The Historical-Theological Context of the Medjugorje Apparitions
Date: November 10, 2005 , Originally published November 10, 2001
Author: Dr. fra Tomislav Pervan, OFM
Category: Theology reports
Content of the article
Diagnosis of our Times
The code number, the characteristic of our century, might be epitomized in several points: Faith in absolute improvement, progress, the absolutizing of scientific-technical possibilities and civilization, and political messianism embodied in Nazism and later on in Marxism. Nowhere is there a mention of God, who gets replaced with earthly goals. That systematic elimination of God from the moulding of history and human life is that Novum and really dangerous element this Europe and epoch of ours brought forth from its bosom. By banishing God from consciousness in contemporary literature, art, film and theatre, a gloomy and dark image of man prevails. All that was once great and noble is today called into question, gets torn down from the heights and is attempted to be exposed. Morality has become hypocrisy and happiness self-deception. It is impossible to be a follower of the good and the beautiful and the only correct stand is doubt. The one who exposes others becomes the hero of the day and will reap the greatest success in publicity and in the media. Criticism of society, of politics and of individuals has become the highest code of the media, and in such a spiritual atmosphere, there is hardly a place for values, faith, optimism, and a future.
Yet, today schizophrenia is present on the world stage. On the one hand, the world sees its own deceptions and, on the other hand, it is impossible to renounce the life style of living high on the hog, at the highest standard, at least in the West. That division is especially noticeable in taking a stand in the face of two facts from most recent history, namely, after the atomic reactor catastrophe in Chernobyl, and the spreading of the AIDS virus. The Chernobyl catastrophe clearly reveals how great the danger of atomic energy is. Everyday there are all the more advocates who are willing to renounce the benefits of splitting the atom. Yet, on the other hand, when the AIDS virus was discovered, the same kind of alarm was raised. Without doubt, far more people will be infected and die from the AIDS virus than from the Chernobyl disaster. But is it possible to raise one's voice in public against the sexual behaviour of our contemporaries, the fruit of which is this plague of our century? It is precisely licentiousness, immorality, and debauchery that are the main causes for the spreading of the AIDS virus. Meanwhile, what is going on? If one in the name of Christian morality, of Christ's Sermon on the Mount, advocates restraint and discipline in sexual behaviour, then he is written off in advance as ultramontane and obscurantist. He is sentenced to silence and failure, even if it were the Pope himself. Because, in the eyes of our contemporaries, that is an inadmissible criticism of man's freedom and behaviour, hence, the obvious schizophrenia in thought and action. Along with it comes also increasing methodical doubt in science. There is a diminishing of faith in science, progress, and technology. Scepticism and antipathy make their appearance. But can these characteristics be the solid foundations of a positive future in which something sound, intelligent and constructive should be built? Resentment and scepticism are not capable of providing a sound foundation and of overcoming ideas that can not be vanquished by mere negation or half-heartedness, but only by a greater, more positive idea, by a greater and better assent to something that gives meaning to life. Meanwhile, faith is chased into the sphere of privacy and, thereby are destroyed the foundations upon which all of Europe and its culture are built, and the moral codes and traditions woven into the European being and society are excluded. Therefore, on the one hand, faith is a private thing, and fundamental ethical convictions either disappear or are extinguished, while, at the same time, occultism, magic, and spiritism spread on all sides. All possible forms of superstition gain ever more influence amid all social classes. For that reason it is just one more proof that the trace of the Immortal, of God, is inextinguishable and indelible in man, torn apart and broken.
