A short history of Our Lady's apparitions in Medjugorje
Date: June 14, 2004
Author: Dr. fra Ljudevit Rupcic, OFM
For quite a while now, in Medjugorje (Čitluk, Bosnia-Herzegovina) six trustworthy witnesses, testify firmly under oath, that since the 24th of June 1981, the Blessed Virgin Mary, or the "Gospa", as she is affectionately known as here, appears to them every day up to the present.
Messages - General overview of messages
According to the united testimony of the visionaries, Our Lady on the occasion of her apparition gave a series of messages, to be transmitted to the people. Even though there are many messages, they can however be summarized in five themes, because all the messages basically underline or lead up to these five.
Already on the third day, Our Lady stressed peace as the first of her messages: "Peace, peace, peace and only peace!", after which she said twice, "Peace must reign between God and man and between people". Considering that Maria could see a cross, when Our Lady gave this message, the obvious conclusion is that this peace comes from God. God, who through Our Lady in Christ became our peace.(Ephesians 2:14)"For He is the peace between us"...This peace, “the world cannot give"(John 14:27)and that's why Christ commanded His apostles to bring it to the world(Matthew 10:11) so that all men could become "sons of peace"(Luke 10:6). That's why Our Lady as "Queen of Apostles" in Medjugorje specifically refers to herself as "Queen of Peace". Who better than she can more successfully convince today's world, which is faced with the threat of destruction, how great and how necessary peace is.
The second of Our Lady's messages is faith. Already on the fourth, fifth and sixth day of apparitions, Our Lady exhorted those present to have strong faith. Understandably, she repeated this message many times. Without faith we cannot arrive at peace! Not only this but faith is itself an answer to God's Word, which he not only proclaims but actually gives to us. When we believe, we accept God's Word, which in Christ became "our peace"(Ephesians 2:14). Accepting it, the individual becomes a new creature, with a new life of Christ within, and a share in God's nature (1 Peter 1:4, Ephesians 2:18) In this way the individual ensures peace with God and with others.
Once again there is no one who can better understand the necessity and efficaciousness of faith than Our Lady. That's why she stressed it on every occasion and charged the visionaries to bring the light of faith to others. Our Lady presented faith as an answer to everything, no matter whatever people were looking for. She presented it as the pre-requisite of all prayer, desires and demands, relating it to health, wholeness and to all other human necessities.
Conversion was another one of Our Lady's frequent messages. This presupposes that she noticed either a weakness or a complete lack of faith in humanity today. And without conversion it is impossible to achieve peace. True conversion means, the purifying or cleansing of the heart,(Jeremiah 4:14), because a corrupt or 'deteriorated' heart is the basis of bad relations, which in turn brings social disorder, unjust laws, base constitutions etc. Without a radical change of heart, without the conversion of the heart, there is no peace. For this reason, Our Lady continually suggests frequent confession. The request is directed to all without differentiation because, “not one of us is just"...."all have wandered, not one does right"(Romans 3:11-12).
Almost daily, from the fifth day of apparitions onwards Our Lady recommends prayer. She requests everyone to "pray without ceasing" just as Christ himself taught.(Mark 9:29, Matthew 9:38; Luke 11:5-13) Prayer, therefore stimulates and strengthens our faith, without which our relationship with God is disordered;-as is our relationship with each other. Prayer also reminds us of how close God is to us even in our daily lives: In prayer we acknowledge Him, we give Him thanks for His gifts to us, and we are filled with a hopeful expectancy of that which we need, but particularly our redemption. Prayer solidifies the equilibrium of the individual, and aids us in our 'ordered relationship with God', without which it is impossible to maintain peace either with God or with our neighbour.
The Word of the Lord acquainted itself with all humanity and awaits humanity's response. It is precisely this which gives prayer it's "justification". Our response should be "spoken faith", or "prayer". In prayer, faith animates, renews, strengthens and sustains itself. In addition to this, man's prayer really bears witness to the Gospel, and to the existence of God, thus provoking a response of faith in others.
Already on the sixth day of the apparitions, Our Lady often recommended fasting because it aids faith. That is, the practice of fasting aids and ensures control over oneself. Only the person who can dominate himself is truly free, and is capable of abandoning himself to God and to his neighbour, as faith demands. Fasting guarantees him that his abandonment to faith is secure and sincere. It helps him to free himself from every slavery, but especially to the slavery to sin. Whoever is not in the possession of oneself is in some way enslaved. Therefore fasting helps the individual to restrain himself from disordered pleasure seeking which in turn leads him to a futile and useless existence often wasteful of the very goods which are necessary to others just for basic survival.
With fasting we also retrieve the gift, which creates within us a realistic love for the poor and the destitute, which up to a certain point eases the difference between rich and poor. It therefore heals the wants of the poor and also heals the excesses and over-indulgence of others. And in it's own way, it gives a dimension of peace which today in a special way, is threatened by the difference in the lifestyles of the rich and the poor. (e.g. North and South).
To sum up, we can say that Our Lady's messages underline that v peace is the greatest good, and that faith, conversion, prayer and fasting are the means by which we can attain it.