"THIS IS A TIME OF GRACE"

A Reflection on Our Lady’s monthly messages at Medjugorje
– by Fr. Alfred Winshman, S.J.,  Director
     Marian Renewal Ministry
     319 Concord Rd
     Weston MA 02493-1310
     Tel:  781-788-6839
     Email: 
winshman@juno.com
     Web:  www.MarianRenewal.com

_____________________________________________________

"This is a time of grace." The primary meaning of "grace" as given in Webster’s Dictionary is "unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification." I have understood grace as the gift and presence of the Holy Spirit within us. The Archangel Gabriel greeted Our Lady, "Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you." He named her "Full of Grace" for she was completely united to God and His Holy Will. Unlike Eve who had lost the fulness of grace through disobedience, Mary is praised by her Son for her obedience to God’s Will and love. She was always attentive to God’s word and did it. (Lk 8:21, 11:28) She lived always faithful to the Father’s love. St. Paul in the Letter to the Romans speaks of the power of grace: "Sin will no longer have power over you; you are now under grace." (Rom 6:14) In his letters he continually recalls us to God’s gift of grace: "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." (As in Rom 16:20)  St. Paul spoke eloquently of the reality of a life of grace when he wrote, "the life I live now is not my own; Christ is living in me." (Gal 2:20)

God, our all-loving Father, greatly desires for every one of us to live in His grace, to be faithful to His love and so welcome Him to live in us. This and only this is the fulfillment of who we are created to be. He is the peace, joy and happiness that we yearn for. Beginning on June 24, 1981, our Father has been sending Mary, our Mother, every day at Medjugorje to tell us that He loves us with an immeasurable love and to call us to put Him first in our lives. She comes to us under the title "Queen of Peace." Since January 25, 1987, she has been giving the world a monthly message through the visionary Marija on the twenty-fifth of each month. In recent years our Mother Mary has used a phrase that has been speaking profoundly to many, "this is a time of grace." In various ways Our Lady is directing us to God Who is our Peace. She first used this phrase on the eighth anniversary of her daily apparitions, June 25, 1989. As we approached the new millennium and entered into it Mary has spoken of "this time of grace" in thirty-two of her monthly messages to date, April 25, 2007. Her most recent message captures well why this is a time of grace:

"Dear children! Also today I again call you to conversion. Open your hearts. This is a time of grace while I am with you, make good use of it. Say: ‘This is the time for my soul’. I am with you and love you with immeasurable love. Thank you for having responded to my call."
[4/25/2007]

It is a time of grace because God has allowed her to be with us to call us to His love through ongoing conversion and to make this a time for our souls. Let us explore these messages to discover how we can make "this time of grace" our own and "make good use of it" so that Christ may live in us as He did in His Mother, St. Paul, and many others to bring us to His paschal peace which our hearts desire and need


A. LIVE THE MESSAGES:   God’s Word

"This is a time of grace and I desire that the grace of God be greater for every single one of you," our Blessed Mother told us on the eighth anniversary [6/25/1989]. She began that short message, "Dear children, today I call you to live the messages which I have been giving you during the past eight years." Eight years later she gave a message that not only spoke of the mission that God our Father has given her but embraced the central role of prayer in living this time of grace. Our Blessed Lady told us that "this time of grace" is God’s gift to us to live her messages while we still have this time.

"Dear children, God gives me this time as a gift to you, so that I may instruct and lead you on the path of salvation. Dear children, now you do not comprehend this grace, but soon a time will come when you will lament for these messages. That is why, little children, live all of the words which I have given you through this time of grace and renew prayer, until prayer becomes a joy for you. Especially, I call all priests and religious brothers and sisters to pray the rosary and to teach others to pray. The rosary, little children, is especially dear to me. Through the rosary open your heart to me and I am able to help you. Thank you for having responded to my call." [8/25/1997]

Our Mother is God’s gift to instruct us in His Word to live His word as she did and so lead us to salvation in God’s love and peace. She will later tell us that her messages are not her own but come from heaven, from God. This is true for she says nothing that is not already in the Gospel message of Jesus, her Son. This time of grace is also a time of prayer as we will further explore in a moment. The rosary is a prayer of meditating on her Son’s redemptive incarnation, ministry, death and resurrection, which when made our own and lived becomes our joy.

Another aspect of this time of grace is living out our vocation. "Today I invite you to comprehend your Christian vocation. Little children, I led and am leading you through this time of grace, that you may become conscious of your Christian vocation. ... Therefore, pray, pray, pray that your heart may open and be sensitive for the Word of God." [11/25/1997] "Comprehend that this is a time of grace for each of you; and with me, little children, you are secure. I desire to lead you all on the way of holiness. Live my messages and put into life every word that I am giving you. May they be precious to you because they come from heaven." [6/25/2002] Thus on the twenty-first anniversary of her apparitions she clearly states that her words are not her own, but God’s words.


