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
The Pastoral Work thus Far and the Therapeutic Role of Medjugorje
The modern spiritual condition requires of the Church a reflection on its own pastoral work. If the pastoral work thus far was directed toward the disciplining of the faithful, from now on, the sense of pastoral work is the enabling of the faithful for the struggle of life because the decision for life is simultaneously the preamble of faith. Hence the need, then, for the correlation of faith and prayer. It must be clear to modern man that the foundations of faith are in prayer because prayer, understood in its internal make up, accepts the problem of God and responds to it in the full meaning of the word. Faith and prayer are the keys to a richer life, a life of understanding and acceptance, forgiveness and relatedness, security and surrender, peace and joy, something Medjugorje has demonstrated countless times. The future belongs to that kind of faith and, with everything happening there for a full fourteen years, Medjugorje tends only toward that kind of faith. That faith includes and accepts freedom as the final goal of all human strivings as well as peace as the universal focal point of all human strivings in this century, a peace not as the absence of war, but as the omnipresence of God in his own creation.
This is exactly the way Medjugorje presents itself to the world through new forms of pastoral work, personal and evangelical. Almost from day to day it inspires us to optimism and fearlessness, in spite of all the possible war and apocalyptic surroundings and trumpeting because Christianity is the faith of the Good News, the joyful message of man's call to freedom, to a life without paralysing fear.
The modern economic scene is characterized by an increase in the logic of the market, capital, trade and gross national produce, that is, income. It brings with itself standardization and equalization, comparison not only of merchandise but also of spiritual utterance, which leads to the equalization of souls and the regimentation of opinions, the cessation or loss of the personal freedom of formation. It was thought possible to transfer the American or Western European model of conducting business onto the communist, or third world. But these attempts went bankrupt for now. Eurocentrism has become something like the sordid conscience of Europe that was noticeable on the occasion of the 500th anniversary celebration of the discovery of America. In place of unity and triumph we had instead indignation and lamentation and the history of European discoveries and triumphs has become the history of its moral falls, sins and failures. That is why faith in such an atmosphere is in no way an easy path. Whoever presents it like that will be stranded on it. Faith puts challenges before us because it thinks of man in a more sublime and better way than man thinks of himself.
If we started our exposition with a biblical comparison, we could then also cast Medjugorje's effectiveness in a biblical context, although any comparison limps. The effectiveness of Medjugorje lends itself to comparison with the effectiveness and expansion of Christianity, particularly in its first centuries. The Roman Empire was falling apart from the inside; cancer of the bone marrow consumed it. To heal the cancer and revive the organism it is necessary to transplant the marrow. Christianity was something similar to fresh bone marrow. It brought in a freshness, a new core and the world was revived. Christianity understood in a literal sense Jesus' command and mission: to proclaim, to spread the good news and to heal! Let us recall the closing words of Mark's Gospel and what are the signs that accompany the apostolic proclamation. Man is actually the same. Jesus proclaimed in healing and healed in proclaiming. Those two are inseparable. Jesus is teacher and preacher, healer and therapist. The apostles knew that well. It was also accepted in early centuries by missionaries who, along with evangelisation, offered health: psychological, spiritual and physical. Modern man longs for health and salvation and, therefore, he needs a therapeutic religion, a therapeutic proclamation of faith. For what else is the word salus, Greek soteria, German heil, if not, in the first place, health, and only after that salvation? We translate that as saving, salvation, in abstract terms, while it was always a concrete intervention into the being of man in the sense of total health and healing. Every generation, all people of all times, are yearning precisely for that. Where are we to find salvation and healing? We see what is offered today in the market of ideas, in what manner man tries to be healed, how many offers from various healers and charlatans there are. The same spiritual situation was also present in early Christianity. The world is avid for health and the feeling of being saved, and Christianity is precisely in such a thicket and a vast forest of all kinds of offers of saving and salvation that it, in its uniqueness, overtook all other religions and cults. It accomplished what it promised. The victory was guaranteed even before the theoretical foundations of that victory were laid. Instead of the myth of Asclepias, we have Jesus Christ, the real healer and helper, leader and teacher. Early Christianity defined itself as the faith of healing, authentic therapy, the medicine of soul and body, and it is precisely with Christianity that systematic medicine and care of the sick began in the world. That is one of the most important and most effective fields of Christian activity. Let us recall here the closing lines of the book of Revelation where it says that there are trees of life around God's throne that bear fruit every month, twelve times a year. Their leaves serve the health of the nations and nothing deserving a curse can be found there (Rev 22:2). Medjugorje is presented that way in the contemporary Church and the world. Indeed would so many hasten to Medjugorje had countless numbers not experienced healing and salvation?!