Now, here in the very latter part of this century, there are countless signs and messages which cannot be ignored, that point positively toward fulfillment of the final trilogy of this Eucharistic message - "Christ will come again."
Yes, there are still many disbelievers who ridicule the idea that we are so close to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, pointing to the numerous doomsayers who have, in the past, touted placards blazoning the end of the world on a certain day...only to have these appointed times pass uneventfully. But they were thinking in finite terms with no concrete evidence of Supernatural Signs while erroneously proclaiming false messiahs.
So how are we so sure that we are indeed the generation who will witness the Second Coming? Hasn't Christ HImself said in Matthew 24:36: "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of Heaven, but the Father only."?
Why then does man continue to try to pinpoint the exact time? Because of man's incessant desire to know. As the proverb says, "curiosity killed the cat." But we are not animals; we are human beings made in the image and likeness of God.
Therefore, Christ has sent His Blessed Mother Mary in the same manner that God sent John the Baptizer: to prepare for the Way of the Lord. After all, it was on the feast of St. John the Baptist, June 24, that Our Lady first manifested herself in 1981 to the visionaries in Medjugorje.
Though even the Mother of God doesn't know the exact hour, in her motherly compassion she wants to do all she can to fulfill the scriptural prophecy in Matthew 25:42-44: "Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come. But of this be assured, that if the householder had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would certainly have watched, and not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, because at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come."
For indeed, the Virgin Mary plays a vital role in all of this as Revelation comes closer to reality just as St. John the Evangelist recorded in the Book of Apocalypse 12:1: "And a great sign appeared in Heaven: a woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars."
Mary, Queen of Heaven; Mary, Queen of Peace; Mary, Mediatrix and Advocate for all God's children. That is who the woman clothed with the sun represents.
And so, throughout history in every way that God permits, Our Blessed Mother has continued to intercede. She is doing everything she can to make sure all her children have their spiritual households ready. She has reiterated this over and over in her frequent apparitions, locutions and prophecies while assuring us that her Divine Son will return soon. She has been doing so at an ever increasing rate as the clock ticks closer to the new millennium. Her messages are reaching every corner of the earth and coming from every corner of the earth as our Blessed Mother shows no favorites choosing almost every country of the world to impart her words to this messenger or that visionary, accompanied by various supernatural signs that are most often inexplicable.
Many ask why hasn't the Church acted sooner in many of these cases. The answer is simple. In her wisdom Holy Mother Church waits and watches for it is the test of time that will prove if this apparition or that vision is authentic. The Magisterium looks at the fruit for Jesus has said, "By their fruits you will know them" (Matthew 7:15). Also, one must ask: "Are these messages in accord with Church Dogma and Doctrine?" Are they fully in unison with all that is in Sacred Scripture?" "Are the participants obedient to the directives of the Church?" Those are the benchmarks to discerning whether an apparition or particular visionary merits serious consideration. If one can say yes to those questions, then it is safe to follow and live the messages in question. But a word of caution, no matter what purported messages you follow, always pray to the Holy Spirit for discernment and guidance. Also, beware of rumors and hearsay for the evil one will do all he can to confuse, and disparage anything of God. He will use half-truths and misconceptions and try to divide the faithful, planting seeds of doubts and derision toward the site, visionaries, messengers or participants, even including the clergy involved. For evidence of this, look at what happened at Lourdes and Fatima before they were approved. In our day, there have been many disparaging remarks and articles against Medjugorje and the visionaries. Yet time has proven the fruits of Medjugorje.
Also in her wisdom, Holy Mother Church allows these purported private revelations to continue and to be promulgated in keeping with the spirit of Thessalonians 5:19-22 in which Paul says, "Such gifts of grace, whether they are spread more simply and generally, must be accepted with gratefulness and consolation, as they're specially suited to, and useful for, the needs of the Church and those whose specific task is not to extinguish the spirit but to examine everything and keep that which is good." The key phrase here is "not to extinguish the spirit, but to examine everything and keep that which is good."