B. PRAYER:   1. Coming closer to God

Sometimes our Mother Mary gives very brief messages, but these are always centered on prayer. "Dear children, do not forget: this is a time of grace. That is why, pray, pray, pray!" [10/25/1999] "Dear children, this is a time of grace. That is why pray, pray, pray until you comprehend God's love for each of you." [2/25/2001] Another time all she said in her monthly message was "Pray, pray, pray!" The next day Marija who receives all the public messages asked her if there was anything else. Mary’s response was that prayer was everything. In prayer every thing else will be revealed to us. That summer she called us to rest in God and find joy in our hearts. "Dear children, in this time of grace, I call you to come even closer to God through your personal prayer. Make good use of the time of rest and give your soul and your eyes rest in God." [7/25/2001]

Another fruit of prayer, intimate friendship with God, is to open our hearts to His love and respond by living in the light of His peace before others. At the beginning of Advent Mary taught us, "Dear children, in this time of grace, I call you anew to prayer. Little children, pray and prepare your hearts for the coming of the King of Peace, that with His blessing He may give peace to the whole world. Peacelessness has begun to reign in hearts and hatred reigns in the world. That is why, you who live my messages be the light and extended hands to this faithless world that all may come to know the God of Love." [11/25/2001] More recently Mary again called us to open our hearts through frequent short prayers to God’s love.

"Dear children, also today, I call you to fill your day with short and ardent prayers. When you pray, your heart is open and God loves you with a special love and gives you special graces. Therefore, make good use of this time of grace and devote it to God more than ever up to now. Do novenas of fasting and renunciation so that Satan be far from you and grace be around you. I am near you and intercede before God for each of you. Thank you for having responded to my call." [7/25/2005]

Frequently our Mother reminds us, as at the end of this message, that we are not alone. "I am near you and intercede before God for each of you." The following month we were once again invited to pray in this time of grace. "Dear children, also today I call you to live my messages. God gave you a gift of this time as a time of grace. Therefore, little children, make good use of every moment and pray, pray, pray." [8/25/2005]

2. Transforming love of Jesus

Another aspect of prayer in the silence of our hearts is to be with Jesus and surrender to His transforming love. "You cannot speak or witness about prayer if you do not pray. That is why, little children, in the silence of the heart remain with Jesus so that He may change and transform you with His love. This, little children, is a time of grace for you. Make good use of it for your personal conversion, because when you have God, you have everything." [7/25/1998] Conversion may seem difficult and even impossible for us, but everything is possible to God. However, we need to permit God into our hearts by completely surrendering everything–joys and sorrows, strengths and weaknesses, sickness and health, virtues and sins–to Him. Surrendering everything to God is an often repeated message of Our Lady. "Dear children, today I call you to unite with Jesus in prayer. Open your heart to Him and give Him everything that is in it: joys, sorrows and illnesses. May this be a time of grace for you. Pray, little children, and may every moment belong to Jesus." [3/25/2002] In Holy Week our Mother directed us in prayer at the foot of the cross to express our love to Him Who is Love. "Also today, I call you to open yourselves to prayer. Especially now, in this time of grace, open your hearts, little children, and express your love to the Crucified. Only in this way, will you discover peace, and prayer will begin to flow from your heart into the world." [3/25/2004] This time of grace is specifically a time to open ourselves, our hearts, to God’s redeeming and transforming love.

3. Family & Christian Unity

This is a special time of grace through prayer for family unity and Christian unity. Our Blessed Mother is Mother of the Church, and as a mother is deeply concerned about the families of her children. She tell us that this is a time of grace for families:

"Dear children! This is a time of grace for the family and, therefore, I call you to renew prayer. May Jesus be in the heart of your family. In prayer, learn to love everything that is holy. Imitate the lives of saints so that they may be an incentive and teachers on the way of holiness. May every family become a witness of love in this world without prayer and peace. Thank you for having responded to my call." [10/25/2004]

Two months later she described this time of grace as a time for unity of the Christian family. "In this time of grace again I call you to prayer. Pray, little children, for unity of Christians, that all may be one heart." She continued in that same message to remind us that love will conquer only through prayer and forgiveness which will open our hearts. "Unity will really be among you inasmuch as you will pray and forgive. Do not forget: love will conquer only if you pray, and your heart will open." [1/25/2005] This is also true for unity in the family.


C. RENUNCIATION and SACRIFICE

Frequently in her November messages just before Advent the Gospa, as she is called in Croatian, calls us to let Jesus be born in us as we prepare for Christmas. Advent is therefore a special time of prayer and sacrifices like fasting to open our hearts to Jesus.

