Message of Fr. Stefano in Medjugorje
I am happy to be here with all of you, but I also feel a little sad because Sr. Elvira cannot be present with us today, on account of Community commitments. Those of you who know her, know how much love she has for this place, for this land. Today we, her children, are here. We hope that by giving testimony to all of you of what God has placed in our hearts through her, you can all come to know this "mother" of ours.
The theme of this Festival is the search of every man for the Light and the need in every man’s heart to encounter the way of Light. While I was in prayer this morning I thought, “What can our Community tell all of you about the Light?” All of us youth, young men and women of the Community, had lost the light, had walked many years in darkness. We ran away from the heart of God thinking that we would find freedom, but instead we had found immense sadness. We hurt ourselves a lot by running away from God. By turning our backs to the light, we fell into an abyss of sadness.
But today we are here in this land blessed by Mary to tell you, to proclaim, to give personal testimony that the Light of God is stronger than any darkness, that God's Love defeats death. We are here living, happy and joyful to be alive, and with the desire to live. In this evening’s musical presentation, you will see this in our desire to dance, sing, rejoice. We who were dead, we who wanted to die, we who had thrown the gift of Life away…we have met God! God exists, we have met him and He has saved us! He is risen. He has resurrected our lives. He has freed us from the chains of death! We are here today, youth, friends to be this living testimony. If God has saved us, if He has been able to rip away evil from our lives, He can also save each of you!
Our hands have done so much evil. Our hands have hit. Our hands have peddled death. Our hands have stolen. Today these hands have touched the Living Jesus. Our eyes have seen so much evil and have journeyed so long in the darkness. Today our eyes see the Light.
In finding the mercy of God, our ears, which for so many years remained closed, no longer wanting to listen to anybody or anything, have opened to listen to the wind of the Holy Spirit, who brings forth new life where He passes. So, young men and women, we are here with all of you to tell you that what we kept searching for and what you, too, sometimes look for in the false proposals of the world, doesn’t give us joy and will never give us joy. We threw ourselves into the slime of evil. We became filthy with sex. We went running after all the false promises of the world, and all we got from it was incredible sadness, that sadness that carried us to drug abuse that caused us to destroy our lives.
But now we've met a Community that has welcomed and embraced our desperation. The Community has proposed a way of life to us that isn’t a man made invention or a psychological method, but instead is the proposal of the Christian life, the encounter with God through prayer. Just think about it…addicts, druggies, thieves and jailbirds…when they enter the Community and meet this woman, Elvira, they say, “Sister, I don’t believe in God, I don’t believe in life, I don’t believe in the Church, I don’t believe in Love. I am dead, and I don’t believe in Life any more." And this little nun with a huge heart, has looked straight into our eyes and said, " I'm not interested in whether you believe or you don’t believe. I will believe for you. You just trust, obey, and have courage—meanwhile, you’ll be embraced by the love of the Community, which is the love of the Church. The Church embraces you; the Church loves you; the Church believes for you; the Church invokes God on your behalf. The Church has poured out her blood for us for 2000 years, and if we believe, God will save the world!"
This woman has believed in God's Love. One day this nun felt the breath of God enter her heart, this same God who has listened to the painful cry of us youth, just like He listened to the painful cry of the slaves in Egypt, this God who listens to every man that suffers. This God is a Father who desires that we become truly free. This God, looking at our sadness and desperation, called this nun and she gave Him the answer that every man and woman can say to God. We who are here today can give Him the same answer, and when we say these words, our personal story changes, life changes, your life and the lives of those around you change, the lives of the people that God has entrusted to you. These are the words that a 15 year old girl from Nazareth said 2,000 years ago to her God who entered her house with words that “troubled” her, yet Mary said, "Here I am!" Elvira, too, has said to God for us, "Here I am." And just like Mary, she asked God, “How can I? How can it be?” Each of us, when we are before God, feels poor and weak…we ask, “How can I?" and God continues to say through Mary, who is always present in every age of mankind, "Do not be afraid, I am with you. I will be with you everyday, until the end of the world."
Young people, God expects a lot from us. God knocks at the door of our hearts, as He knocked at the door of Nazareth. God looks for the youth, courageous young men and women, who have the courage to say to Him, "Here I am!" To say this “Here I am!” is the greatest joy we can ever have. We young men and women of the Community, who knelt down before evil for so many years, who adored a little bit of powder which destroyed our families, we can say to all of you, we can proclaim, we can give testimony that since we began to kneel down before the Eucharist, since we began to hold God's hand again, since we began to understand that God is our best friend, our life has become a celebration.
