strive to believe, not to seek only to see something, not to run for signs and miracles, for quick healings, but to believe!
To believe in Jesus! Not to look for Him only when we need something, that would be the case of this royal official, not just to gain something from Him, for Him to do something for us, to fulfill our desires, to hear our prayers, to heal us and others, but to believe in Him, to construct a personal relationship with Him, so that He would be important to us no matter if it is hard or easy for us, when we have the corona virus or when all is fine.
This time of pandemic, isolation and solitude is the time of faith! This is not the time to run from one church to the other, from one Holy Communion to the other, from one spiritual director to the other, from one seminar to the other.
This is the time of faith! Faith in God – that God is with us, that we are His beloved children, that we live in Him, as St. Paul says. This is the time of entrusting ourselves, our lives, our families and other people to Jesus.
Jesus is teaching His disciples and us as well. He is directing us to freedom and love, to fasting and to silence. This Lent is the time of fasting and silence and the time of bare faith, of purely entrusting ourselves to Jesus.
After the Transfiguration on Mount Tabor, Jesus forbade His disciples to talk about it: “Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17, 9)
Why did Jesus not allow His disciples to talk about such a powerful experience, but rather invited them to silence? Is not this invitation to silence against the natural need to talk about such an experience after they had it?
As I was reflecting on that, I recalled the message Our Lady gave on February 25, 2020: “Dear children! In this time of grace, I desire to see your faces transformed in prayer. You are so flooded by earthly concerns; you do not even feel that spring is at the threshold. You are called, little children, to penance and prayer. As nature fights in silence for new life, also you are called to open yourselves in prayer to God, in Whom you will find peace and warmth of the spring sun in your hearts. Thank you for having responded to my call.”
Our Lady turns our eyes first towards the life in nature so that she could help us understand the laws of the spiritual life. From the creatures, she takes us to the Creator – from the transformation in nature to the transformation within ourselves.
The winter is coming to the end, the spring is here and warmth too, the first buds appear on the trees and this is the sign of the new life. This is the fruit of the gentle and wonderous touch of the sun and nature, of the warm sun rays and the plants. It is not something that can be seen in the noise, rather in the interior and in the silence. For us it seems like a silence, but inside that plant a battle is being waged – nature fights in the silence for new life and this battle is the process of transfiguration.
A man from a town came to a hermit whom he considered to be especially wise.
“What is the silence?” he asked this simple hermit.
The hermit did not respond, and both remained silent for a long while. It began to rain, and the hermit pointed to the plot where he had planted some wheat recently. “Do you hear the rain?” he said and added: “The rain will water the soil and help those seeds to grow. This is what I call the silence.”
The man from the town nodded his head and remained silent. Suddenly, the sun came out and the hermit pointed to a plant with gentle buds. “Each day the sun’s rays fall on these buds and they open one by one. This is what I call silence.”
They continued to walk in silence.
After some time, the man from the town began to speak: “So, silence is much more than the absence of noise and sounds. Silence is not a pause, but something takes place in it – something that is most important.”
And he decided to remain with the hermit to get to know the silence.
Prayer is similar to what takes place in the nature. In it, God and man meet, God’s love and the human heart. If the heart becomes opened to God’s love, it will experience something like what takes place when the spring sun touches the plant. God’s love gently touches, embraces and fills with warmth and peace, the human heart. The fruit of that divine loving touch in the human heart is the transformation of that heart.
It is a transformation inside, like those buds on the trees in the springtime. It will become visible on our faces. Our faces will radiate joy, peace and serenity – radiate with the experience of the gentle touch of God’s love.
But this is not something that will simply occur. There will be a battle before all this can take place. When Jesus speaks about the importance of a hidden place in which one prays, fasts and gives alms, He takes us from the surface into the depth of the experience. There, in the heart, we encounter God who sees in secret. Only in the silence of our heart can we experience God’s gaze and feel the rays of His love shine on us.
“So true prayer demands that we be more passive than active; it requires more silence than words, more adoration than study, more concentration than rushing about, more faith than reason. We must understand thoroughly that true prayer is a gift from heaven to earth, the Father to his child; from the Bridegroom to the bride, from Him who has to him who has not, from Everything to nothing.” (Carlo Carretto, Letters from the Desert)
Jesus forbade His disciples to talk about His Transfiguration because their hearts were still not transformed. Those hearts would be transformed only after the battle, when the “Son of Man rises from the dead”; only after Good Friday, Holy Saturday, Easter Morning and the Descent of the Holy Spirit on them.
The transformation of the disciples took place in the silence, in the inner battle, in letting go of themselves, their plans and their perceptions about Jesus. In the dying of their ego and in allowing the Holy Spirit to come into the darkness in their hearts. Only afterwards would they be able to witness to the others about what they had experienced. If they spoke about their experience without the transformation of their own hearts, those words could not reach the people who were listening to them.
Mary is the teacher of silence, for she speaks from her experience. After the words of Angel Gabriel, she did not understand, she remained silent, she meditated, she entered the depths and reflected on the meaning of those words. “But she was greatly troubled.” (Lk 1, 29) In every new situation, Mary did not remain on the surface of those experiences, but she entered into the interior, in the silence. “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” (Lk 2, 19) Mary did not walk around and talk about what she experienced but pondered on it in her heart. “And his mother kept all these things in her heart.” (Lk 2, 51)
From her own experience, she teaches us, her children: “That is why, little children, in the silence of the heart, remain with Jesus, so that He may change and transform you with His love.” (25. 7. 1998.) The outer silence is only the beginning of prayer with the heart. We need to go deeper, into the interior and into the silence.
One day some people came to a monk who lived in solitude and in silence. They asked him: “What is the purpose of your life in silence?” The monk was about to take water from the deep well and so he said to his visitors: “Look into the well! What do you see?” The people looked into this deep well and they said they did not see anything. But after some time, the monk invited them again to take a look. They looked and this time they were able to see themselves.
The monk said: “You see, earlier on when I was taking water, the water was not still, but now it is still and that is the experience of silence and solitude – You can see yourself!”
Without silence and solitude we cannot see ourselves, Jesus or other people. Also, without silence we cannot see what is before us, what was given to us. Yet, there is so much that is given to us, each day and each moment! Only now do we get to know what has been given to us perhaps, thanks to something (the virus) that has stopped us in our rush.
What are those gifts? The members of your family, the air you breath, the birds that sing, spring that is about to come, blue sky and the flowers appearing at the meadows…
If we are in the noise all the time and we talk, we cannot hear our voice, or the voice of the other, and even less can we hear the voice of God. Only when the heart is at peace and the eye becomes attentive, can we hear, notice, see and comprehend. This is not easy; this is the battle. The battle is to remain seated, to listen, to see, not to talk and not to react.
“Do not tell the vision to anyone until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (Mt 17, 9)
It is the time of the Lent. Easter is about to come. We have stopped, we are paused. This is the opportunity to enter into the silence, to entrust to Jesus, to believe in Him. In this time when it is not easy, more than ever before, now when we cannot rely on our regular securities, when we do not see a solution, or the end to this all, it is time to trust Him more than ever before! Let us learn how to say in silence – Jesus, I trust in You!
Homily for March 23, 2020 Fr. Marinko – Medjugorje
In Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
©Mary TV 2020
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