"Dear children, today again I invite you to pray, so that through prayer, fasting and small sacrifices you may prepare yourselves for the coming of Jesus. May this time, little children, be a time of grace for you. Use every moment and do good, for only in this way will you feel the birth of Jesus in your hearts. If with your life, you give an example and become a sign of God’s love, joy will prevail in the hearts of men. Thank you for having responded to my call." [11/25/1996]

Again Our Lady calls us to offer our sacrifices for God’s love. "In a special way, I call you to renunciation in this time of grace. Little children, meditate on and live, through your little sacrifices, the passion and death of Jesus for each of you. ... Through prayer and your renunciation you will become more open to the gift of faith and love towards the Church and the people who are around you." [2/25/1998] Again more recently the Gospa expresses her desire for us to gain the fruits of renunciation which God desires for us. "Dear children, in this Lenten time of grace, I call you to open your hearts to the gifts that God desires to give you. Do not be closed, but with prayer and renunciation say ‘yes’ to God and He will give to you in abundance." [2/25/2006]

D. PEACE:   Decide for God, Giver of Peace

Our Mother Mary always leads us to Jesus who is our Peace. We see this often in her Advent and Christmas messages. "Jesus is the King of Peace and only He can give you the peace that you seek. I am with you and I present you to Jesus in a special way, now in this new time in which one should decide for Him. This time is the time of grace." [12/25/95] "In this time of grace, may the cross be a sign-post of love and unity for you through which true peace comes. That is why, little children, pray especially at this time that little Jesus, the Creator of peace, may be born in your hearts. Only through prayer will you become my apostles of peace in this world without peace." [11/25/99] Again the following month on Christmas Day entering upon the next century she calls us to decide for God and therefore for peace. "Dear children, this is the time of grace. ... Through your ‘yes’ for peace and your decision for God, a new possibility for peace is opened. Only in this way, little children, this century will be for you a time of peace and well-being." [12/25/99]

The previous year in the novena before Pentecost Our Lady called us to be transformed by God the Creator through attentive listening to and following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

"Dear children, today I call you, through prayer and sacrifice, to prepare yourselves for the coming of the Holy Spirit. Little children, this is a time of grace and so, again, I call you to decide for God the Creator. Allow Him to transform and change you. May your heart be prepared to listen to and live everything which the Holy Spirit has in His plan for each of you. Little children, allow the Holy Spirit to lead you on the way of truth and salvation towards eternal life. Thank you for having responded to my call." [5/25/98]

Only through our personal daily conversion can we witness true peace and love. "Dear children, in this time of grace, I call you to become friends of Jesus. Pray for peace in your hearts and work for your personal conversion. Little children, only in this way will you be able to become witnesses of peace and of the love of Jesus in the world." [2/25/02]


E. CONVERSION:   1. Most important message

As we come to conclude these reflections on meaning of "this time is a time of grace," it becomes clear that the most important desire of God in sending our Mother Mary to us daily now for twenty-six years is for each one of us to become the person He created us to be in His love. It is the call of God’s Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus in the Gospels. It is the call to daily conversion to and in God’s love. Our Lady has told us that her most important message given at Medjugorje is conversion. It is the Gospel invitation of Jesus to leave sin and to live and give witness to the Gospel.

"Dear children, today I invite you to conversion. This is the most important message that I have given you here. Little children, I wish that each of you become a carrier of my messages. I invite you, little children, to live the messages that I have given you over these years. This time is a time of grace. Especially now, when the Church also is inviting you to prayer and conversion. I also, little children, invite you to live my messages that I have given you during the time since I appear here. Thank you for having responded to my call." [2/25/96]

2. Know God’s love

From the very beginning of her daily apparitions at Medjugorje the Gospa has told us that she has been allowed to come by God the Father Who wants us to know that He exists and loves us. She has said that if we knew and accepted God’s love that we would weep for joy. During Lent of the Jubilee Year Mary awakens us to make good us of this time of grace.

"Dear children, wake up from the sleep of unbelief and sin, because this is a time of grace which God gives you. Use this time and seek the grace of healing of your heart from God, so that you may see God and man with the heart. Pray in a special way for those who have not come to know God's love, and witness with your life so that they also can come to know God and His immeasurable love. Thank you for having responded to my call." [2/25/00]

Again the following month our Mother urges us to open our hearts to God’s love. "Dear children, pray and make good use of this time, because this is a time of grace. I am with you and I intercede for each one of you before God, for your heart to open to God and to God's love." [3/25/00]

3. Holy Spirit indwelling

The secret of living in joy and peace is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our hearts. Everything Our Lady teaches us at Medjugorje comes down to living with the Holy Spirit indwelling in our hearts. It is to desire, think, speak and act with our hearts transformed in God’s love. As we entered into the new millennium the Gospa called us to invite the Holy Spirit to dwell in our hearts.