Our eyes, which were dead like the eyes of all the addicts that you know and meet on the streets, now shine with the light of God. Our hands want to rejoice, work, serve, love. Our feet, that were tired and heavy from walking miles and miles in darkness, are now full of life, willing to run, to dance, to jump, to tell you that our God is not some "idea," some illusion. He is not a philosophy or a religion invented by men. Our God is a Living Word, the Life of Christ. If you encounter this Life, you will change from the top of your head down to your toes. God makes a new creation of you. He makes you feel amazed when you look at yourself because you feel alive, you finally feel free.
Youth, lovers of freedom, children of liberty, when we hear this Word our eyes shine and our hearts light up. We want to tell all of you that freedom has a name: Jesus of Nazareth. He is freedom, He is a free man, because He is the man who even loves those who hurt Him, because He is a man who, confronted with evil, loves and forgives! This is freedom!
Before coming here today, I asked Sr. Elvira what we should say to all of you, and she answered me, " Tell the youth, that I, Elvira, who am the same age as their grandparents, as their parents, I ask them all for forgiveness, because we gave them many things,and in so doing, deceived them into believing that joy comes from things. Its not true! Joy does not come from things. Joy comes from God, and the heart of every man needs God!"
We had "everything" in life before we entered Community. We had a phone, computer, our pretty bedrooms, our stereo, our music, magazines, dirty magazines, girls…everything. We had everything, yet we were sad and dead.
Today in Community we have a pair of trousers, maybe 2 or 3, a few t-shirts. We don’t have our i.d. or money in our pockets. We don’t have a mobile phone or a computer, and yet we have joy because we have found God! We have learned to live the truth in our lives. When you kneel down before Him, you feel His Light enter your heart, and He gives you the will to live again, the will to love. He truly makes you be born again! He makes you explode inside. It’s exactly what the Pope told the youth in Cologne. He said that the Eucharist causes an atomic bomb to explode in the heart of man. Prayer in the presence of the Eucharist sets loose an atomic revolution of good inside us.
So, young people, you find the answers we are looking for, the peace we are looking for, the desire for reconciliation, to forgive ourselves for our past, the desire that we have to return to the most wounded pages of our lives without any more fear, without escaping anymore from the memories which are impressed in our minds, which make us continue to live in anxiety and fear, the memories of a family that has betrayed life, that separated when you were a child, that suffering which shattered your heart, that violence you suffered from the people who should have loved you, yet betrayed that love, the desire that we have to finally find peace, this peace can only be found through the living and true encounter with God.
I can’t tell you with words, but I can tell you because this miracle has been occurring for 23 years.in our house. Those who had enormous wounds, bleeding lacerations, those who greatly suffered from childhood, those who were not able to forgive themselves or others, these people, by encountering Jesus of Nazareth, feel as if the darkness in their lives gives way to light, just like the sky opens to the light of the sun in the morning. The encounter with Jesus makes the light burst through!
So young people, freedom, light, the quality of love that many times we beg from the others, that we think we’ll find in a man or in a woman, the love that sometimes we think we’ll find in the emotional experiences of our fragile feelings, the quality of love that satisfies our hearts, that makes us dream and fly, that gives us the joy and the will to live, that quality of love is the love of our God, who in Jesus spread his arms out on the cross, giving His very last drop of blood for you, for me, for us. The Blood of Christ is not wasted: our freedom has been bought by Jesus, ransomed at a great price. He gave His life for us!
Do you understand what a beautiful story this is! It is the most beautiful story in the world. We are children of a God who not only gave us the sea, the moon, the stars, the sky, the mountains, but we are children of a God who has given Himself for us to tell us, youth that the true joy lies in giving ourselves. True joy doesn’t lie in giving things to our brothers and sisters or in giving something pretty to the guy or girl that you love. It’s not just this. You will be happy if you give yourself, if you lose your life by giving it, giving it for your brothers and sisters. Then you will have a heart that explodes with joy!
So, dear and beloved youth, we are happy to walk with you. We are happy that you are here with us. We are happy that many years ago the Holy Spirit placed the desire to reach out to youth in the heart of Fr. Slavko, who began these days for us. I am sure that God is happy in seeing us now. I am certain that seeing us united in His name, seeing us striving for a true Christian life, God is celebrating: "There will more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous men who have no need of repentance" (Lk 15:7). Blessed are we if today we feel poor, fragile, and weak, sinners in need of God's Mercy. God's joy is to forgive us, run towards us, and embrace us. God's joy is to finally cut out of our hearts those rocks that have crushed our lives. Young people, friends, God our Father and Mary our Mother are celebrating with us today. We were dead and now we are alive! Now let's stand up and sing a beautiful song of joy to our God!