We are confronted with massive secularisation and secularism, and exodus from the Church, especially on the part of women. Churches are left empty. Eastern forms of mediation have all the more followers. Youth are in search of something to fill them from the outside and inside, which can give sense to their life and activity. In spite of all remarks to the contrary, there are signals of a renewal of faith in souls, particularly among the youth. Youth movements can be encountered in the whole Church throughout the world. They carry in themselves enormous strength of renewed faith. They possess persuasive moral and ethical seriousness and readiness to pledge one's own life for the ideals of the Gospel. That is so noticeable in and around Medjugorje. Such movements can be a fertile yeast that can again pour new life strength and credibility into those human values that characterize our life space and civilized environment. But, the fact that all the more young people abandon the Church should not surprise us. As we have already said, the expectation of direct and unconditional salvation exists in man. People have the feeling of being unredeemed, of alienation, and the need for a sense of and fulfilment with something sublime. Therefore, we have at work, especially among youth, modern forms of gnosticism and esoteric people. Here we meet with manifold forms of religious surrogates, often with unusual mixtures of the rational and the irrational. Occultism and magic are always attractive, and then parapsychological and astral-mythological tendencies, of cabalistic and of all kinds of other provenances. In this, one is always dealing with religion that does not seek the human heart, faith and trust, but with the aid of all kinds of rituals or psychological effects, tries to penetrate the deeper regions of a human being. One is dealing with attempts to achieve a feeling of disengagement and getting unhooked and of liberation. It is an expectancy of the help of hidden, mysterious forces that give strength against that which threatens us as people. People wish to master the technique of redemption or self-redemption and, for that reason, they reach out for non-European or archaic religious rituals of druid, Celtic, shamanistic, Indian, and like origins. Being that the contemporary spiritual scene is caught in apersonalism, just as philosophical thought is apersonal, then an impersonal, apersonal faith and piety responds to that apersonal thought just as is the case with Asiatic religions. Today it is possible to observe such a trend among Christians: the melting away of piety at the expense of personal commitment. Cosmic piety, immersion into divinity or divinities is celebrated so that one can justly talk about Asiatic divinities or divinity and the Christian God. Piety is something like immersion, evanescence, unburdening, liberation from the burden of being and existence, return to the stars, faith in horoscopes and astrology.
If anything has burdened the contemporary world stage, then it is drugs. Since man has existed, he has always used drugs in one way or another, but never to such a degree as nowadays. Why such frenzy for drugs? It comes from man's internal needs and deficiencies, from the emptiness of his soul. A lust for drugs is just an expression of the cry of the soul for happiness, for an authentic life meaning and response. With the aid of drugs, man wants to liberate himself from the prison of the body, and drugs are just a protest against the present condition and the facts that surround us. The one who is taking drugs is not at peace with the present world, but is seeking a better one, and one that can make him happier. Drugs are the fruit of disillusionment with the world which man feels to be a dungeon, and the fruit of longing for adventurism and nonconformity. They are a protest against the world as a human dungeon and a cry for a new reality. The grand journey into the wide-open spaces that the use of drugs offers is just a form of deviate mysticism, deviate human instinct for eternity, infinity, life. They are an attempt to step out of one's own being and skin, of one's own prison by means of chemistry. Drugs are the visible, external attempt to anticipate the world of the future and of happiness already here on earth. That is logical because all contemporary builders of mankind and of the future are not of the conviction that they themselves will live to see that final happiness and, therefore, they decide for the reckless step with drugs. It is a totally flawed path because we know how the mystics achieved their experiences: by the path of renunciation, humility, asceticism, the small steps of the ascent of Mount Carmel or The Interior Castle, or into the depths of one's own heart. Some want to skip over that path by means of the magic key of drugs, while morality and ethics are replaced by technique and chemistry. Drugs are the pseudo-mysticism of the world, incapable of believing, and plunged into pseudo-religion, the instinct of the soul for a return to Paradise, which cannot be suppressed by anything. Therefore, the contemporary scene, especially in drugs, is an alarm that uncovers all the emptiness of our society. It is the cry of man in the wilderness of this life for his own human realization, which is immanent in his soul and heart, already in his very creation in the image and likeness of God.
In the same or a way very similar to that, it is possible also to interpret the modern scene of terrorism and revolutionary movements. Disgust with what exists and a longing for an overthrow are just the external expressions of the internal need for a change of circumstances. However, all this rests on the wrong premise: Namely, the unconditional is sought by means of the conditional, the infinite by means of the finite, the eternal and heavenly by means of the temporal and earthly. That internal contradiction of the current scene reveals all the tragedy of the phenomenon with which we are confronted, and where the magnificent vocation of man becomes the means of a terrible lie and deception. Because the final goal is not paradise on earth, a utopia that cannot be realized, but rather the Kingdom God as a foretaste of eternity, and the Gospel as the norm of life and activity. Although, in the meantime, political messianism is in decline and the zealous terrorism, as well, that attempted to be the actualisation even of the Gospel and of Jesus' revolutionary demands, even though in Jesus' words it is impossible to find a fulcrum for any form of violence, still deep wounds have remained in the modern psyche. The increase of drug consumption is just a sign of emptiness of the soul, for which nothing was left after the loss of ideological promises and deceptions. Films, television, and the media scene are overflowing with violence and hatred. Directors with all their power are trying to present world of crime where the law of might makes right.