"Dear children, I rejoice with you and in this time of grace I call you to spiritual renewal. Pray, little children, that the Holy Spirit may come to dwell in you in fullness, so that you may be able to witness in joy to all those who are far from faith. Especially, little children, pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit so that in the spirit of love, every day and in each situation, you may be closer to your fellow-man; and that in wisdom and love you may overcome every difficulty. I am with you and I intercede for each of you before Jesus. Thank you for having responded to my call." [5/25/00]

Again the following May Mary called us to seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.

"Dear children, at this time of grace, I call you to prayer. Little children, you work much but without God's blessing. Bless and seek the wisdom of the Holy Spirit to lead you at this time so that you may comprehend and live in the grace of this time. Convert, little children, and kneel in the silence of your hearts. Put God in the center of your being so that, in that way, you can witness in joy the beauty that God continually gives in your life. Thank you for having responded to my call." [5/25/01]

4. Mary’s motherly guidance

Continually in so many of our Mother’s messages she confides to us that we are not alone. She is always with us. Trust her in this and experience new confidence in her motherly guidance. Seek God through her help. She is our advocate with God. On the Twentieth Anniversary of her daily apparitions she said,

"Dear children, I am with you and I bless you all with my motherly blessing. Especially today when God gives you abundant graces, pray and seek God through me. God gives you great graces, that is why, little children make good use of this time of grace and come closer to my heart so that I can lead you to my Son Jesus. Thank you for having responded to my call." [6/25/01]

Our Lady, who is always with us and interceding for us, continually calls us to conversion, especially through the grace of heartfelt reception of the sacrament of Holy Confession. At the beginning of Advent she spoke again to our hearts.

"Dear children, I call you also today to conversion. Open your heart to God, little children, through Holy Confession and prepare your soul so that little Jesus can be born anew in your heart. Permit Him to transform you and lead you on the way of peace and joy. Little children, decide for prayer. Especially now, in this time of grace, may your heart yearn for prayer. I am close to you and intercede before God for all of you. Thank you for having responded to my call." [11/25/02]

Our Blessed Mother never tires of being a true mother to us, nurturing each one of us in God’s love. Most recently she reminded us how we are blinded by living the material values of this world and not living always in the light of everlasting life. We are missing the opportunity of this time of grace to open our hearts to God’s love and live now each day for our eternal life. She has told us that Heaven begins here on earth when we live in the Father’s love. In a very recent message Mary calls us to this truth.

"Dear children! Today the Lord permitted me to tell you again that you live in a time of grace. You are not conscious, little children, that God is giving you a great opportunity to convert and to live in peace and love. You are so blind and attached to earthly things and think of earthly life. God sent me to lead you toward eternal life. I, little children, am not tired, although I see that your hearts are heavy and tired for everything that is a grace and a gift. Thank you for having responded to my call." [10/25/06]

Let us not be tired of "everything that is a grace and a gift" and awaken to God’s immeasurable love for us and the opportunity of this special "time of grace." We are not alone. As God is always with us, so is our Mother Mary with us, guiding us to live now and in eternity with God and is always interceding for us. What joy we give our Mother in responding to her call, as she concludes every monthly message with: "Thank you for having responded to my call."

God, our all-loving Father, greatly desires for every one of us to live in His grace, to be faithful to His love and so welcome Him to live in us. This and only this is the fulfillment of who we are created to be. He is the peace, joy and happiness that we yearn for. Beginning on June 24, 1981, our Father has been sending Mary, our Mother, every day at Medjugorje to tell us that He loves us with an immeasurable love and to call us to put Him first in our lives. She comes to us under the title "Queen of Peace." Since January 25, 1987, she has been giving the world a monthly message through the visionary Marija on the twenty-fifth of each month. In recent years our Mother Mary has used a phrase that has been speaking profoundly to many, "this is a time of grace." In various ways Our Lady is directing us to God Who is our Peace. She first used this phrase on the eighth anniversary of her daily apparitions, June 25, 1989. As we approached the new millennium and entered into it Mary has spoken of "this time of grace" in thirty-two of her monthly messages to date, April 25, 2007. Her most recent message captures well why this is a time of grace:

"Dear children! Also today I again call you to conversion. Open your hearts. This is a time of grace while I am with you, make good use of it. Say: ‘This is the time for my soul’. I am with you and love you with immeasurable love. Thank you for having responded to my call." [4/25/2007]

It is a time of grace because God has allowed her to be with us to call us to His love through ongoing conversion and to make this a time for our souls. Let us explore these messages to discover how we can make "this time of grace" our own and "make good use of it" so that Christ may live in us as He did in His Mother, St. Paul, and many others to bring us to His paschal peace which our hearts desire and need.
 



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