In other words, if it is from and of God, it will continue no matter the opposition. All approved apparitions have stood this test. If it is not supernatural, then it will whither and die on its own. Therefore, Holy Mother Church allows the weeds to exist with the wheat until it's time for harvest and then, through the grace of God, the wheat will be separated from the chaff. When that time comes, then Holy Mother Church can be sure that a purported apparition is an approved apparition, worthy of all respect and reverence due it. Until then we should always proceed with caution, but not shut out these important messages emanating throughout the world from the Mother of God for she has a special reason why she's here and so prominent in these days.
The essence of her messages are not new however, just more urgent as time grows shorter. She has been appearing to her children ever since Zaragoza in Spain where, before her Assumption into Heaven, the angels whisked her to this spot on pillars where she appeared to Saint James beckoning him back to Jerusalem in 40 AD. After her Assumption, she first manifested herself to Saint Stephen during his martyrdom as related by Venerable Maria of Agreda in the "Mystical City of God." After that, through the first ten centuries, very little is recorded as to Marian apparitions.
We have reports of Our Lady appearing to Saint Nicholas at the Council of Nicea in 325 and less than 50 years later proclaimed herself "Our Lady of the Snows" appearing to Pope Felix II on the spot where St. Mary Major Church would be built. In 520 she appeared to Saint Romanos in Constantinople.
It was five centuries before the Mother of God would appear again. In the next issue we will treat the next seven hundred years as we cover Saint Dominic's and Saint Simon Stock's specific apparitions and the lasting gifts bestowed on them for Holy Mother Church to promote for all ages.
Yes, whether we are dealing with the early centuries or our present one, one thing is certain: we truly need to take her messages seriously...very seriously! If we don't take notice and heed the signs of the times, we'll be led down the wrong road by misleading signs; signs that lead to a dead end!
TOMORROW: The Rosary and Scapular - timely vital signs for all times!
I know of a six-month-old baby who had a club foot, which is a bone malformation. The baby obviously could not make an act of faith for healing, but the mother could. And so could the priest who prayed with her over the phone. They prayed together, and overnight the baby's leg was normalized. The doctors at the UCLA Medical Center were absolutely amazed. The before and after X-Rays looked like those of two different children, one normal, the other abnormal.
A kind of preamble to faith is knowledge that God wants perhaps a radical miracle healing, rather than a healing through surgery or the other so-called natural "miracles" of technology, science and medicine. Ecclesiasticus 28 says, "...all healing is from God...a wise man will not despise God's medicines...there is a time when you must fall into the hands of doctors and they should beseech the Lord that He will bless what they prescribe to relieve and cure your ailments." The interweaving of human and divine actions often occurs in the healing process. The faith that you ask for to know God's will in this regard might be to not only know if God wants you cured, but also to know if God wants you to pray for a radical miracle cure or for correction through standard medical procedure.
So faith ultimately is not simply believing you'll get what you want, independently of what God wants, but rather a seeking of God's Will in order to adjust your faith-prayer to fit His plan - especially for deeply serious things such as the healing of a retarded child.
For the most part, you can say that God always wants spiritual healing. If your son or daughter has left the Church and turned away from God, you can be sure God wants to bring that person aback to Himself. Of course, it is God's Will that that soul be saved. We know that.
But in other situations there are things we don't know. The prayer should include a petition for the faith to know the direction (answer) we ought to seek.
In the next installment, the success of simple, childlike faith.
Almighty, everlasting God, Who didst appoint Thine only-begotten Son Redeemer of the world, and didst deign to be appeased by the shedding of His Blood; grant, we beseech Thee, that by our solemn service we may so honor what He paid as the price our Redemption, and by Its virtue be so defended here on earth from the evils of this present life, that we may forevermore enjoy Its fruit in Heaven. Throught the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.